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Gladstone Galler y, New York. contr ived a cur ious rapprochement bet ween the inﬂux of art tour ist s and the area’s
resident s. Rather than make the local populace subject to what he calls the “zoo
effect ,” Hir schhorn’s project made visitor s feel like hapless intruder s. Even more disr u p t i v e l y, i n l i g h t o f t h e i n t e r n a t i o n a l a r t w o r l d ’s i n t e l l e c t u a l p r e t e n s i o n s ,
Hir schhorn’s Monument took the local inhabit ant s ser iously as potent ial Bat aille reader s. This gesture induced a range of emot ive responses among visitor s, including
accusat ions that Hir schhorn’s gesture was inappropr iate and patronizing. This unease
revealed the fragile condit ioning of the art world’s self- constructed ident it y. The
complicated play of ident iﬁcator y and dis -ident iﬁcator y mechanisms at work in the
content , const ruct ion, and locat ion of t he Bat aille Monument were r adically and
disrupt ively thought- provoking: the “zoo effect” worked t wo ways. Rather than offering, as the Document a handbook claims, a reﬂect ion on “communal commitment ,” the
Bat aille Monument ser ved to dest abilize (and therefore potent ially liberate) any not ion
of communit y ident it y or what it might mean to be a “fan” of art and philosophy.
A work like t he Bat aille Monument depends on it s context for impact , but it
could t heoret ically be rest aged elsewhere, in comparable circumst ances.
Signiﬁcant ly, t he v iewer is no longer required to part icipate literally (i.e., to eat
noodles, or to act iv ate a sculpture), but is asked only to be a t houghtful and
reﬂect ive v isitor :
I do not want to do an interact ive work. I want to do an act ive work. To
me, t he most import ant act iv it y t hat an art work can provoke is t he
act ivit y of thinking. Andy Warhol’s Big Electric Chair (1967) makes me
think, but it is a paint ing on a museum wall. An act ive work requires
that I ﬁr st give of myself.62
62. Thomas Hir schhorn, in Common Wealth, ed. Morgan, p. 63. Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics 77 The independent st ance that Hir schhorn assert s in his work— though produced
collaborat ively, his art is the product of a single art ist’s vision— implies the readmitt ance of a degree of autonomy to art . Likewise, the viewer is no longer coerced
into fulﬁlling the art ist’s interact ive requirement s, but is presupposed as a subject
of independent t hought , which is t he essent ial prerequisite for polit ical act ion:
“hav ing reﬂect ions and cr it ical t hought s is to get act ive, posing quest ions is to
come to life.”63 The Bat aille Monument shows that inst allat ion and per formance art
now ﬁnd themselves at a signiﬁcant dist ance from the histor ic avant- garde calls to
collapse art and life.
Relat ional Ant agonism
My interest in the work of Thomas Hir schhorn and Sant iago Sierra der ives
not only from t heir tougher, more disrupt ive approach to “relat ions” t han t hat
proposed by Bourr iaud, but also from their remoteness from the socially engaged
public art project s tha...
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- Spring '09