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the shock of the newer

Post #310 • June 30, 2004, 8:51 AM • 53 Comments

This morning the Guardian (thanks, ArtsJournal) has a piece by Robert Hughes about his television update to The Shock of the New. What shocked me was this paragraph:

Damien Hirst was another story. We were in London, hoping to film some of Hirst's work and perhaps a brief interview with him for The New Shock of the New. Oh no, absolutely not, came the word back. "Damien," said his gallery, "is very fragile to criticism." [Pardon me while I clean spewed tea off my screen - F.] Could this fragile aesthete really be the Hemingwoid sheep-slicer, dot-painter and all-round bad boy? I had not actually written about Hirst's work (though I consider him a much more real artist than some of the lesser geniuses of our time) but it was clear he suspected he might be treated as someone less than Michelangelo or, for that matter, Richard Serra. The last message from him was that never, no-how, under no circumstances, could we film anything of his in the current show at the Tate, In a Gadda da Vida. Why? "Conservation reasons," it said. Better to discourage anything being said about the great work than risk the utterance of dissent or doubt.

(One of the great pleasures of being a critic is targeting an overinflated reputation and unloading a few rounds of critical ammo into it.)

Styles come and go, movements briefly coalesce (or fail to, more likely), but there has been one huge and dominant reality overshadowing Anglo-Euro-American art in the past 25 years, and The Shock of the New came out too early to take account of its full effects. This is the growing and tyrannous power of the market itself, which has its ups and downs but has so hugely distorted nearly everyone's relationship with aesthetics.

This has made the critic's role more urgent. No one else in the art world is in a position to argue with the press releases. Bad art doesn't make me as angry as it used to, but puffed-up claims about art still make me reach for an icepick. Artists whose main product is their reputations rely on a line of contemporary art-think eloquently elucidated by a commenter on this site:

Instead of just sneering, why not try to engage the work and ask it the hard questions it begs for--the questions it wants to ask--and then evaluate whether it succeeds or not at the game it is playing, rather than claim the game is meaningless etc. etc. without first actually looking to see: it is possible the questions posed are real, even if the work itself fails to live up to them, even if its answers are trivial, or stupid. And if it asks questions then doesn't even attempt to answer them, then you have reason to criticize the work, but only then.

Thing is, as a believer in capital-A Art, I'm not interested in arguing on the terms of the Cult of Mammon. I can't serve them both.

UPDATE: does this look like someone who's sensitive to criticism? Oh, maybe he was just criticised.




June 30, 2004, 4:55 PM

Funny -- 'neophile' is today's Merriam Webster's 'word of the day'.

Its too bad that art that could very easily stand on its own (which, in my opinion, includes Hirsts work) is reduced to its marketability and Im not just talking about the marketability of the pieces themselves, but the marketability of the artists personality/ego/reputation.

I suppose that whats happens when art becomes a commodity -- a celebrity -- rather than an experience?

A thought: It took me a very long time to look at the works of art that close friends of mine would produce and see them as art. I saw the work as an extension of the personalities that I had already attached myself to, and it prevented me from having a personal connection with the art work itself. I found I enjoyed works more when I had no clue of their maker Its taken some practice to overcome this hurdle, to engage the work in front of me sincerely and let it speak to me without allowing my conception of the artist to dictate my response, but its not easy.

A question: Can we criticize the celebrity of the artist or the way in which the artists work is appropriated by the art market and still be able to interact with the art itself with sincerity?



June 30, 2004, 5:44 PM

Oh good - now we are back to working on the real problems we have with seeing art.

N Makes a couple nice points within one over all circumstance: the conflict the viewer has when there is a perception of both the art and the repuation of the artist. N says that s/he has had to make an effort to separate these to get a true and direct experience of the work. To me, N looks like one who is trying to take art seriously, because this problem is basic, not only with your friends and with famous contemporary artists but with all of art history. If you go to the Met in NY and look at a Rembrandt and don't get anything out of it, well, then that's that. It does not mean there is anything wrong with the Rembrandt and it doesn't mean there is anything wrong with you. Sure, you take seriously all the people who say Rembrandt is a great artist so you so back and look again, but if you "like" it because it is Rembrandt nothing has passed between you and the picture and you are putting a barrier up to eventually enjoying what is there. My advice: keep at it. With practice you can completely separate yourself from the art and all the facts surrounding it. It is something to aim for.

In the set of quotes Franklin put up, speaking of shock, I was shocked when I came to the last one because I was skimming and I thought it was still the voice of Robert Hughes and I couldn't believe he would write such a thing, and in such dead prose. Then I saw it was from a blogger, hanging out one of the tattered truisms of our time, that you can only criticize a work when it does not live up to its own premises. This is a variation on the old intentional fallacy. If the art is out there as art it is thereby in competition with other art, including Rembrandt and the whole crowd. You can't wander onto a race track and say "hey, I felt like running backwards, judge me on that basis". Sorry; It don't work.

And N, as for Hirst, go look again.


mary agnes

June 30, 2004, 6:32 PM

Artists in the current market sell themselves -- and their position within a style. Artists who decline to engage publicly are likely to not sell their art or to get into museums. So get your posse and your courage and sell yourself. Collectors, museum people and gallerists are barraged by art exposure. Obviously we try to find a quiet place to create conditions in which we can make the most thoughtful judgments about the art. We create conditions for our own judgment which involve what we read, who we talk to, what we contemplate including the examination of our assumptions and values. But we are influenced by the personality of the artists. We do not separate the artist from the art very well any more than we can disassociate a beloved actor from the role that made us first fall in love with him (or her). And a key to making good art exhibits in my opinion is to fall in love with the art and the artist. Our jobs selling and curating involve putting forth the best of that artist. Can you expect me to sustain my interest in an artist who I do not love even a little?



June 30, 2004, 6:53 PM

On Hirst: I saw his Pharmacy installation at the Tate Modern in April of 2002. That was the first time I experienced his work. The space was sterile, ordered, artificial. I moved into this space after having spent a very long time in front of Francis Bacons Figure in a Landscape (the darker one, the one from 1945), where I had identified strongly with the (what some critics would call unforgivable) pathos of Bacons work. The Hirst space seemed, by comparison, cruelly stripped of emotion I was left feeling bare and isolated, alone and unidentifable among the inhumanely ordered objects. But isolation is a feeling, too. As is loneliness. And the inhumanity I experience daily, moving about through the ordered isles of a grocery store, or waiting silently in line at the post office, doing my duties as a good citizen, giving the polite nod hello without any real one-on-one connection thats something that often is taken for granted, something that goes unaddressed, as if it doesnt exist at all. I start to believe that I am the only one who thinks that civilization, as ordered as it may be, makes me a feel a little too straight-jacketed at times. If this loneliness remains unaddressed, it remains my problem, not one that perhaps other people experience, too. I am the 'crazy' one in the corner screaming, the only one with a bone to pick about the way things are. By taking to an extreme the very 'order' often used to justify 'beauty' and turning it on it's head in subtle and slightly monstrous way, Hirsts work brought those issues of human emptiness and transience out in the open. And the strange thing was that in feeling the emptiness of his work, I in turn felt less empty. That, to me, was extremely beautiful.



June 30, 2004, 6:53 PM

N: I agree with Oldpro's advice to you. You get in the habit of cleaning out your eyes after a while, like you did with your friends' work.

Criticising the artist and criticising the art are two different exercises. But in a case like Hirst, whose celebrity is part of his product, there's going to be a lot of overlap.

This leads me to Mary Agnes's comment - there's a distinction between simple marketing, which everybody has to do in this age, and the effort to make your person the focus of peoples' attention, rather than your work. Hopefully the art you like reflects something likeable in the artist, and you can deal with the artist and the art on the basis of shared values. Nothing wrong with that. The problem is when the artist's ego exceeds the impact of the work, and this is the case with Hirst.



June 30, 2004, 7:02 PM

Its too bad that someone elses experience with a work of art could bother you so much.

Surely you dont believe that I can only have a valid experience in front of a work of art so long as it parallels the kind of experience you would have in front of that work? That my persepective on the work being different than yours can not be due merely to the differences between our life experiences and the way we look at things, but rather to the inferiority of my artistic eye?



June 30, 2004, 7:08 PM

Franklin: I also think that there is a problem when the pride of the critic overshadows the content of his or her argument. Hughes is an example of that. I have often found myself laughing at what he says as i enjoy his insights. He is clever and entertaining. But i think the public is better served by a more rounded view with some personal observations for spice rather than the single-minded focus on small, quirky, inside observations which Hughes' style depends on.



June 30, 2004, 7:15 PM

N, whom are you addressing? I was just answering your question generally. No, you're entitled to your feelings about the Hirst work you saw. Actually, that was a pretty nice description of your experience in front of it. Keep up the good work.

MA, Hughes actually was willing to cut Hirst some slack in the above quote. See, even his rep is getting in the way.



June 30, 2004, 7:36 PM

Mary Agnes: I think the separation is necessary. Some very good artists are very unlovable. trying to get around that will bring you to the "but i love where his art comes from" in which case you are talking about the art all over again.

N: in the case of the Hirst pharmace exhibit, if you examine what you said you will see that you are using the exhibit as a trigger for your own inner drama. Go to a 24 hour drugstore at 3 AM and you can work up the same set of reactions.



June 30, 2004, 7:58 PM

Franklin: my above comment was somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I realize that most people who post here, including you, dont really feel that way.

Although general disdain for diverse experiences with a work of art does suffocate the possibility for rewarding specific experiences with it. You can disagree with my opinion on Hirst, but telling me to clean out my eyes does seem a little disrespectful to sensitive diva such as myself. I recognize thats partly my problem, but I dont think the implications of such a statement are not significant and worth considering. Give me instead, your perspective on why it doesnt work for you (other than Damien Hirst sounds like an obnoxious, overly sensitive diva in his own right).

Old Pro: BIG difference between my experience in a 24-hour drugstore and Hirst's work. First of all, being in an art environment, his work is meant to be thought about in an artistic way... while I may find 'art' (Art) in many aspects of my daily life, wehn someone goes to the trouble of recreating a room that is not used for the purposes it appears to be used for (to sell medicine in this case), it prompts immediately a more reflective response. My brain is already set for that kind of introspective thinking.

Also, I find art oftentimes takes what is abstract -- such as any feeling you can name but can't smell or see or touch -- and puts them in a tangible, concrete form. The aethestics of Hirst's work are eerily unlike what one would exactly find in the drugstore, and it's in those discrepancies and exaggerations I find a meaningful connection to the emotional (abstract) experiences that are can be a part of the emotional experience of a drugstore but not found among the shelves of a real pharmacy, if that makes sense.

Now on to other stuff: I think that the artists personality informs ones view of a work perhaps a more academic way. In much the same way historical or cultural knowledge of a work can. There are all sorts of things that go on when I am looking at art, that it is indeed hard to separate and identify them all. Our cultural experiences, the way we respond to various personalities undoubtedly influence us in ways in which we probably dont even understand. In fact, such things are actually a part of who we are, how we identify ourselves, how we see things.

I had a strong aversion to Dutch still life until befriended an incredibly intelligent scholar on 16th and 17th century Dutch painting. There was so much more going on in Dutch painting still lifes (still lives??), portraiture, seascapes -- than my cultural frame of reference could have recognized without the historical background.

Which is why I could, for instance, get a lot more out of revisiting a Rembrandt the second or third time.

But the fame of Rembrandt and historical knowledge of his work good or bad -- doesnt change the fact that when I first saw a Rembrandt portrait, I was struck by a sense of raw expressiveness, and was moved somehow by its apparent luminosity



June 30, 2004, 8:09 PM

N, in answer to you question, I have now seen two Hirsts in person and I found that neither of them conveyed an experience. I got no feeling from them. I could construct a story around them, given my imagination and what I know about contemporary art, but I can do the same around any inanimate object so I don't value that. No, they were quite dead.



June 30, 2004, 8:11 PM

Oldpro, another thing -- isn't every experience with a work of art a bit of an inner drama? I don't know what else it would be if it weren't. I mean, I can like the way certain colors appear, or the way lines on a page express a gesture, but it isn't a bonafide *experience* until those visual stimuli connect with something internal in me. I can say, oooo, that's pretty... but 'pretty' can also be emotionally dull and boring at times.... it's not significant until it connects with something else that's a little more poignant.



June 30, 2004, 8:14 PM

Franklin: I can respect that. The objects didn't seem completely inanimate to me... they seemed somewhat haunted. So that's why it worked for me, I guess.



June 30, 2004, 8:27 PM

I suspect Hirst was being ironic when he said he was "fragile." Hughes either didn't get the hint, or decided to fight back. In all other fields, journalists interview the most murderous people without prejudice (Manson, bin Laden, Hussein), but in the arts, an acid tone seems not only common, but expected. I don't believe Hughes's false report of being surprised at Hirst's answer or his innocent "who me?" rejoinder.

I also don't understand the worries about free markets. Markets are nothing more than open arenas to produce and acquire goods or services. They're the most accurate reflection of relative value we'll ever have. They distill innumerable criteria from multiple judges into simple dimensions. I suggest comfort with markets means comfort with life.

And high art prices are nothing new. In 1886 an art critic noted that "a Jules Breton painting sold for more than 100,000 francs, and the least drawing of Millet fetches 50,000." I calculate these prices to be the equivalent of $500,000 or $250,000 today. Leonardo sold Mona Lisa to the king of France for roughly the same as that lower amount. And that was the direct price. No Larry Gagosian or Robert Morgenthau in sight.

Also, if Warhol's art is so "easy," we should see it pumped out by artists in the dozens, flooding the market, and declining in value. I wouldn't bet on it. After all, the world apparently has yet to tire after seeing mountains of dimly-lit still-life images of cucumbers and tomatoes.

Finally, just because Hughes can name a few artists he thinks have declined over the last 20 years, it's intellectually sloppy to think we can't do the same for any decade in the past thousand decades. The only conclusion I draw from his litany is that he lacks the skill to recall the forgotten artists of the 1880s, 1780s, 1480s, or 780s.



June 30, 2004, 8:58 PM

Franklin: You say the Hirsts looked dead to you? Slicing and formaldehyde will do that.

N: Of course there is a difference made by setting something up in an art context. That's why I said that if you go to a 24 hour drugstore at 3 AM you can "work up" the same type of reaction. A great deal of contemporary art consists of very little else but changing context in this manner, or changing context with some embellishment, which is what i imagine the Hirst to be like. I have never found anything I have seen of this sort to be at all compelling as visual art, although sometimes it is quite evocative theatrically. (I am referring here only to types of experience). And, once again referring to my own experience, I do not find a "drama" attending the thrill of great art, only elation.



June 30, 2004, 9:08 PM

N: I forgot to mention regarding I think that the artists personality informs ones view of a work perhaps a more academic way. In much the same way historical or cultural knowledge of a work can - I agree.

Hovig: Hirst's gallery described the artist as fragile. Are they being ironic on his behalf? They won't let the crew film his work for "conservation reasons" - conservation of what, Hirst's repuation? I think Hughes came to a fair conclusion, that the gallery decided that it would be "better to discourage anything being said about the great work than risk the utterance of dissent or doubt." I don't understand what you're basing your conclusions about Hughes's falseness or Hirst's innocence upon.

Your right, I think, that free markets are "the most accurate reflection of relative value we'll ever have." Nevertheless, they still stink. They're just as likely to reflect degrees of collective stupidity. I think Churchill said that democracy is the worst system in the world, with the exception of everything else. I feel the same about the free markets. Am I uncomfortable with life? I haven't found an alternative that works for me. ;o)

Man, that cucumber and tomato painting looks nice.



June 30, 2004, 9:11 PM

You're right, and within your right, to conclude that I don't always get "you're" and "your" right.



June 30, 2004, 9:19 PM

The more I think about it, the more I realize that the context needed for the type of artful experience Im looking for isnt necessarily a gallery or a museum. A gallery or a museum works for me because I interpret the space as one where I am encouraged to think or feel rather than to buy (as is the case with most public environments that I can think of, drugstore included). But the consumerist aspect of the gallery/museum makes it a different place to those who are caught up in the buying and selling. duh, I just realized the significance of that. Hirsts Pharmacy worked for me at that time because the very obvious non-functionality of the space (if we, as I think western thought sadly does, think of thinking and feeling and non-productive activities because if it aint marketable it aint productive).



June 30, 2004, 9:26 PM

oh, yeah, so what I was trying to say, Oldpro, is that I do think that context could be important. Especially if we are talking about art and markets and whether or not the soul of one is antithetical in some sense to the aims of the other....


mary agnes

June 30, 2004, 9:38 PM

I agree that the ability to respond personally is key to appreciating and understanding an artwork. I remember being in a room with a Hirst and being fascinated and horrified. He had me!



June 30, 2004, 9:41 PM

N: As i said, of course context is important. "Context" informs us how we are expected to react to a thing or an environment. Anything can enter the "art" context, and by now just about everything has. All you need is a gallery and a label. My problem, and I believe yours, too, is that art, which I (we?) think should be be a mattter of some sort of elevated? high-level? precious? noble? experience is instead used is a crass commerical way, and that this misuse (I am all for free markets) gets in the way not only of this experience but in the way of the aim of making art that is intended for this experience. And I would put academicism right up there with commercialism as the twin enemy.



June 30, 2004, 10:07 PM

Boy oh boy here we go again. Where is Tim when we need him?



June 30, 2004, 10:59 PM

Franklin - Perhaps I was wrong to assume a successful gallery and its famous artistic clients would be in synch with each other when issuing statements to influential journalists. But I take your point. Hirst might be sensitive to criticism after all, in the sense that sensitivity can also be expressed through rage, making "fragile" a poor attempt at diplomacy on the part of the gallerist.

My basis for speaking of Hughes was that while he says in his latest article that he "had not actually written about Hirst's work," it was my impression that he had in fact done so this past April. Perhaps he spoke to the gallery before the April article was published, making his claim true in word.

I still sympathize with anyone who doesn't want to provide grist for the media mill. Lesser people than famous artists have had their lives ruined by unfavorable press. It was interesting to me that this article should appear on a day after this one, The Democratization of Cultural Criticism, featuring the following excerpt:

Today the complaint is that literary culture lacks civility. We live in an age of commercialism and spectacle. Writers seek the limelight, and one way to bask in it is to publish reviews that scorch the landscape, with Dale Peck as the famous, but not atypical, case in point. Heidi Julavits, in an essay in The Believer, lamented the downfall of serious fiction and reviewing. She surveyed a literary culture that had embraced "snark," her term for hostile, self-serving reviews.

The snark review, according to Julavits, eschews a serious engagement with literature in favor of a sound-bite approach, an attempt to turn the review into a form of entertainment akin to film reviews or restaurant critiques.

If we're speaking of art criticism and sensitivity thereof, civility is a word which speaks well to me. I don't think it serves the art world (or any world) to attack another member, unless that member is themself restraining or abusing someone. Short of stopping abuse, I can't see a reason to attack another person, either literally or figuratively. If a person's work is truly without virtue, it will die on the vine on its own.

I can see holding up a person or their work to scrutiny, and harsh examination, but terms like "stupidity" are extremely hard for me to use. Beside, free markets only reflect imperfect results quickly and temporarily. (While I can't bring myself to use the word "stupidity," I can understand how emotion or ulterior motives can restrain reason upon occasion.) Churchill also said "Americans do the right thing, eventually."

More apropos, the physicist Max Planck said, "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it." Concerning this discussion of cucumbers and pickled sharks, this quote can cut either way.



June 30, 2004, 11:07 PM

Yes, Catfish. We need Tim to blow in here and shame us into silence.



June 30, 2004, 11:26 PM

Hello All- This is my first post here but I'm inspired to do so because I appreciate the level of conversation on this site. Whether or not Hirst's art is any good takes a back seat to the fact that it does create a spark, a dialogue that is valuable in and of itself. Which is not to say I think that Hirst is a good artist or for that matter we should spend any time speaking about him. He's everyone's favorite whipping boy though.

Salvador Dali used to collect all the articles written about him in a week and weigh them rather than read them. Perhaps Hirst should take note of his predecessor. After all, all publicity is good publicity. And speaking of, when was the last time someone wrote something truly good about Hirst? Everyone spends so much time bemoaning him that rather than have a chorus of supporters he has a chorus of detractors. But a chorus nonetheless. We should all stop singing Hirst's song, whether it be posititve or negative, and instead devote that same energy to dialogue, promotion, etc. Let's speak about Cecily Brown's facture, or the ridiculousness of what's happening at Grand Central Station in New York, or why it's so hard to appreciate abstract paintings in a world saturated with images.

(These are just suggestions... please do carry on with this interesting Hughes based discussion)



June 30, 2004, 11:55 PM

Hi, Glenna! I sometimes find it easier to appreciate abstract paintings in one sense because they more directly correlate to poetically lived sensations rather than to narratives. That's me. However, because sloppy abstract work has been appropriated too easily as just the dor needed to match your hotel room or your couch, its meaningfulness has been diluted over last couple of decades, I think.

What is going on at the Grand Central Station? Are you referring to the Gallery Annex there, or is there something else youre speaking of? It would be interesting to know Im headed to NYC next month.



July 1, 2004, 1:24 AM

Hey Glenna - some pretty good ideas for futire blogs, I think

Someonje told me this is how the "hirst song" goes, rap style:

took a cow
ripped it down
the length somehow
stuck in in a great big tank
We all said
what a crank
what an awful
stupid prank
Damien just went off
to the bank

Hirst, hirst
He's the worst
someone shoudl make
his bubble burst
If I could do it
I'be the first

Damien, he paints lots
of pictures full
of big round spots
The cynics said man,
you're all through.
they did that back
in "62.
Damien said
what the heck
I know its junk
i know its dreck
but look at this
humungous check

Hirst, hiirst, (etc)

As for Dali, if I got tenough reviews every week to actually weigh them, I think I wouldnt read them either.


Jerome du Bois

July 1, 2004, 1:54 AM

Franklin et al:

Here a Hirst, there a Hirst, everywhere a Hirst Hirst. So far on this thread there have been no references to specific objects made by this artist. You're treating the guy like a brand: if you've seen one Hirst, you've seen them all. And you talk about his shallowness.




July 1, 2004, 1:58 AM

hello jdb - there have been 3 references to Hirst's work, 2 of them in my stupid "rap" above and one which was discussed quite a bit: his "Pharmacy".



July 1, 2004, 2:00 AM

"Becoming a brand name is an important part of life," says Mr. Hirst. "It's the world we live in." (The Economist, February 10, 2001) [source]


Jerome du Bois

July 1, 2004, 2:09 AM

Jeebus, you guys are quick.

No, oldpro, you referred -- wait, let me shove my glasses right up firmly against my nose -- to a sliced-up cow and to a dot painting. He's done many of both. I referred to specific objects.

Franklin jumps right into da frame. Nice argument, man.

Let me be clear: I'm not defending Damien Hirst. I'm defending clarity: what are you talking about?




July 1, 2004, 2:32 AM

Geez jdb! Do I have to make distinctions between one sliced up cow and the next one? Between one dot painting and the next one? What's the point?
...Suddenly the crowd draws back in astonishment...THERE! we've seen all the others, but THAT sliced-up cow is a friggin' MASTERPIECE!
I don't think so.



July 1, 2004, 2:36 AM

Bloggers, wow, first of all who is HIrst? Never heard of him.
I figured I should butt out, being a former Miami Beach painter, but I have to butt back in if you all don't mind. The only thing in the making and seeing of Art, as I figure it, is getting lost. If you're not 'gone' while you're working you're not all the way there. And if you're not gone while you look at a piece of Art its not working as Art, for you. So 'gone' is all there is. To reach this state you have to take risks. Like recently me getting busted by the police for my art, a dog attacking my work. You think I'm kidding? And it wasn't any dog but one that belonged to a writer for People magazine, who by the way was worshipfully questioning me in my studio.

I'll make it short. My work is made of thousands of bones stuck in tons of acrylic gel. To speed up the process of getting the bones free of bio matter I regularly light a trashcan full of them I get delivered by this guy named Dave Greenfield, of H.I.Ribs. He puts them through the industrial dishwasher, assuring me, "Tim, there might be a bit of meat still on them but there is certainly no sauce." Mid-fire the crematorium stench wafting in a thick low cloud over the yuppie neighbor's house the cops show up, the officer asking me what's up with the licking flames in the illegal open fire.
It's ribs officer.
What you doing, smoking them?
No. Actually they're for a giant abstract painting.
That got me in good with him.
Him simply walking back to his patrol car, shouting back: Extinguish it!"
Then, when my suffering, getting lost in the risky process of painting, I get People Magazine to come over to do a four page piece on me and my fabulous breakthrough ideas, the writer's dog runs over and starts growling/chewing on my most recent piece.
"Stop it Rudy!" she calls to her doggie.
"Don't worry." I say, "I haven't had a reaction that strong to my stuff in years."



July 1, 2004, 2:38 AM

I saw one of the dot paintings (I'm led to understand that seeing another wouldn't matter, since the colors are applied at random by the gallery), and this.



July 1, 2004, 3:06 AM

I saw an Armageddon work at the Guggenheim's recent "minimalism" exhibit. I'm not an artist or art historian, but I found the work captivating and memorable. The loud buzz surrounding it that day came not from the smelly dead black flies covering its surface, but all the teenagers hovering excitedly around it. (Tho my wife has still never forgiven me for telling her, "go take a closer look.") I personally think the work would have succeeded even if it were made of something like jelly bean-shaped pellets, but if material selection is part of art's craft, and the chosen material makes the work that much more interesting, I think Hirst's choice can be defended.



July 1, 2004, 3:50 AM

Your wife has a point, Hovig.
I supopose all those flies are a natural consequence of slicing a lot of cows.
Too bad the flies are all dead. They could fly away with the thing. Unidentified fly-covered object, the magic carpet of the avant-garde.



July 1, 2004, 4:33 AM

Welcome back Tim. NIce that Rudy licked your painting. Nicer yet if he had humped it.

Now we need Dr. Mike to tell us if Hirst has appropriated from Koons, what with all the aquarium stuff he did ... But who did "the aquarium" first??? And does copying an air filled aquarium with a formaldhyde filled one count? Or vice versa? Let us know.

Meantime, back at the word processor ...

Damien Hirst's glass and metal environments communicate through allusions to disease, death, decay, transience, and transformation. His sculptures isolate and display objects the way museum cases and aquariums do. "The Asthmatic Escaped II" is made of two glass cubes, one of which has narrow openings that both suggest and deny access.

"suggest and deny access" zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.


Jerome du Bois

July 1, 2004, 5:16 AM


True colors. I'm sorry about any nice thing I said about you. You're a cruel man to shove your wife's nose in stink -- and I know the exact stink you're talking about, believe me. But then, you like Jenny Saville's work, too, don't you? Ah, female humiliation . . . it's in the air!


Then we've got Tim, who in his first line admits nothing about Hirst, but then regales us with more tales of his wacky life. Serious art blog, Franklin.


Stil ignoring the question, but I no longer care about your answer.

I gotta get back to work. I shouldn't have shown up here. You people depress me.




July 1, 2004, 5:26 AM

Jerome: Lately, we've been getting all kinds around here. I've been enjoying it. Drop by any time.


Jerome du Bois

July 1, 2004, 6:24 AM


I'm sorry. You're a good and gracious man. I do not mean to abuse your hospitality. Next time, whether I'm wearing my tabis or my hobnailed boots, I'll leave them at the door.

In the meantime, though, I just picked up the new Phoenix New Times, which has something I really want to . . . where's those boots? Where's that whetstone?





July 1, 2004, 10:24 AM

JDB if you are going to be sour and nasty don't be so cute. Say what you mean in a way that it can be understood.



July 1, 2004, 4:43 PM

And with the mention of Hirst the conversation degrades to tirade and complaint. Yes, let's do be specific: "The impossibility of death in the mind of the living." Do you think that it's possible to ever fully comprehend death while living? Even while looking at a physical example, suspended, embalmed, do you understand? If you could, would you like to have your body suspended in formaldihide when you die?

PS- Grand Central Station is having hideous carpet installed as a media fiasco and to quiet the noise



July 1, 2004, 5:04 PM

Props to N and Jenna, questers. Art is the exchange of consciousness. One consciousness meets another on the most fundamental levels of seeing, making, feeling, sensing. Biography, discourse, seeing shows are ways in toward making a genuine connection to the work, and how that occurs is different for everyone.
Hirst had something to offer the consciousness of the 1990s, maybe just a glimpse of something fleeting (deKooning: "content is a glimpse"--brilliant!), a trigger for associations--which serves the short term conversation. Long-term demands more but I wouldn't dismiss the short-term out of hand. Looking at the facts, the work spoke to enough of a collective consciousness to be where it is. I think Hirst detoxed though, so the impetus for the work may have changed--and expired.



July 1, 2004, 6:27 PM

Jerome: you're right. Tim has no academic credibility. That's part of how I know he IS serious.

Elisabeth: great statement about exchanging consciousness. Obviously Rudy's consciouness was expanded when he licked Tim's painting (viva la difference). But the question is, was Tim's?

Glenna: is it any easier to understand life while dead?



July 1, 2004, 7:03 PM

Catfish: I don't think either Rudy's or Tim's consciousness was expanded when Rudy licked the painting. I hear you, but impulse can be played on one chord.


Jerome du Bois

July 1, 2004, 7:16 PM

I guess I can be a nasty sonofabitch.

oldpro: My point is that it's dismissive and lazy to simply say that any dot painting is like any other (and I speak as one who wouldn't care how many of them went up in Saatchi's fire), or one sliced-up cow is just like another. They are discrete objects.

catfish: I didn't say anything about Tim's academic credibility.

Elisabeth, I think, has a handle on Hirst. He can make objects, such as "Away From The Flock," showing a lamb in a vitrine, alone, which bring home the uncomfortable feeling raised by Nietzsche's maxim, "Almost everything we call 'higher culture' is based on the spiritualization of cruelty."

I think we are in late Decadence, what I call The Rebarb. Hirst is one of its standard-bearers. I intensely dislike most of his work, and him personally; but that doesn't make him less of a force in art and art history.

And I didn't yell at anybody this time.




July 2, 2004, 2:17 AM

jerome: Clearly i understood your point. I just think in this case is just doesn't matter. In fact, it is absurd to even think it matters. I doubt even Hirst would say it matters. Nobody cares.

Catfish: I don't think Jerome mentioned Tim's academic credentials, but I like your point anyway. Doesnlt anyone in these blogs (besides you, maybe) catch on to what Tim is telling us?

Glenna, Elisabeth, with all respect, I don't know what you are talking about. I've been at this stuff for a long long time and I still have no idea even what an "expanded consciousness" is. Sort of like a swelled head, maybe?



July 2, 2004, 2:19 AM

And Jerome, don't be so pleased with yourself for being a "nasty sonofabitch". Anyone can do that.


Jerome du Bois

July 2, 2004, 2:55 AM


You are not the one to tell me any way to be, whether I'm pleased or displeased with myself or anybody else.

You've been at this a long, long time, eh? Who are you, Han Solo? I've been from one of this galaxy to the other, seen a lotta strange stuff . . . The voice of authority.

I'm not at all surprised you're impressed with Tim.




July 2, 2004, 3:38 AM

Whatever you say, Jerome.
You got me there. I haven't visited too many galaxies.
So you are not surpired I am impressed with Tim. So what?



July 2, 2004, 2:53 PM

Jerome: when you said Tim's first line admits nothing etc. you were referencing Tim's admission he did not know who HIrst was, and tagging that with the sarcastic "serious art blog" thngy, kind of like pin the academic tail on the donkey, but at least a little more relevant than pointing out mispelings.

oldpro: I know what Glenna and Elisabeth are up to - they have opened up their minds and, as you said in an earlier blog, are letting their brains fall out.

Jerome (again): I'm not at all surprised when ANYONE is impressed with Tim. He IS impressive. He singlehandedly rescued this blog from terminial academicism. Granted, he has had some help from oldpro and myself. But we are followers. Tim is the leader of our no more bull shit band of merry warriors. Together we will make it very difficult for academicism to flourish here.



July 2, 2004, 4:24 PM

Go, Catfish!
That is to say, don't go, stay with it.
We need al the friends we can get.



July 3, 2004, 5:52 PM

Oldpro, Catfish:
'Expanded' was inaccurate; 'changed in any way' or 'experience altered' makes more sense. Swelling may diminish the relation and proportion of brain to head without expelling the brain.
Falling into the zone of a Rembrandt (i.e. late self portrait, Frick) as mentioned in earlier blogs, changes consciousness/experience.



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