New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents will join renowned artist Thomas Hirschhorn in building an upcoming art project, Gramsci Monument, to be developed on the grounds of Forest Houses in the Morrisania neighborhood of the Bronx. The summer-long, interactive art project, named after the Italian political theorist and Marxist thinker Antonio Gramsci, is funded entirely by Dia Art Foundation and will involve local residents at every stage of the project. Gramsci Monument will be open to the public from July 1 - Sept 15, 2013.
“The New York City Housing Authority is very much looking forward to our residents engaging in this very special endeavor,” said NYCHA Chairman John Rhea. “We especially thank artist Thomas Hirschhon for bringing his unique vision to public housing, and totally involving Forest Houses residents. And we thank Dia Art Foundation for its generosity in making this artistic effort possible.”
“My decision to do Gramsci Monument does not come from an understanding of the philosopher Antonio Gramsci, rather it comes from my understanding of art and my belief that art can transform,” said Thomas Hirschhorn. “Gramsci Monument will remain an affirmation of an autonomous art work that is made in a gesture of love...I want to create a new form, based on love for a ‘non-exclusive audience.’”
To realize this project, Hirschhorn visited 46 public housing sites all around New York City, and met with residents in three boroughs, before focusing on the Forest Houses. The encounters with the residents there were decisive for the artist, who believes artistic work should be collaborative and accessible to a wider audience. Hirschhorn plans to collaborate with residents seven days a week to complete the art project, which opens July 1, 2013. The structure, which will take the form of an outdoor pavilion constructed with easily available, everyday materials, will be built, overseen—and later dismantled—by residents of Forest Houses, coordinated by the Hirschorn alongside Erik Farmer, Forest Houses Resident Association President.
“Gramsci Monument is going to be something very different that the community has never seen before,” said Farmer. “I think that it will bring the community together. It will bring jobs and teach residents about art, something that the community is not used to.”
“It has been a privilege to work alongside Thomas as he puts forth a new idea of the monument and creates an active space of exchange between people, ideas and communities. He has the absolute will to include others, and wants to put the whole world in his work,” said Yasmil Raymond, Curator, Dia Art Foundation. “We are deeply grateful to NYCHA Chairman John Rhea and the hardworking team at NYCHA for embracing this project. Above all, our most profound gratitude goes out to the residents of Forest Houses, in particular Erik Farmer, Clyde Thompson, and Diane Herbert for joining us in this beautiful effort and offering a firm handshake from day one.”
Gramsci Monument will be located on the grounds off Tinton Avenue between 163rd and 165th Streets. It will include an exhibition space with a selection of archives and a library with books by and about Antonio Gramsci; as well as a theater platform, a workshop area, a lounge, an Internet corner, and the Gramsci Bar, which will be run by local residents. It will be open daily, offering a daily program of lectures by philosopher-in-residence Marcus Steinweg, a children's workshop run by Lex Brown, a play titled the Gramsci Theater, a radio station, and a daily newspaper. There will be weekly programs that will include Gramsci seminars by scholars, poetry readings and workshops, art workshops led by Hirschhorn, open microphone events, and field trips organized by the project’s curator Yasmil Raymond.
About Thomas Hirschhorn
Thomas Hirschhorn was born in Bern, Switzerland, in 1957. He trained at the Kunstgewerbeschule Zürich from 1978 to 1983. Over the past thirty years, Hirschhorn has become internationally renowned for his critically-engaged and humanistic aesthetic. He has created over sixty works in public space that pair everyday materials with a universalizing approach that proposes that both the work of art and the process of artistic creation are collaborative and accessible to a broad ranging audience. Gramsci Monument is the fourth and last in Thomas Hirschhorn’s series of “monuments” dedicated to major writers and thinkers of the twentieth century, which he initiated in 1999 with Spinoza Monument (Amsterdam, The Netherlands), followed by Deleuze Monument (Avignon, France) in 2000 and Bataille Monument (Documenta 11, Kassel, Germany) in 2002. This fourth monument pays tribute to the Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937), famous for his Letters and Prison Notebooks (1926-1937). For additional information, visit www.gramsci-monument.com.
About Forest Houses
Forest Houses has approximately 3,200 residents in fifteen buildings ranging from 9 to 14-stories tall with 1,349 apartments. The development was completed November 12, 1956, and inhabits 19.62-acres bordered by East 163rd and East 166th Streets, and Trinity and Tinton Avenues
About the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA)
NYCHA provides decent and affordable housing in a safe and secure living environment for low and moderate- income residents throughout the five boroughs. To fulfill this mission, NYCHA must preserve its aging housing stock through timely maintenance and modernization of its developments. NYCHA also administers a citywide Section 8 Leased Housing Program in rental apartments. Simultaneously, NYCHA works to enhance the quality of life of its residents by offering opportunities to participate in a multitude of community, educational and recreational programs, as well as job readiness and training initiatives.
About Dia Art Foundation
Dia Art Foundation, founded in 1974, is committed to initiating, supporting, presenting, and preserving extraordinary art projects. Dia:Beacon opened in May 2003 in Beacon, New York. Dia also maintains several long-term, site-specific projects including Walter De Maria’s The New York Earth Room (1977) and The Broken Kilometer (1979), Max Neuhaus’s Times Square (1977), Joseph Beuys’s 7000 Oaks (1988), and Dan Flavin’s untitled (1996), all in Manhattan; the Dan Flavin Art Institute in Bridgehampton, New York; De Maria’s The Vertical Earth Kilometer (1977) in Kassel, Germany; Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970) in the Great Salt Lake, Utah; and De Maria’s The Lightning Field (1977) in Quemado, New Mexico. Dia also commissions original artists' projects produced for the web and produces scholarly publications. For additional information, visit www.diaart.org.