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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Site Insecurities: Thomas Hirschhorn's Skulptur-Sortier-Station (1997 and on)

  • Author(s): Machida, Nicholas
  • Advisor(s): Kwon, Miwon
  • et al.

This paper is a study of Skulptur-Sortier-Station (1997), a sculpture by the Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn (1957-), which was first realized for the third "Skulptur. Projekte in Münster," an international exhibition that takes place every ten years in Germany. Attending closely to the work's unique material qualities, the circumstances of its original realization, and the implications of its subsequent reiterations in other European cities, this paper argues that Skulptur-Sortier-Station proposes a new sculptural syntax by destabilizing received notions of the relation between object and site.

The work's site condition is such that it engages (in order to ultimately reject) the modernist model of sculpture as autonomous and nomadic, as well as the postmodernist model of sculpture as site-specific and context-bound. Repeatedly dismantled and reconstructed in a potentially ongoing series of locations, Skulptur-Sortier-Station is a precarious physical structure that inhabits and produces a precarious spatial condition. I argue that this precariousness is in itself a contemporary sculptural value for Hirschhorn and is related to theories of "non-place," a new paradigm of contemporary space as decentered and transient.

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