Gramsci Monument

Artist : Thomas Hirschhorn
Location : New York, U.S.A
Year : 2013
Researcher : Leon Tan

Gramsci Monument (2013) is the fourth and last project in the Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn’s Monuments series.The monument consisted of a series of outdoor pavilions, including an exhibition of photographs from Fondazione Instituto Gramsci, a library of books by and about Gramsci, an Internet space, a lounge and a bar, all built and largely run by local residents. Gramsci Monument also comprised a public program of lectures and activities, from art workshops, to philosophy and poetry lectures, to open-mic sessions and a play called Gramsci Theatre. A website was created for the project, providing documentary materials from the public program as well as notes on the artwork.

Gramsci Monument had a makeshift appearance; we might call this a DIY aesthetics. As a definition, it suggests that a monument might be better conceived as an memory-making process, an activation of the community through engagement with Gramsci’s living thought, rather than as a mindless recycling of the major representations of a thinker’s life. It critiques the traditional monument as a cultural artifact intended to intimidate audiences into blind acceptance of a victor’s narrative; in a way, it equates the traditional monument with the cultural hegemony that occupied a great portion of Gramsci’s thought and life.


Thinking Gramsci today means to discover the relevance of the concepts he signed in collective (communal) life. It means to experiment with the conditions for collective thought and action. Crucially, such experimentation must take place in civil society, since for Gramsci civil society was the realm in which cultural hegemony was both established and contested. Gramsci Monument reminds us of the importance of critical thought to the contestation of cultural hegemony, and thus to non-fascist life. At the same time, it leaves us with the proposition that the event of thought is fundamentally precarious. It may be nurtured and encouraged, but can never be captured for eternity as traditional monuments suggest.

All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.

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