Haim Steinbach discusses how MoMA's pandemic-induced shutdown has shifted the inherent meaning of his work hello again.
Installation view of hello again (2013) by Haim Steinbach. Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2020 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Heidi Bohnenkamp. Left: A movie palace in San Francisco announced it was closing due to COVID-19 restrictions. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Haim Steinbach believes there are many ways for artists to communicate — through art, text, and the merging of the two. He told Shifting Vision that using the directness of text is important. Text itself can be deployed as an artistic form, conveying multiple meanings with just a few words.
He expresses this concept in his 2013 work hello again, recently acquired by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). It was displayed as part of the MoMA’s reopening after four months of renovation in 2019.
Steinbach explained: ‘I like physical texts, I like to take a line from a book or an advertisement and keep it exactly the way it is, which means not changing its typeface. I consider it a found object. I put it on the wall exactly as it is, the only thing that changes is that you can put it anywhere, in any size.’
The artist believes that today, constant communication via text and the Internet has reoriented our perception of actuality— our ability to distinguish between what is and isn’t real.
Installation view of hello again (2013) by Haim Steinbach. Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2020 The Museum of Modern Art.
‘Actuality is more fleeting today in terms of communication. The speed of communication has accelerated to such a degree that the idea of actuality, or what would have been an actual experience has shifted radically,' he says. ‘At the end of the 60s, there was a show at the Museum of Modern Art titled, “Art of the Real”. It's an interesting title because of course a lot of things were changing then and the same questions arose: what is real, how do you capture it, what is present?’
How does he capture the real or the present in his own work? Steinbach says: ‘My work is about seeing. The questions of how you actualise or realise a work of art and what exactly is a work of art, have brought me to a point where I asked myself: what do I see around me? Ultimately, I like to look at things, and I like to see.'