About my exhibition at the Hôpital Ephémère

The first time (Why I chose this exhibition as my “first exhibition”)

The exhibition at the “Hôpital Ephémère” was not the first but it was one of my first exhibitions. I chose this exhibition as my “first exhibition” because it was the first time I wrote a text about one of my exhibitions and about my work. With the following text and with writings in general, I wanted to clarify and understand what worked out and what did not function with my work. The text helped me take distance with the work I had made. The writing helped me be aware of mistakes and what was lacking. But as well, the texts I wrote about my exhibitions served as self encouragement to continue working.

About my exhibition at the Hôpital Ephémère. 3.1 – 4.19 1992

(Text written in April 1992, translated by Andreas Riehle)

I am not satisfied with my exhibition. This dissatisfaction does not come from the concrete result of the exhibition or from an obvious failure. On the contrary, I rather have the feeling that something concrete actually happened, the visits of Max Wechsler, Adrian, Ian, Francesca, Aude Bodet, Madeleine Van Doeren and Jean Brolly’s purchase, and also my next exhibition project for the Shedhalle in Zürich and the perspective of future exhibitions in Luzern, Bern and Ivry. And then the discussions with the artists here, at the Hôpital Ephémère, their invitation to talk about my work, and so on. But in spite of all these concrete and positive events and reactions, an “unsatisfied feeling” prevails.

I finally assimilated these events and reactions as positive and they can be considered as positive, although these positive aspects are based on a misunderstanding. Is this misunderstanding created by a commitment or by something speculative?

My dissatisfaction comes from the part of the exhibtion where the works are on the ground (“233 travaux”). I wanted my paper sheets, cartons, wood pieces to conquer their presence in the exhibition autonomously, beyond justifications. I wanted to be radical. I wanted to expose them to the danger of whatever would become of them. I entirely assumed the possibility that the work could be hurt by the context. I thought of the beggar that we bump into on the street corner and how we feel more embarrassed about having touched him than about his being a beggar. I thought of the dead bodies during the urban war in Yugoslavia. Of the meaninglessness of the civil victims killed by “accident”. What a shame that the beautiful white walls of the exhibition space are not being used? No, shame comes from the dead without reason. Is it a shame that my work does not show its’ power on the white walls? No, to witness Iranian women lapidated by their own family, that is a shame. I wanted all my works to be displayed in the same way. Whether large or small, made of wood, paper or carton I wanted each work to be considered for itself. I wanted no arrangement with large, small, wood, paper, carton work. Nor did I want any other accrochage system. I wanted the visitors to walk around my work, find their way in a space where everything is put on the same level. The works can be considered from a non-authoritarian stand point. I didn’t want to make a demonstration by hanging all the works on the wall. Instead of hanging my work, I prefered putting it on the floor, like a display. It is the first time that I don’t hang my work but put it on the floor instead. What is important is my decision to show the works. It was not a set decision, but resulted from the display process. As a consequence, the result comes from a process and not from a concept.

I want to add that the decision to put the work on the floor instead of on the wall wasn’t thought out thoroughly. Because all energy was taken up for this specific decision and every other question as, how much space to leave around each work, or how to seperate the works, all of these other issues became minor issues, and I regret it. There was not enough energy left to resolve these questions.

I am not satisfied, because this part of the exhibition wasn’t good and it could be misunderstood. I want to be simple and clear. However I don’t feel that this exhibition isn’t right or just, but it lacks the force, the strength, the power which is present in a single work. I didn’t want it to be so. Because I assume that when my work is showed, it can be showed everywhere and in any condition. I believe my work is powerfull even when it is packed, or stored in the dark. My work doesn’t need an attractive presentation. My work just simply exists. I think my work is not subordinated to a specific space. My work can be shown on the wall, put on something, on the ground or in a room. My work can also be carried in jacket pocket. To be exact, this should be checked out. This exhibition shows that everything is possible, this is also a meaning for this exhibition, I said to myself : I can do what I want with my work. I have no doubt that it is possible, but is it really necessary? I want my work to be necessary without any possible misunderstanding (I don’t care if it is understood, what is important is the will). I must look for the mistake or the mistakes. One mistake is that I didn’t take the time to try out all the different possibilities once I had chosen to put the works on the floor. I didn’t go far enough to actually do it. Would it have been better to distribute the works on the floor without coordinating them, would it have been better to show the works with larger intervals? Would it have been better to cover the exhibition space with the two other works (“Jeudi 17.1.1991 – Jeudi 28.2.1991” and the video “Périphérique”) exhibited? About this, I have no clue, because I didn’t try it out. Another mistake was that I am the one that chose the location, I fought for it myself, and elaborated it with a set idea, instead of letting things come from the works. I can say it now, because I had originally planed to hang the works, and finally put them on the floor. As reaction, instead of action. And also, I created a pressure which was not necessary before starting the set up, by asserting to do it in a certain way. (Because, finally I did not even stick to what I had planed and asserted, and it wasn’t good)

My conclusions show : too remote from the works. Must have less time. Fewer wills. Do it simpler.

Thomas Hirschhorn