Once quoted talking about his art, Damien Hirst commented, “… it’s definitely all about feeling like King Midas.” At the time I couldn’t accept the thought of an artist having such a sterile, detached outlook on the thing they had dedicated their whole life to creating. Could there be any genuine feeling or sentiment behind any of Hirst’s work, or was it all just about capitalising on fame?
As I wandered aimlessly about Hirst’s Tate Modern exhibition I became somewhat lost trying to decipher the meaning of it all. I looked upon the whole thing with cynicism and disdain. I didn’t trust it.
I had a demoralising moment in which I spent a considerable amount of time staring at 11 sausages suspended in formaldehyde aptly named ‘11 sausages’ (I know), after far too long finding that I had come no closer to making any sense of the said ‘11 sausages’. I moved on, slightly dejected, resolving if anyone in the room had made sense of the randomly arranged Cumberland’s common sense and practicality had taken a thorough beating.
Later, making sense of some obscure installation, I wondered if 90 minutes surrounded by exhibition-goers debating over Hirst’s ‘brutal social experiments’ had morphed me into one of them? Devoid of all logic I began to find the subtle beauty in a giant ashtray filled with musty cigarette butts and crumpled Kp packets; I had started making sense of endless rows of cabinets filled with prescription drugs; the surgical instruments meticulously lined up in glass cabinets just seemed… right.
It would have been all too easy to walk out of the gallery £12 lighter with a pessimistic, forlorn view of the sorry state of the future of art. But I didn’t. And I came to wonder if, post-Hirst, I had somehow grasped the warped world of concept art.
Hirst’s art teaches us to value the inconspicuous and acknowledge the obvious. Nobody said you had to understand any of it.
I ask; do we really need to understand something to make sense of it? In art, as in life, I would say no. Hirst’s concept art was nothing more than mind games; cunning trickery designed to play with your subconscious. Hirst is first and foremost a businessman, Britain’s richest living artist.
The roots of this exhibition lie in trivialising the everyday. Anyone could do that right? But above all, that’s what I got out of the whole thing. If anyone could do it, then why didn’t you?
Make of him what you will; I can’t help admire Hirst (albeit bittersweet admiration); King Midas; the juvenile delinquent from Leeds.
In the end we could just give up trying to make sense of it all; come to terms with the unknown. I have. After all, Oscar Wilde said, ‘All art is quite useless.’
Written by Danielle Morgan