The abandoned remnants of the Costa Concordia cruise ship are still listing on its side off the coast of Italy, and officials say it may take a year to remove it. Despite the horrible consequences of the wreck, in which 32 people were killed (but not the captain—he saved his own ass), there is a certain tragic grandeur to the sight of the ship stranded in shallow waters near the Island of Giglio. But you don't have to fly all the way to Tuscany to contemplate this sinking metaphor for yourself—artist Thomas Hirschhorn has recreated part of it right here in NYC.
Hirschhorn, whose sprawling cardboard cave installation Cavemanman was one of the most memorable gallery shows in Chelsea's history, has installed a giant banquet hall inside Chelsea's Gladstone Gallery, tipped halfway over on its side. The large-scale show, which is open to the public through October 20th, is inspired by photos Hirschhorn saw showing the inside of the ship. The artist explains:
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."
The impact of the installation is palpably disorienting; although you can't step inside the vast sinking ballroom, you can get right up to its edge so that it encompasses your entire field of vision. From that vantage point, is easy to imagine you're inside Hirschhorn's precarious metaphor—that, like so many others, you're imprisoned by a sinking, ineluctable catastrophe that will drag your entire comfy bourgeois lifestyle all the way down to the frozen darkness of Davy Jones' Locker. Then you go get dinner at Tía Pol.