Art & Social Justice Working Group
Vera List Center for Art and Politics

Art Case Study

Thomas Hirschhorn

Gramsci Monument, Forrest Houses, Bronx, 2013

The Dia Foundation
Forrest Houses, Bronx

Commissioned by Dia Art Foundation, Gramsci Monument by Thomas Hirschhorn took place on the grounds of Forest Houses, a New York City Housing Authority development in the Morrisania neighborhood of the Bronx, New York. Gramsci Monument was open seven days a week, from 10 am to 7 pm from July 1 through September 15, 2013.

Gramsci Monument is the fourth and last in Hirschhorn's series of "monuments" dedicated to major writers and thinkers, which he initiated in 1999 with Spinoza Monument (Amsterdam, the Netherlands), followed by Deleuze Monument (Avignon, France, 2000) and Bataille Monument (Kassel, Germany, 2002). This fourth monument pays tribute to the Italian political theorist Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937), famous for his volume of Prison Notebooks (1926–1937). Gramsci Monument is based on Hirschhorn's will "to establish a definition of monument, to provoke encounters, to create an event, and to think Gramsci today."

Constructed by residents of Forest Houses, the artwork takes the form of an outdoor structure comprised of numerous pavilions. The pavilions include an exhibition space with historical photographs from the Fondazione Istituto Gramsci in Rome, personal objects that belonged to the philosopher from Casa Museo di Antonio Gramsci in Ghilarza, Italy, and an adjoining library holding 500 books by (and about) Gramsci loaned by the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute in New York. Other pavilions include a stage platform, a workshop area, an Internet corner, a lounge, and the Gramsci Bar—all of which are overseen by local residents.

Gramsci Monument offered a daily program of lectures by philosopher Marcus Steinweg, a children's workshop run by artist Lex Brown, a radio station, happy hour, and a daily newspaper. Weekly programs included a play titled Gramsci Theater, Gramsci Seminars led by international scholars, Poetry Lectures and Workshops led by poets and writers, Art Workshops led by Hirschhorn, open microphone events coordinated by the community, and field trips organized by the project's "ambassador," Dia curator, Yasmil Raymond.

Hirschhorn also created a website as part of the Gramsci Monument. It is a platform offering texts, notes, pictures, and videos documenting the process of the artwork, from its earliest sketches. The website has become an archive to the project including images, documentation from the daily events and philosophy lectures, as well as archived editions of the newspaper.


Welcome to the Art & Social Justice Working Group.


The purpose of the Art + Social Justice Working Group is to examine core conflicts that propel, enrich, and complicate artistic efforts that assume agency to enact social change. In this examination the group expects to foster clarity around both terminology and effective artistic and curatorial practice.

This site is home to the developing dialogue of glossary terms for describing this work and strategies for enacting it.

Core Conflicts

The ASJWG is organized around conflicts central to current conversations and practice in socially and politically engaged art. The six initial conflicts include: Accountability: Artist, Curator, Institution, Funder; Authorship, Collective and Other; Audience, Participation, Spectatorship, Modes of Address; Aesthetics and Usefulness; Local and Global, Specific and General; and Now and Forever: Do Gooding, Criticality, Oppositional.

Case Study

Each conflict is grounded in a case study to provide context about a specific project and artist's practice. For example, the first conflict Accountability: Artist, Curator, Institution, Funder begins with Thomas Hirshhorn's Gramsci Monument as a case study to launch a larger dialogue.


Writing from artists, scholars, community members, curators, and others augment conversation about each conflict. You are encouraged to add your own favorites to further the conversation.

Glossary Terms

These key terms and concepts evolve out of the conflict and case study. There is no single official definition, rather many perspectives are aggregated here about each glossary term to develop a complex understanding.


Following a similar format to the glossary, effective strategies for enacting this work in artistic and curatorial practice are aggregated from many individuals. Together they create a series of suggestions, guidelines, and warnings for all participants in this work.

Your comments, fresh perspectives, and contributions of new strategies and glossary terms are welcome and needed to advance this field and support our work.

Commissioned Artwork

Artists were commissioned to attend the initial six conflict meetings and develop new artwork in response to the ideas and perspective shared. Artists include: Liz Slagus and Norene Leddy, Laura Chipley, Fran Illich, and Nobu Aozaki.

Core Group Members

Thomas Anesta
Sascia Bailer
Beka Economopoulos
Deborah Fisher
Elizabeth Grady
Gordon Hall
Larissa Harris
Kemi Ilesanmi
Jason Jones
Kim Katatani
Grant Kester
Pam Korza
Carin Kuoni
Cynthia Lawson
Laura Raicovich
Paul Ramírez Jonas
Yasmil Raymond
Prerana Reddy
Christopher Robbins
Barbara Schaffer Bacon
Robert Sember
Greg Sholette
Radhika Subramaniam
Johanna Taylor
Niels Van Tomme
Christian Viveros-Fauné
Jennifer Wilson

Plus additional guest participants.

The Art + Social Justice Working Group is launched by the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School and A Blade of Grass, with support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. The Vera List Center and A Blade of Grass are both dedicated to supporting individuals in pursuit of the intersection of art and social justice, and to developing related programs and scholarship.

Questions? Comments? Contact
1. What would you like to contribute?
2. To which conflict does this pertain?
3. What is the definition?
3. What is the link to the reading?
4. Who are you? (We promise we won't share your information.)