I love going to installation art exhibitions. They always give me surprises. Installation art usually doesn’t appear that appealing or exciting on stills or videos. Its essence just can’t seem to be captured. It’s the experience of being there and seeing/feeling the art with your 5 senses that make…one understand why a particular artist’s work is so often talked about or so popular. The Damien Hirst exhibition is one of those that people might look at its info on the website and think I don’t get it or I’m not that interested in looking at some dead animals, pills or maggot cycles.
“I just thought, ‘What can you pit against death?”
This exhibition of the “For the Love of God” (basically a skull covered with flawless diamonds – inside out) at the Tate Modern. Viewing this piece doesn’t require admission fee but it’s on exhibit for a shorter time. You enter this black box (pitch black) and look at the very blindingly shiny skull in the centre of blackness.
Notes on this piece (since no photos were allowed inside):
‘For the Love of God’ acts as a reminder that our existence on earth is transient. Hirst combined the imagery of classic memento mori with inspiration drawn from Aztec skulls and the Mexican love of decoration and attitude towards death. He explains of death: “You don’t like it, so you disguise it or you decorate it to make it look like something bearable – to such an extent that it becomes something else.”
Medicine Cabinets, 2012
“You can only cure people for so long and then they’re going to die anyway. You can’t arrest decay but these medicine cabinets suggest you can.”
This exhibition features the “Pharmacy”, medicine cabinets and some anatomical teaching and surgical tools. The pull between life and death is a theme that runs throughout the exhibit.
Notes on this exhibit:
The works explore the distinction between life and death, myth and medicine. Hirst notes: “You take a medicine cabinet and you present it to people and it’s just totally believable. I mean a lot of the stuff is about belief, I think, and the ‘Medicine Cabinets’ are just totally believable.
Many famous formaldehyde preserved animal/fish pieces are also exhibited here. This one is the most photographed piece. It is quite an experience to be walking around that shark because of some visual illusion effect you may start to “see” the shark moving.
Notes on this shark:
The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, 1991
Explaining “I didn’t just want a lightbox, or a painting of a shark” Hirst’s intention was to force the viewer out of their element by introducing into a gallery setting, a shark that was “real enough to frighten you”. By isolating the shark from its natural habitat, with the formaldehyde providing an illusion of life, the work explores our greatest fears, and the difficulty involved in adequately trying to express them. As Hirst states: “You try and avoid [death], but it’s such a big thing that you can’t. That’s the frightening thing isn’t it?”
Other than the exhibits mentioned above, Damien Hirst’s butterflies exhibits are also very impressive. The butterflies also run along Hirst’s pull between life-and-death theme and butterflies were so fascinating to Hirst because they are beautiful and their lives are short. One of the exhibits involves replicating the whole butterfly life and death cycle in a room and you can walk into it to experience it (Yes! There will be lots of butterflies flying around in that room). There’s another one that has a more religious side to it and you’d be so impressed by it when you see it.
I don’t go to contemporary art exhibits that often. But I think this British contemporary artist’s exhibition would be a very interesting one to go to, especially for people who don’t normally go to these but want to experience something different!
Damien Hirst Exhibition
Dates: 4 April to 9 September, 2012.
A: Tate Modern, London (across the bridge from the Blackfriars)