Jim Green’s ghost must be smiling over Bronx’s Gramsci Monument


The Gramsci Monument.

The fact that the biggest buzz in New York’s art world this summer is being generated by Thomas Hirschhorn’s Gramsci Monument must surely have Jim Green’s ghost smiling over the Bronx.

This remarkable installation in a New York City housing project, built and operated by residents — including theatre, poetry, a newspaper and, very essential, the Gramsci Bar — is a real life expression of the philosophy of Gramsci, whose work was a lifelong inspiration to Green.

Hardly a household name today, Gramsci was an Italian Marxist intellectual who spent much of his life in Mussolini’s jails. Although his work was not widely available in English until the 1970s, he has had a major impact on cultural and political theory.

Hirschhorn’s Monument, the last in a series of four projects based on the work of leading philosophers,  reflects Gramsci’s view that revolutionary social change could be driven by the creation of a true popular culture by working people.

Green’s leadership on the Woodward’s project was rooted in this conviction. It resulted in a building complex, organized according to the directions of a community-driven planning process, that includes social housing, market housing, a university theatre complex, offices, stores and much more, including, inevitably, a bar.

Not everyone loves the Hirschhorn’s project.  Some find it irritating, but left-wing politics are like that.