The three inaugural exhibitions for the newly “refreshed” Power Plant, Thomas Hirschhorn: Das Auge, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle: Phantom Truck + Always After, and To What Earth Does This Sweet Cold Belong? are telling indicators of the directions in which the current leadership would like to go. The proverbial gauntlet is thrown down with the exhibition centrepiece, Das Auge (The Eye), one of Thomas Hirschhorn’s most confrontational installations to date.
Aggressively political and literally visceral (the installation forces the viewer to navigate a maze of viscera emerging from the heads and bodies of mannikins, stuffed seals, rubber chickens, and most gruesomely, the faces and body cavities of unnamed casualties of war and destruction depicted in graphically detailed photographs plastered throughout the exhibition), Das Auge is a blood-soaked spectacle centred on an immense eye that only sees red. Groupings of chairs are anthropomorphized into seemingly smug witnesses to carnage through the attachment of smiling faces to the backs. Scrawled messages, “NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE”, “TAKE ACTION” exhort the viewer to do something, even as monumental protest signs festooned with symbols of peace and love stand idly by in a corner.
The cacophony of vignettes, including a fashion show runway populated by bloodied fur-wearing mannikins and a flotilla of plush baby seals draped in rope-like entrails is resolved into a visual whole through the exclusive use of red and white throughout the installation. The effect is one of a hygienically white box which has been firebombed with blood and guts and the ramblings of a mad (angry) man.
Though not without its moments of humour (the aforementioned display of plush baby seals verges on the absurd), the installation is a difficult one, which challenges the viewer to confront the violent outcomes of consumption and his/her own complicity in the current state of affairs. In opening the repositioned Power Plant with Thomas Hirschhorn’s installation, the gallery is sending a powerful message which communicates its willingness to support politically engaged artists and encourage critical thinking through artworks which may be indeed be uncomfortable to behold.
See the exhibition on The Power Plant website
The Power Plant Refresh inaugural exhibitions, review pt 2: Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle
The Power Plant Refresh inaugural exhibitions, review pt 3: To What Earth Does This Sweet Cold Belong?
image: Thomas Hirschhorn, Das Auge (The Eye), 2008, mixed media, courtesy the artist
photo: Steve Payne