Following the disassembly of the work (which is always part of the work for me, and where I am present throughout), I organized several Free Raffles. I initiated this with the “Bataille Monument”, 2002, where the main prizes were the two cars we used for the “Shuttle-Service.” The idea behind the Free Raffle is to circulate back into the community all the items, hardware, and purchased materials used during the ‘exhibition’ period of the monument or the work. For the “Musée Précaire Albinet”, 2004, and the “Gramsci Monument”, 2013, the raffles were the most extensive, but I did other kinds of ‘give-back’ too, as in the “Robert Walser-Sculpture” where every person could – during dismanteling – come and get pieces of wood and other building-material. It turned out that the raffles are large and successful events based on luck, everybody gets something through the concept of ‘giving back.’
The relationship I have with the people involved in the artfield is, like any relationship or friendship, a mutual dynamic. The intensity fluctuates due to changes in living arrangements or with time passing, but I would describe it, from my perspective, as always grounded in friendship. It’s a friendship forged through a shared art experience. It involves both my contribution and theirs. As a result, my interactions with those engaged in the work vary: sometimes more, sometimes less.
As an example, I made an exhibition 21 years after the “Deleuze Monument”, 2000, in Avignon upon the invitation of the then-involved street worker, Jefel Goudjil. Afterwards, I invited Jefel to Rome to see my exhibition “The Purple Line”, 2021, at Maxxi. Another example, a few years after the “Bataille Monument”, 2002, I welcomed for a week in Paris the street worker Lothar Kannenberg, who was involved at the time at the Boxcamp and was my local contact. I did this also with Erik Farmer from Forest Houses, New York some years after the “Gramsci Monument, 2013, and there is the project to invite him again to Paris next year for a week. By the way, whenever I’m in New York, I pay a visit to Forest Houses to say hello. And in the Landy area in Aubervilliers I encounter almost daily on the street some of the people who were implicated in the “Musée Précaire Albinet”, 2004, since I am still their neighbor. I also maintain contact through Whatsapp with some persons implicated in the “Robert Walser-Sculpture”, 2019. Two months ago, I traveled to Amsterdam to present Vittoria Martini’s book about “The Bijlmer Spinoza-Festival”, 2009. During my visit and free distribution of Vittoria Martini’s book it was a delightful surprise to meet again some of the team still residents at the Bijlmer.
The question of financing my work is crucial, and I, as an artist, take responsibility for it. The question of money is always an issue, not only for me but for all of us artists. I am well aware of this through my interactions with fellow colleagues-artists. Therefore, as in every artwork or exhibition, I need to know the budget from start. As an artist I have to take care and fight, mostly myself, to get the appropriate budget for my project. Knowing how much money is available and figuring out how much is needed for my artwork is crucial. Almost every time, I have to secure additional funds, whether through creating editions, selling sketches or preparatory works, or seeking support from galleries or foundations.
The financial aspect is important because I always want everyone involved with a specific role in my work, to be compensated. I believe as a principle that everyone deserves payment for their contribution. For example, if there’s a construction-team composed of residents building the monument’s structure, they are compensated for their work, including insurance coverage while working. I consider payment as a gesture which demonstrates thoughtfulness toward the community. It’s an artistic decision, because I want to work with people who don’t have a particular skill or competence besides the ultimate one: wanting to have the work done. And the same applies to myself. No ‘specialists’ are needed, only ‘commited’ persons are needed.
I don’t recruit the residents myself because I don’t know them. I ask a social worker or a local key figure that I encounter during preparation or fieldwork, to organize a team within the given budget limit. My responsibility and engagement is that the residents, once recruited, get payed by the organisation inviting me to do the artwork. This approach has the advantage of allowing the street workers to involve individuals they may think fit for the team, and avoids the artist’s direct selection. This also ensures that nobody is excluded from the team and emphasizes the importance of being a local resident rather than focusing on skill and efficiency. I also always want all persons working for the artwork to be payed promptly. I also take care that no relation be established between payment and ‘work done’ – because what matters is that people are fully engaged in the art-project.
Being involved in the money/payment issue from the beginning is crucial as an artist. It is essential to have an overall-view and decision-making power on financial aspects because, as the artist, I am the one responsible for it. I cannot hide behind the institution or the organizer. I also ensure that those intervening punctually, lecturing or giving a presentation, such as philosophers, artists, lecturers, poets, are compensated similarly to other events of the artwork. I include this from start in the budget of my art-project, as a commitment to the invited contributors.
The only individuals who are not compensated, beside the visitors-participants, are the kitchen or bar team, because they have the opportunity to earn their own income by selling drinks and food. They also don’t need to invest in material or furniture, as these are includeed in the budget and provided by the art-project.
Thomas Hirschhorn, Aubervilliers 2023