It’s been quite a summer for massive installation art in New York. Paul McCarthy’s epically filthy WS closed a few weeks ago, but if you’re quick you can still catch Thomas Hirschhorn’s Gramsci Monument, the fourth and final in a series of tributes to great thinkers. Take the 2 or 5 trains beyond the familiar confines of Manhattan’s white wall gallery zone, and in the middle of the Forest Houses, just off Prospect Avenue in the Bronx, you’ll find an inspiring, expansive interactive tribute to Antonio Gramsci, the Italian philosopher and Marxist, one of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century.
Gramsci was imprisoned by Mussolini’s Fascist government and spent eight years in prison. While in prison he filled a series of notebooks with hundreds of pages of essays, quotes, and observations on every possible subject from the history of Italian literature to the organization of American car factories. Known as The Prison Notebooks, these writings serve as the main source of inspiration for the Gramsci Monument.
Among Gramsci’s best-known ideas is his belief in the revolutionary potential of what he called “organic intellectuals,” those who emerge within or alongside distinct social groups to articulate the relationship between their own investments and those of society as a whole. The difference between traditional and organic intellectuals isn’t just their social background, it’s also the ways they communicate their vision of the world. Every creative act describes a distinct reality, and every attempt to see the world differently is a genuine, organic intellectual activity. “Every human being is an intellectual,” Gramsci wrote. Complete with lectures and performances, an art workshop, a radio station, and a daily newspaper, Hirschhorn’s installation is a living, breathing effort to facilitate the kind intellectual and artistic activity Gramsci believed could help change the world.
[Images by Sand Avidar]