Damien Hirst’s The Physical Impossibility Of Death In The Mind Of Someone Living.
So the next exercise asks us to consider context, what areas of context there are for a particular piece, and also any references to time….which is what the next project is about.
So firstly I looked up context, its not something we generally look at from day to day so I wanted to make sure I understood it.
1.The circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood:
‘the proposals need to be considered in the context of new European directives’
1.1 The parts of something written or spoken that immediately precede and follow a word or passage and clarify its meaning:
‘skilled readers use context to construct meaning from words as they are read’
Mind map of contextual references within Khan Academy discussion
I initially find this quite difficult as the discussion is quite spontaneous, but on discovering the transcript I’m able to read as they speak.
I find them discussing the piece in relation to Hirst’s own body of work. How it’s not the first piece he’s produced involving animals in formaldehyde. Although interestingly it’s the first one which decayed. I wonder if maybe he had a dodgy batch of formaldehyde, whilst the Khan Academy discuss the inevitability of death and the artist’s use of art to transcend death, but how all art eventually rots. How nothing is permanent.
I still think there was probably a chemical reaction between the shark (a waterborne mammal) and the formaldehyde. How a sheep is a land mammal so the composition of the skin would be different. Meanwhile the Khan Academy admit they feel like they’re making stuff up, and I can’t help laughing out loud…not just me then!
Meanwhile the Khan Academy has moved on to discuss death, the interesting play on words of Hirst’s piece, and how art through the ages has explored death. The video goes on to show other work displaying death, including one which looks like Ophelia from Hamlet. They seem enchanted by Hirst’s choice of a shark, how it itself is dead, and how Man considers it a predator. That by standing in front of the piece are you then processing death itself, or your fear of death, or maybe just your fear of the shark. I wonder if fear and death has always been interwoven, is it possible to have one without the other.
Finally the Khan Academy also discusses Hirst’s piece within the greater context of the art scene. They explore how 20th century art opened up with Duchamp’s fountain, and how Damien Hirst’s piece also pushes the industry from representational art to philosophical art. That modern art seems to be either profound or shocking, or in Hirst’s piece both.
I love the title more than the shark. The fact the shark was killed specifically for the piece upsets me. Maybe I like it a little less because of this. Could he not have made the same statement without actually killing 2 sharks? I do however think it’s a clever thought provoking piece. I still think that without the title the meaning gets lost within the ‘shark in a tank’ narrative.