james pinson/Thomas Hirschhorn



Palais de Tokyo, Paris

“24H Foucault”Noon, Saturday 2 October until Noon, Sunday 3 October


Few can doubt the enthusiasm and the energy Thomas Hirschhorn expends on his projects such as his ’monuments’  to great philosophers of which ‘24H Foucault’ is the latest  manifestation.  Those familiar with Hirschhorn’s work will instantly recognize the fabrication of a temporary space in which documentation of various media is put at the service of an installation within which the spectator is explicitly expected to interact.  The immense space at the Palais de Tokyo devoted to 24H Foucault  was divided into a series of spaces;  a library/ audiovisual room, a Michel Foucault Shop, a Foucault-map room and in the centre,  an auditorium.  The spaces  are furnished in customary Hirschhorn fashion;  miles of brown parcel tape, acres of photocopying, a mountain of cardboard  painted-brick walls , all copiously annotated  in black marker pen.  Hirschhorn’s declared intention was to make a ‘Foucault Art Work’ rather than an exhibition about Foucault.  This goes some way to explain why the room full of videos of Foucault  speaking, being interviewed and lecturing could only really be experienced as wall of sound and images.  Any attempt to concentrate upon the content of one particular video was  virtually impossible within the overall babble.  The effect of  rooms, such as the Michel Foucault Shop, a collection of ‘manufactured souvenirs to be looked at but not purchased’, was to reduce Foucault to a demi-god and the spectator to the state of a fan.   
In terms of Foucault’s work, the  topos of the exhibition was skating on thin ice and thus was the subject of a remark by one of the lecturers in the excellent conference cycle that was the most fruitful component of this event.  Alain Brossat in the preamble to his paper, said as he looked around the Hirschhorn embellished auditorium that it brought back  memories of militant meetings in the university faculties of ’68.  Yet what he saw now was very different (and not only because in ’68 the Che Guevara clone was de rigeur where now the shaved heads and wire-rimmed spectacles of  Foucault doubles were more in evidence). In ’68 such events were staged for purely political ends, in terms of revolutionary ideals.  In contrast the veneer of ‘dangerous philosophy’ and radical action that Hirschhorn throws over his aporia-like spaces arguably substitutes the political for the “cultural” (a series of topos that one suspects Foucault himself would class as a form of heterotopia). Despite Hirschhorn’s  genuine intentions and  extraordinary organizational skills  the question remains, what is actually being produced by way of these events and spaces?

James Pinson