The "Them" Question
There's a non-p.c., nevertheless vexing issue lurking in Thomas Hirschhorn's current Barbara Gladstone exhibition: The vast majority of the pictures of the blown-apart bodies on view are apparently Arabs. On the one hand, this is an effective way of pointing a finger at America's invasion of Iraq. Hirschhorn creates a kind of reverse Eucharist whereby Americans "consume" this flesh but rather than drawing life or redemption from it, draw shame and poison. We see our pathological lust for victims.
On the other hand, had Hirschhorn only portrayed the blown-apart bodies of Europeans killed in Madrid or London, had he located and placed in the gallery detailed images of those who jumped to their deaths from the World Trade Center, this would significantly alter the message of "Superficial Engagement," pointing a finger in quite another direction.
I'm not preaching moral relativism or asserting that there should be an equality of death. Hirschhorn vehemently maintains that his work is not ideological and is about the human condition. Yet his portrayal of this condition, however heartfelt, is loaded with ideological baggage. This may be his intention; it may also be unavoidable. All editing is misrepresentative.
How can we look at images like these, let alone in an art gallery?
by Jerry Saltz
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