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Visitors to Thomas Hirschhorn’s aggressive, graffiti- and packing-tape-filled installation Stand-alone, now at The Mistake Room, can pick up the artist’s “plan” on their way in or out. The plan, a flow chart with black text and yellow and pink highlights, maps out Hirschhorn’s struggle to, among other things, take a position, make ahistorical work, and create universal truth. The plan, which cites Deleuze and Beuys, conjures the musings of a well-meaning grad student aware of his privilege but blinded to its true extent. (Or, as J.J. Charlesworth put it when Stand-alone debuted in Berlin in 2007, “Hirschhorn is never shy about bulldozing the viewer with his reading list, though it always seems to be that of an unnervingly trendy cultural-studies lecturer”).
The installation itself is impressively immersive. Hirschhorn has divided the space into four rooms, visually similar but meant to address different categories: love, aesthetics, philosophy, politics. The brown and beige tiled floors, packing tape, text scrawled on walls, stacks of books, collaged photographs and cardboard combine into a maze-like stew of sensations. Toppled cardboard columns with violent images on them such as bodies mangled after bloody disasters (war, crime), prompted a friend of mine to step out while viewing the exhibition. Hirschhorn’s method of exposing omnipresent violence feels violent in itself, casual and entitled, as if the existence of these images alone makes them fair game. Nine years after Hirschhorn first constructed it, Stand-alone still gutturally and effectively performs intellectual awareness of (and frustration with) capitalism/consumerism/mass media/war. Its frustration swallows viewers whole, and, absent any palpable empathy, leaves us stuck in the muck it criticizes.
Thomas Hirschhorn: Stand-alone runs October 7-December 17, 2016 at The Mistake Room (1811 East 20th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90058)