Visitors to Gladstone Gallery can re-live the wreckage of the marooned Costa Concordia cruise ship that made headlines in January through the lens of Thomas Hirschhorn’s scrutinizing eye. Concordia, Concordia, on view through October 20th, is the artist’s reproduction of the overturned ship’s casino based on photos and video of the wreckage.
Video of “Concordia, Concordia” on Site at Gladstone Gallery
Upon viewing images the Costa Concordia, Hirschhorn saw the ruins as a metaphor for the “uncertainty and precariousness” of life and a vision of “our contemporary disaster.”
Like much of Hirschhorn’s work, Concordia, Concordia is a total environment that engages the viewer with the overabundance of objects to explore issues of politics and consumerism. Concordia, Concordia occupies the gallery completely with handmade and found objects to render the “nice, fake and cozy” interior of the overturned ship. Everything that was not bolted down to the ship’s floor is tossed to one side, in a mound of life vests, chairs, dishes, and other detritus of the banal and cheap furnishings that suggest a petit bourgeois vision of luxury. Books cascade down from a bookshelf, a floating effect made possible by plastic packing tape, a signature material of Hirschhorn’s.
Upon the initial encounter with the space, the viewer experiences a visual shock of the excess of objects and an altered perspective – the east wall of the gallery is the boat’s floor. Unlike most of Hirschhorn’s installations, which are interactive or physically accessible, this work is off-limits to spectators. Viewers must peer in from one vantage point, as if viewing a set of a movie or crime scene.
In the artist’s statement accompanying the exhibition, Hirschhorn writes, “I want to do a Big work to show that the saying “Too Big to Fail” no longer makes any sense. On the contrary, when something is Too Big, it must Fail – this is what I want to give Form to.”
To emphasize his apocalyptic vision of contemporary hyperconsumptive culture and social order, Hirschhorn quietly injects pages from Karl Marx’s Das Kapital scattered within the installation, and a reproduction of Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa hangs from the wall.