“UTOPIA, UTOPIA = ONE WORLD, ONE WAR, ONE ARMY, ONE DRESS”
“UTOPIA, UTOPIA = ONE WORLD, ONE WAR, ONE ARMY, ONE DRESS” is an exhibition. Making an exhibition means to exhibit something, to exhibit a project, an idea, a problem, a plan, a will. Making an exhibition means to work in necessity, emergency and complexity. I like making exhibitions. I understand art as assertion of forms. As an artist I have to make theory confront with practice and transform a two-dimensional thought into the third dimension. I want to work out directly my brain map into a three-dimensional form without thinking about volume. I want to give space for time. Time for dialog, confrontation and involvment. I want to do “sculpture”. I do not make “installations”. My exhibitions are never site-specific or context work, it’s a work that must be transplanted mentally and it’s a work that can be transplanted physically in other locations. My exhibitions can travel and be adapted to different locations. I do not want to work with architecture, I do not want to work against the architecture, I want to ignore the architecture.
The exhibition “UTOPIA, UTOPIA = ONE WORLD, ONE WAR, ONE ARMY, ONE DRESS” is about the incredibly fashionable tendency to wear camouflage-clothing. I want to work out this fact strongly, offensively and aggressively, with blindnessless. I want to show that anyone wearing camouflage-clothing, or just a part of camouflage-clothing puts himself in the situation of a soldier risking to be killed. Factually it means that he or she accepts to be part of an army and is ready to kill and ready to die. The absolute nightmare. Because unlike the real soldiers, camouflage-dressed people wear camouflage-clothing to be noticed, to attract attention, to signalize themseves. There are many different motivations for wearing camouflage: to be sexy, to be a fighter, to be a “street-fighter”, to be cool, to express political opinions, to dress cheaply with second hand clothing, to dress practical, with many pockets, warmly or waterproof. Real soldiers wear camouflage outfits for protection, for camouflage, to be un-noticed, to hide themselves or to become invisible. The idea of camouflage does not come from nature. I refuse this simplification and this kind of legitimation, because natural animal-camouflage (insects, fish or predators) is a natural protection to avoid being eaten or to get food. There is no natural human-camouflage. Camouflage has nothing to do with the human, it doesn’t belong to human nature, a human being doesn’t need to use camouflage in order to feed himself or to avoid being eaten. So the reasons for wearing camouflage do not come from nature, they are to be found elsewhere in appearance-motivations. The reasons come from the human condition. I myself, know the fashionability of wearing camouflage-clothing and military looks: the chic feeling of beeing fashionable and to be a “fighter”. I wore camouflage when I was a military in the Swiss Army, first as soldier, then as caporal and finally as lieutenant.
As every Swiss young man, I was recruited in the Swiss Milice Army when I was 20 years old in 1977. Because I grew up and was living in Davos, in the Grisons mountains, I was enroled as “Gebirgsfüsilier” (mountain gun-man). As everybody I did not like to spend time for this, but I had no problem with physical stress, walking miles, carrying heavy things, and I was a good shooter. I even liked to shoot and had no conscience problem with this. To be a soldier in the Swiss Army, first I had to spend 4 months in the army, then I had to go back regularly for 3 weeks each year in order to maintain the training level. After my first 4 months, I was a regular soldier but then was asked to become caporal. I had to go for an additional 3 week training to become caporal (in 1978). As a caporal I would be the head of a group of about 10 soldiers and for this, the following year (in 1979), as first experience during 4 months I had to practice being caporal for the new recruited soldiers. That period was the first time that I doubted about the validity of my engagement, having discussions with my friends and also with military collegues from the army. I had mixed feelings, between considering myself a “warrior”, a liking for action, self-pride, personal challenge and a kind of headlessness. But I wasn’t going into deeper questioning. I just thought that if I want something I always have to fight for it myself. I really believed and still do, that the only way for me to obtain something is to be what I am : a “warrior”. I understand myself as a “warrior” with dreams, I am dreaming and fighting for my dreams to become real. I have a mission. Even today as artist, I also consider myself a “warrior”, a fighter, and in my practice I have to fight for my ideas, I have to fight for my projects, I have to confront critiques, bad and good conscience, politics, misunderstandings, and I have to confront economy. But to be a “warrior” does not require to be part of the army and does not mean to wear camouflage. Then in 1980, the Swiss Army proposed to upgrade me to become officer. So I integrated the officer’s school, which lasts 4 months, to obtain the first officer grade : lieutenant. After this training, during the following year, I had to go again for a 4 months practice to be a lieutenant as head of a section for the new soldiers. This means commanding 40 soldiers and caporals. Nothing physical or psychological was preventing me to engage in this role, but nevertheless my doubts were developing. My doubts as officer concerned my engagement: why, for what purpose ? One year later in 1981, when I had to go for my regular 3 week training as officier, I was confronted with giving orders and managing the regular army soldiers, this time, it wasn’t the young recruits and some were much older than me. My doubts increased because I was confronted with the thoughts of collegue officers and their interest in the officer-status because it would advance them in their civil career in banking, politics or business. This particular system of the Swiss Milice Army generates a situation where nobody really believes in what he is doing nor what he is there for. It’s a kind of habit, folklore, and worse still, a kind of time off from the boring everyday life. This was a revelation, a political revelation. Confronted to this, I understood the non-sense of my engagement. So I refused to go to the yearly 3 week training a year later in 1982 and renounced from then on to be part of the army. Because of my rank as officer, and because of my previous engagement, I decided not to use a psychological excuse that had been suggested to me to withdraw from the army. I really had no psychological problem, it was purely a political problem. As a result of my act of refusal I was sentenced to 6 months’ emprisonment which is the usual sentence in such a case. In 1983 I spent 4 months in prison for military refusal instead of the regular 6 months, because of good behavior. After my liberation, I moved to Paris.
I moved to Paris to confront my own measure. I did not move to Paris for fashion and glamour, I always believed that to participate in fashion and glamour is a trap for an artist. I want to shoot at fashion, I want to shoot at glamour, I want to shoot at the military and camouflage-look. I want to shoot at myself. This shooting, this out-cry wants to give form to a nightmare exhibition. I want to make a nightmare exhibition with the dark side, with the things than run wild, with the totalitarian side that goes wrong. I want to work this out in a dense, plastic, explosive, headless way. With “UTOPIA, UTOPIA = ONE WORLD, ONE WAR, ONE ARMY, ONE DRESS” I want to do a dystopia exhibition, I want to make clear that it is dystopia, it is the nightmare, it is chaos. Here, there is no basis for thinking and there is no place for ideological critical thinking. My exhibition refuses the sentimentality and good conscience. I am against the pretention of the narcissistic self-fulfillement. I want to fight resentment, cynicism and narcissism. And I want my work to fight the dictatorship of moral, of non-pleasure, the indifference and the nihilism. Utopia doesn’t exist, this is why it cannot disapear. I want to do a work with enthousiasm and joy. This joy comes from an amoral dream, my dystopia-utopian dream. It is the joy of a non-pessimistic action, a self-assertive action, beyond the question of good or bad. This is the art-project : “UTOPIA, UTOPIA = ONE WORLD, ONE WAR, ONE ARMY, ONE DRESS”.
Coming out from the dystopia, from the nightmare, from the darkness, from the absolute catastrophy, there is a way, an incredible, an impossible, an utopian way. From the youngest to the oldest, the Palestinian baby dressed in camouflage to the Russian Volga fisherman wearing recuperated military dress, or the anti-globalization, alter-mondialist, anarchist “street-fighter”, and the glamorous female pop-star singer, everyone wears the same camouflage-look. Everyone becomes fashionable, glamourous, everyone gets crazy about this chic clothing and everyone wants to be a street-fighter, a street-warrior. To wear the same dress is the dystopian act to accomplish utopia. Because everyone dresses the same way and everybody wears the same dress, the ONE DRESS. Utopia not because sharing the same ideas, ideals, dynamics, loves and peaces, but utopia because dressing the same way. From ONE DRESS to ONE ARMY to ONE WAR to ONE WORLD. These are the dystopian steps to utopia. Utopia coming from an incredible, headless and fashionable logic ! Utopia not coming from reflection on society and theoretical thinking. Utopia from headlessness. Utopia from practice. Utopia from assertion. Utopia from Art ! This is my consistent project.
I am interested in ethical questions, I am interested in fulltime thinking, I am interested in pure philosophy, I am interested in philosophy as art, I am interested in philosophy and art as assertions – that’s why I do not need philosophy in order to do my artwork. I need philosophy as a human being, as a man ! I need philosophy for my everyday life ! Philosophy and art work together. They act ! They are free. Philosophy and art are not afraid ! I like the philosophy of Marcus Steinweg. I have asked him to write “integrated texts”. He wrote 29 short texts about the world, about ONE WORLD. The title of his texts is: “Worldplay”. This “integrated texts” will only be readable in its’ complete form in the free publication which is an element of the exhibition. The 29 texts “Worldplay” will be cut, transformed, integrated by bits, enlarged, reduced, worked out into a big lay-out without sense or with non-sense. There will be a lot of letters, words, sentences, text as weapons, text as tools, text as blind text. Text as resistance. A conflict in the conflict. For the past few years, I have been using “integrated texts” of different authors as material in my exhibitions, like tape, cardboard, printed matters, electrical wire. My use of the “integrated texts” treats text as a material of resistance but at the same time asserts its’ autonomy as text. Marcus Steinweg remains author of his texts “Worldplay”, free to use it as he wants and he gave it to me as a tool that I can use as I want.
“UTOPIA, UTOPIA = ONE WORLD, ONE WAR, ONE ARMY, ONE DRESS” has to be big, exhaustive and exaggerated. It will be a large exhibition with reduced elements and enlarged elements. Making something big, enlarged, self-enlarged, does not mean it is important. But it gives a commitment to something – that is why it is enlarged – and simoultaneously – an enlargement makes it empty. The commitment and the emptiness remove the meaning. They suggest another meaning, a different meaning ! The exhibition will include a lot of various elements : display-panels, models, mannequins, printed matter, topographies, “integrated texts”, explanations, photographs, sculptures and video films. There will be different links possible: from camouflage to fashion, from camouflage to art, from camouflage to weapons, camouflage and fashion for kids, different types of camouflage material, desert camouflage, air camouflage, water camouflage, techniques of camouflage, history of camouflage, history of uniforms, history of military-look, camouflage versus uniform. This exhibition is not another exhibition about camouflage and its’ fashionability. It will look like some local community exhibition, about the Normandy World War II landing of the American and Canadian soldiers for example. The kind of historical exhibition made with love but with no esthaetical ambition or sense of design, of museum design or architecture. The only thing that counts is the will to make an exhibition !
With “UTOPIA, UTOPIA = ONE WORLD, ONE WAR, ONE ARMY, ONE DRESS” I want to confront camouflage and military-look with hope, hope as principle of activity, of action, in order to go through the tunnel of camouflage, this nightmare, and in this dystopian tunnel UTOPIA again makes sense today. I want to do too much, I always want to work in excess and I want to be precise in this excess. I want to make my art work without illusions. I want to hope. Hope not as dream or as escape. Hope as dialogue and confrontation. Hope as the principle of taking action.
Thomas Hirschhorn, Aubervilliers, Spring 2005