– Spring/Summer 2004

Planes of Immanence, or the Form of Ideas: Notes on the (Anti-)Monuments of Thomas Hirschhorn

Simon Sheikh

What is involved is no longer the affirmation of a single substance, but rather the laying out of a common plane of immanence on which all bodies, all minds and all individuals are situated. This plane of immanence or consistency is a
plan, but not in the sense of a mental design, a project, a program; it is a plan in the geometric sense: a section, an intersection, a diagram. Thus, to be in the middle of Spinoza is to be on this model plane, or rather to install oneself on this plane - which implies a mode of living, a way of life. What is this plane and how does one construct it? For at the same it is fully a plane of immanence, and yet it has to be constructed if one is to live in a Spinozist manner

...scrappy cardboard, cheap plywood, recycled magazine pages, brown packing tape, clear cellophane wrap and, importantly, gold- and silver-coloured aluminium foil.2

For his Manhattan gallery debut in 2002, Thomas Hirschhorn transformed the gallery into a giant network of caves. He did so using his trademark materials of cardboard and tape, as well as by including a number of reading materials and signs pasted on the make-shift walls, as if the caves were occupied by some truly underground political group. Besides being an inversion of the white cube that would make Brian O'Doherty proud, Hirschhorn's installation also alluded to man's early habitat in caves such as Lascaux, but also to contemporary and quite topical ones, such as the caves in Afghanistan where Osama Bin Laden is or was supposed to

  1. Gilles Deleuze, 'Ethology: Spinoza and Us', in Jonathan Crary and Sanford Kwinter (eds.), Zone 6: Incorporations, New York: Zone Books, 1992, p.625

  2. James Rondeau, 'Jumbo Spoons and Big Cake at The Art Institute of Chicago', in Thomas Hirschhorn (exh. cat.), Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago and The Renaissance Society, 2000, p.8

  3. See Rosalind Krauss, 'Sculpture in the Expanded Field', in Hal Foster (ed.), Postmodern Culture, London: Pluto Press, 1985, pp.31-42. Krauss argues for the expanded field as a 'suspension' of the modernist category of sculpture, and the logic positioning the categories as marked sites, site constructions and axiomatic structures. Hirschhorn's work seems to constantly shift between these positions as it moves in and out of the gallery space and becomes situated in, as well as constructs, public space.

  4. It is indeed Spinoza's thinking that is behind not only Deleuze and Guattari's concept of plateaus, but also Hardt and Negri's concept of multitude.

  5. Indeed, the only not individualised male figure is, precisely, 'the unknown soldier'.

  6. Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, Neo-Avantgarde and Culture Industry, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000, p.123

  7. Thomas Hirschhorn interviewed by Okwui Enwezor in Thomas Hirschhorn, op. cit., p.27

  8. Ibid., p.31

  9. Hirschhorn interviewed in O. Enwezor, op. cit., pp.33-34

  10. Thomas Hirschhorn, Bataille Machine, Berlin: Merve Verlag, 2003, p.228

  11. Jürgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1989

  12. Oskar Negt and Alexander Kluge, Public Sphere and Experience, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993. For a more recent account of counterpublics, see Michael Warner, Publics and Counterpublics, New York: Zone Books, 2002

  13. For a brilliant reading of Georges Bataille's critique of architecture, see Denis Hollier, Against Architecture, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1989