In "CONCORDIA, CONCORDIA," the artist Thomas Hirschhorn re-created the scene in the casino of the Italian cruise ship after it ran aground. Today I saw it at the Gladstone Gallery, in Chelsea. There are probably over 10,000 items strewn around and dangling about, personal or belonging to the dazzling gambling scene, tables, cushions, books, chairs, chandeliers, ribbons, shoes, all at odd angles with the gallery floor, with a large pile of orange lifesavers spilling toward the observer in the foreground, each with a flashlight taped on and neatly marked with the word "Concordia."
I have a life-long fascination with chaos. I trace it back to traumatic impressions during World War II when I was 4 years old, growing up in Germany. Houses around us, struck by incendiary bombs dropped by the Allies, went up in flames. For years, some of the lots where the houses once stood were filled with rubble. I would go there with my friends -- all older meanwhile, and adventurous -- and dig through the stuff for treasures like copper wire or charred books.
But there is something else at work. I have the unconscious, morbid desire to see what happens when the order of our lives fall apart. That is to say, I don't want it to happen; I just want to see what it's like.
This is the 4-year old in me: Conventions are arbitrary. Don't believe what people tell you -- it may get unhinged any moment. Houses may burst in flames. There is no constancy. Hold on to what you have. Cherish the smallest treasures: a ballpoint pen, a coin, a magnet, a shell, a piece of smooth wood.