Why I love books and why I love these books (2014)

I love books, because I need them, I need them for my work and I need them to live. Books are a necessity. Books encourage me and books help me. A book is never unhelpful to me, a book never disappoints me. Every book is important. Every book can be important. No book is unimportant and no one can decide for me which book is important or not. What I also love about books is that bookshelves are always non-finished, non-complete, never accomplished. My bookshelves, or my ‘bibliothèque’ – as every bookshelf – is in-becoming, there are still an incommensurable amount of books to read.

I love a lot of different books for different reasons, art books and others too. I chose here a few art books and will say why I love them and why they count so much to me:

Degenerate Art, The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany, Stéphanie Barron, Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

I love this book because Art, as Art, is indeed an affirmation of form which is absolute, which bothers and disturbs. No one has taken account of this affirmation and no one wanted this affirmation. The stupidity of the Nazis rejection of Art is obvious: the Nazis aesthetic ideology did not understand that Art is only possible as something new and strange, without any scale of values or evaluation criteria. The Nazi aesthetic ideology did not understand that – to be Art – Art must always also touch non-Art and to be Art, Art must necessarily establish a link with what is against the established Art. Gilles Deleuze said that philosophy exists only in relation to what is non-philosophy. It is the same with Art. This book shows that in the exhibition “Entartete Kunst”, the curators have, unwillingly but irremediably, chosen the strongest, the most beautiful, the most important Art !

Jeder Mensch ist ein Künstler, Joseph Beuys, Ullstein Sachbuch.

I love this book because Joseph Beuys calls upon the creative force of humankind. “Jeder Mensch ist ein Künstler” means: every person is a subject and may assert him/herself as a subject and take authority over his/her acts and decisions. Because Art exists as an assertion only. The person who asserts him/herself as an artist does so also as a human being, as a person taking authority over his/her own life. This is why Art works towards the creation of new human beings, it does not simply concretize an existing concept of humanity. Art decides what human beings should or should not be. Joseph Beuys understood Art’s responsibility for the human beings in a state of becoming. Joseph Beuys helped me.

Nominalisme pictural, Marcel Duchamp, la peinture et la modernité, Thierry De Duve, Les Editions de Minuit Paris.

I love this book because the author Thierry De Duve minutely and pitilessly describes, with clarity and precision the school where I studied: the “Kunstgewerbeschule”. This school is somewhere between the Bauhaus, Ulm, the Werkbund, and the different Parisian Art schools: Ecole des Arts Appliqués, Ecole des Beaux-Arts and Ecole des Arts Décoratifs, and the author describes their links, influences, and also their differences. Thierry De Duve takes me seriously in this book.

Marcel Duchamp, Ingénieur du temps perdu, entretien avec Pierre Cabanne, Editions Belfond Paris.

I love this book because I understood, when reading it, that by signing a Ready-made which has no signature, Marcel Duchamp does not eradicate the signature as sign of authorship, but reinforces it by asserting it. Duchamp does not deny authorship, he creates a new concept of author, and establishes a new author subject. Marcel Duchamp reaffirms the importance of the author!

Marcel Duchamp, Anne d’Harnoncourt, Kynaston McShine, The Museum of Modern Art, NY and Philadelphia Museum of Art, Prestel Verlag Munich.

I love this book because it is a document testifying how Art history has been changed by the work of Marcel Duchamp. I bought it in Philadelphia after visiting the Museum of Art. Confronting the works of Marcel Duchamp in the Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection convinced me and gave me the wonderful experience that an Artwork as such, as Artwork, can create the conditions of a dialogue with it. Individually. Never before had I been struck by the capacity of dialogue of an Artwork – any kind of work – in such an obvious and luminous way. I got involved! I felt happy.

Otto Freundlich Schriften, Otto Freundlich, DuMont Buchverlag Köln.

I love this book because Otto Freundlich touches on something foreign to Art with his work, something that is radically beyond Art. Because Otto Freundlich’s spiritually powerful Art remains faithful to Art, without any sociology or politics, it can reach and touch the other. I love the concept of “spiritual abstraction”.

Poèmes et carnets, (1928-1985), Meret Oppenheim, Christian Bourgois Editeur, Paris.

I love this book because Meret Oppenheim is free in asserting her own singularity. She fights to be free. She describes her dreams. In this book, Meret Oppenheim describes how her own patriarchal attitude toward herself de-valorizes her femininity – kills it -, and at the same time, she prevents herself, from developing her masculine side in order to create a whole. This book is open, it is in becoming.

John Heartfield, Peter Pachnicke and Klaus Honnef, Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Publishers, New York.

I love this book because John Heartfield declared: “Use photography as a weapon !” And he did. John Heartfield worked with collages and participated in the first International Dada Exhibition in Berlin, in 1920. I always carry its magical picture with me. What I learnt from him and what interests me about collage is its universality and its simplicity, its un-professionalism: Everyone has once in his life time made a collage! Collages possess the power to implicate the other immediately. I like the capacity of non-exclusion of collages, I like the fact that they are always suspicious and not taken seriously. I like the affirmation of a collage and how it creates a new reality with existing elements, putting together what cannot be put together. That is the aim of a collage, which I learnt from John Heartfield.

Andy Warhol, Rétrospective, Museum Ludwig, Köln.

I love this book because Andy Warhol was in agreement with the social and economic realities which he worked in. Andy Warhol is the artist of the agreement. He agreed with consumer society. To agree does nor mean to approve everything. To agree means confronting oneself with different types of reality in the places where they actually are. Being in agreement is the condition that makes rejection or acceptation possible. Only he who agrees, according to Heiner Müller, can change things. To agree requires being audacious. Andy Warhol was my teacher.

Thomas Hirschhorn

July 2014