If Damien Hirst didn't exist, David Lynch might have created him for celluloid.
Like the character in Blue Velvet who picks up a severed ear and examines
it with profound morbidity and a sense of wonder, Hirst is said to have
mused over the idea of having his hand removed, displayed and quickly photographed, before having it surgically reattached. It's a strange world and Hirst is always happy to prove it. He has installed a fluffy white lamb in formaldehyde ('Away From the Flock,' 1994), suspended a steel ball in mid-air ('And Still Pursuing Impossible Dreams,' 1995), which from photographs really just looks like a rubber beachball... Trompe L'Oeil takes on a whole new meaning.
I decided to pay a visit to the White Cube Gallery in St. James's, home
of Hirst's representation. Upon entering the place, I peered into a space
clearly designed to exhibit art and found two stripped, pine doors facing
one another; one had a small chair attached. The reception area had two
wrapped bed frames poised against the wall. I wondered: were they really
just bed frames or the work of some rising artistic anarchist?
After examining one of the works I thought to myself, 'Just exactly what
am I looking at? Is there a story here? Is Hirst's 'Paul (The Twelve Disciples)'
a bull's head, rotting with maggots and hatching into flies, or is it the
satanic collaboration between Damien and some twisted taxidermist who poured
goo on a fake head to attract flies? Did I really see the putrid, rotting
flesh of a bull?' Actually, it doesn't much matter. Damien Hirst mimics reality,
but not the sort of British realism, from Turner to Hockney, that mirrors
life and landscape. He's more concerned with death and worse, what comes
before death - decay.
What with being nominated twice for the Turner Prize, doing the Blur video
for their song 'Country House,' messing around in noxious chemicals, cutting
in which to encase various dead creatures, not to mention posing for
Vogue, there must be precious little time for those cocktail parties. He's
even taken to writing film reviews in the national British press - he denounced
Pulp Fiction as gratuitous and stated preference for the conscience of Oliver
Stone's Natural Born Killers. Ironically, he sometimes reminds me of Quentin
Tarantino. While Stone rambled on about why he made Natural Born Killers
so violent, when asked the same question, Tarantino answered "because
it looks cool". When interviewed, Hirst comes across just as nervous
and insecure as Tarantino and when asked why he's an artist, he usually
responds with "dunno" or "because I've always made things."
I think he does it because he's cool.