Thomas Hirschhornartist sheet 22/78




His dense, protean installations are often accompanied by programmes for lectures, debates, and performances. Dimensions of sharing, participation, and process are ever-present in his work.

60 years of performance art in Switzerland museum Tinguely, 20.09.2017 - 28.01.2018

Fifty-fifty à Belleville (1992, video, 11')

Colour video, sound

The artist stands outside a Paris metro station and hands out sheets of which one half is covered by one of his collages and the other half is blank.

Invisible Merci Man (1996, vidéo, 4'02'')

Colour video, sound, 4'02''

In his studio, the artist pulls artworks one at a time out of a large pile in front of a camera and thus creates a kind of temporary exhibition.

PerformanceProcess Paris, Centre culturel suisse 18.09-13.12.2015

Fifty-Fifty à Belleville (1992, 11')

In both these videos, he presents elements of his work. One takes place in the street, where he hands out sheets of paper on which his collages only occupy half of the surface: the other half can be filled in by the person he gives it to. The other takes place in the studio, where he pulls artworks from a pile, creating a transient “exhibition” without walls.

Invisible Merci Man (1996, 4'02'')










Flier power

Thomas Hirschhorn likes stepping out of the gallery to carry out performances with powerful messages. ...

Thomas Hirschhorn likes stepping out of the gallery to carry out performances with powerful messages.

The idea of making and disseminating artistic output in a political way is at the heart of Thomas Hirschhorn's work. The dissemination systems he uses range from what he calls lay-outs—various systems of representation and installation—to interventions in non-gallery environments. Performance art naturally forms part of this approach: organising readings, distributing fliers, creating situations, initiating discussions and setting up knowledge-sharing venues. Video makes it possible to record these moments and present them again as part of his installations. In Fifty-Fifty à Belleville (1992), the artist hands out fliers at the entrance to the Belleville Metro station in Paris. He offers passers-by his so-called “50/50s”: artworks in which only half the page is occupied by a drawing or collage, allowing the public to fill in the rest either mentally or physically. In Les Monstres (1993), he stood at his window and filmed refuse collectors picking up a pile of cardboard boxes and wooden planks in the street. These materials might have formed part of an installation by the artist, and the workers were thus transforming it. Several performances have been made in the artist's studio, all filmed with a fixed camera and with the title of the video written on the wall. For example, Thomas Hirschhorn makes a simple gesture referencing the revolutionary potential of art—a V for victory—having first wrapped his head in tinfoil (I Will Win, 1995) or nods his head to the beat of a rock song in Robert Walser Video (1995). In Invisible “Merci” Man (1996), he sits amidst a pile of his artworks wearing a T-shirt with MERCI emblazoned on it. He picks the artworks up one by one and presents them to the camera, like a living catalogue of his multi-facetted work.


Denis Pernet