Staged almost concurrently with the opening of Captain Schettino’s trial for sinking the “Concordia” off the shore of the Isola del Giglio, Thomas Hirschhorn’s life-size replica of the liner’s upended Casino Room, at the Gladstone Gallery, bewilders and informs – it’s a cutting comment on the current state of things in Italy, … and at large, a sweeping testament to ineptitude and a dark ode to excess.
32 people died after the Concordia ran aground last January. The Captain was apparently engaged in a risky night-time ‘sail-past’ salute to people on the island. He stands accused of causing a shipwreck, manslaughter and abandoning ship, and while, in statements, he has admitted some degree of responsibility he – depicted in press photos, smiling nervously – has defended himself saying that without his actions that many more would have died.
God help us.
The artist says of his towering mess: “As many people, I saw the pictures showing the inside of the sunken cruise ship Costa Concordia after the wreck. The floor emerging upright had become a wall, the wall was turned into a ceiling and the ceiling into the opposite wall. Every non-attached thing was floating in water, like a barricade in movement. A barricade made of all that points out the impassable and cumbersome inutility. I was struck by this apocalyptic upside down vision of the banal and cheap “nice, fake, and cozy” interior of the overturned ship. This pictures the uncertainty and precariousness of the past, of the present moment, and of the future. I saw it as an amusing and disturbing but nevertheless logical and convincing form. This must be the form of our contemporary disaster. This must be the ultimate expression of the precarious, which nobody wants to confront. “Get back on board, captain!” shouted the coast guard officer to the already safely landed captain of the Costa Concordia who refused to go back to his vessel. “Get back on board!” means there is definitely no escape – we have to confront the self-produced disaster in its incredible normality – there is no way out, there is no place to flee, there is no safe land anymore! This is the starting point that made me think of and start out to conceive the work “Concordia, Concordia.”
Thomas Hirschhorn’s grand installation of the ship’s game-room at the Gladstone Gallery in New York has been dismantled … the nightmare journey has ended, everything is back in order – but in the heart of many, the sinking feeling lingers. “Che Casino!”