Thomas Hirschhorn's Gramsci Monument has reached day 24 in its 77-day run, during which time a micro-community has been operating within the courtyard of the Bronx's Forest Houses. There are lectures, a small library, a lounge, and a host of other services in makeshift miniature, elevated on the clubhouse-like platform and all orbiting around one figure: the little-known Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci. It's the fourth and final iteration of Hirschhorn's DIY-style monuments to notable thinkers, and it's accompanied by a similarly scrappy-looking website detailing each day's events, as well as hosting photos and writings by Hirschhorn about Gramsci.
Last Thursday (day 18), in the sweltering 98-degree heat, the monument attracted a mix of neighborhood denizens and curious visitors. Children chased each other from the nearby fountains onto the ramps and staircases of the monument; staff began setting up for Marcus Steinweg's daily lecture on Gramsci; and workers at the cafe fought the summer malaise by dancing to Kanye West's "Gold Digger." The monument also has its own daily newspaper and a radio station operated by broadcast veteran Phil Beder, who watched the action outside the small studio. He claimed it was by far the hottest day yet.
"It's a hell of a mix between the art crowd from Manhattan and the local people," he said. "I was surprised how the neighborhood has come out and embraced this project," Beder said, who lives in Brooklyn, but used to work in Bronx.
Beder does a news show every morning, which he often tries to offset by conducting interviews with visitors or locals, the latter of whom are beginning to call the monument "the treehouse," he said.
While part of the project's pathos derives from its fleetingness (the dismantling that begins on September 16 will have its own kind of ceremony, including a raffle of the items in the monument), Beder had his own ideas about the work.
"Would you like to do an interview for the radio show, so we can archive your voice for the next 10,000 years?" he asked me. While Gramsci Monument will be relatively brief, the takeaways already appear to be myriad, even if they don't have so much to do with the monument's namesake. And that seems to be the idea.