SUBSTITUTION 2 consists of two sculptural assemblages made from plywood, cardboard, packing tape and mannequins, as well as fragments of images and headlines torn from magazines or downloaded from the internet. Hirschhorn dissects these media reports by taking headlines or commentary out of their original context, appropriating them as "a kind of cruel poetry" - he wants to go "beyond the limits of information" and create new and surreal connections in their meaning.
Working directly in the space at Stephen Friedman Gallery, the artist will create two separate islands inhabited by mannequins and their cardboard surrogates. The figures are brutalised by the artist, punctured with industrial sized nails and subjected to primitive amputations, referring to the human cost of conflict. The sheer volume of imagery, text and raw material in Hirschhorn's work creates a physical assault and bombardment of information that is confrontational and intense.
SUBSTITUTION 2 refers to the multiple layers of representation as mirrored in the media and in popular culture. The artist finds his reference in the life-sized cardboard cut outs that function as representations of public figures; such as politicians at public rallies, or film stars promoting their latest movie or body builders endorsing protein shakes. The recent sociological phenomenon of ‘Flat Daddies' exemplifies for Hirschhorn the broad proliferation of identity transformed into image. In this experimental project, children of absent US soldiers have taken to surrogate cardboard parents, accompanying them to the playground or at the dinner table.
Hirschhorn explains: "SUBSTITUTION 2 is a three-dimensional collage where the pictures fight against today's tendency of not touching what is non-positive. Art production is not only fun, not only glamorous and fashionable. The destroyed bodies are a testimony of the non-positive. I want to touch what can't be touched, I want to invite people not to turn their eyes away from the non-positive. The world is only entire when it possesses all components. With SUBSTITUTION 2 I do not want to make the world more understandable but more complete."
Thomas Hirschhorn has exhibited extensively around the world. His recent solo exhibitions include Concretion, Creux de L'Enfer, Thiers, France (2006); Utopia, Utopia=One World, One War, One Army, One Dress, ICA, Boston, MA; toured to CCA Wattis Institute of Contemporary Arts, San Francisco, CA (2005/2006); Anschool, Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht, Netherlands (2005) and Doppelgarage, North Pole, South Pole, Not In My Name, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, Germany (2005). His recent group exhibitions include The Gold Standard, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, NY (2006/2007); Biennial of Contemporary Art of Seville (BIACS 2), Seville, Spain (2006); How To Live Together, 27th Fundação Bienal de São Paulo, Brazil (2006); Heart of Darkness, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN (2006); Take Two: Worlds and Views, Contemporary Art from the Collection, MoMA, New York (2005) and Universal Experience: Art, Life, and the Tourist's Eye, Hayward Gallery, London; toured to MCA, Chicago, IL (2005).