Thomas Hirschhorn
Simone Weil Memorial

Installation / Commissioned work



Production specifics
Commissioned and produced by steirischer herbst ʼ21

Supported by the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia

Thomas Hirschhorn’s installation celebrates the life and thought of philosopher Simone Weil in the form of a spontaneous popular memorial.

Simone Weil (1909–1943) was a French activist, philosopher, and mystic, considered by some to be a saint for her selfless life and her untimely death. Her embrace of religion as a political radical who had worked in factories and fought in the Spanish Civil War seemed to herald a new kind of liberal theology—opening the doors to new forms of selflessness, solidarity, and love. Thomas Hirschhorn counts himself among Simone Weil’s admirers, though he only discovered her relatively recently. His works about her made over the last few years communicate the joy of finding out about her bit by bit.

Hirschhorn’s installation at Esperantoplatz takes the form of a spontaneous memorial, akin to the one that emerged in Paris after Lady Diana’s tragic death, for instance. It lends new meaning to one of Graz’s many pieces of public art—supposed to beautify social housing without too much symbolism. Hirschhorn’s work latches onto its lasting and universal qualities but recodes it as a focal point for the memory of Simone Weil, what she might mean to him, and what she might mean to others. In building his work, Hirschhorn engages with the local community, finding caretakers to keep the candles lit and the flowers up, weaving Simone Weil and her thought into Graz’s everyday life.