His Most Famous Installation (Cavemanman) – Thomas Hirschhorn

Brenda T. Weitzman

Thomas Hirschhorn (b.1957) is a popular artist from Bern, Switzerland. He worked as a ‘Graphic Designer’ in Paris in the late eighties and gained fame for his installations wherein he uses the common materials of daily use, such as wraps of plastic, silver or aluminum foil, duct tape, cardboard, mirror, TV/Computer monitors, and scraps of wood, to name some. He likes to use these articles in his work, because he thinks that they are not arty and have a universal touch about them. “Cavemanman,” created in 2002, at the Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York, has been his most famous work so far.

For this remarkable piece of art, an entire gallery space was converted into a cave. The cave is enormous with its whole surface coated with packing tape. The entrance to Thomas’ “Cavemanman” seems like a hole in the wall. It is intriguing and generates immense curiosity in the viewers as they enter it. Conforming to his contemporary style of installation, Hirschhorn has used ordinary objects that we come across every day, along with books, posters, and dolls to create this grand work of art. Thomas has also adorned it with a variety of ‘Pop’ culture and philosophical symbols. The entire cave is lighted with fluorescent light fixtures. The human figures depicted in the “Cavemanman” actually are mannequins draped in aluminum foil. These figures are shown connected to fake dynamite, which in turn is connected to some political books. These books include paperbacks by Rousseau, David Hume, and Tocqueville.

Therefore, with physically linked wires and tubes, Hirschhorn has tried to show an association between ordinary people and written philosophy. Every chamber in the cave represents some philosophy. The innermost chamber of “Cavemanman” has a feel of a teenager’s room, with the posters of Tupac Shakur, a topless Pamela Anderson, and various music bands, all over the uneven rocky walls of cardboard and plastic. Empty cans are strewn over everywhere in this section. Apart from this, the walls are covered with the photocopies of chapters pertaining with the issues such as public health and globalization. An equation expressed as ”1 Man = 1 Man” is repetitively painted all over the walls.

It took around eight people to build the “Cavemanman” in two weeks. Its magnificence and opulence speak volumes of the hard work invested in erecting it. The mindboggling references to the vices like ubiquitous oppression in the society and messages displaying the essence of equality among men make this piece of ‘Contemporary Art’ a real winner. Hirschhorn’s sculptures, installations, and videos have always had audiences flocking to see them in numerous exhibitions (solo and group), throughout the United States and Central Europe.

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