Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Hirschhorn Lifts Ban

In 2003, Thomas Hirschhorn barred exhibitions of his work in Switzerland as a protest against the election of the right-wing politician Christoph Blocher to the national parliament. "Blocher is not a dictator," Hirschhorn said, "but he legitimizes Swiss xenophobia, isolationism, nationalism; he legitimizes the feeling in Switzerland that all these foreigners want to come and take their money. He is a dangerous populist."

From self-imposed exile the artist still managed to stir controversy in his native Switzerland. In 2004 his exhibition "Swiss Swiss Democracy" at the Swiss Cultural Centre in Paris featured a one-hour play presented daily that included an actor vomitting into a ballot box and another pissing onto a poster of Blocher. In retaliation the Swiss legislature voted 24 to 13 to slash the budget of the country's arts council (the Pro Helvetia) by a million Swiss Francs.

Last month Blocher—the leader of the populist anti-immigrant Swiss People's Party and the justice minister under the prior administration—was voted out by a member of his own party and the opposition Social Democrats and Christian Democrats. In response, Hirschhorn has ended his four-year boycott.

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