As a composition, the black and white photograph is unremarkable: no doubt it was hastily taken, for reasons made clear by its content. On the left is a young man he was 16 at the time with dark bristling hair and a chunky ribbed sweater, leaning low over a polished steel surface, the raised and squared-off edge of which reveals it to be a mortuary table.
The young man is looking directly at the camera and grinning broadly, perhaps a little too broadly to convince us of his levity, because beside him on the table is the fat, bald, severed head of a man in late middle age. They look, this grinning boy and his new dead acquaintance, like the traditional graphic personifications of Comedy and Tragedy: one maniacally beaming or guffawing, the other frowning and puckered, mouth down-turned.
Damien Hirst’s With Dead Head 1991 is in part a record of his early fascination with the physical reality of death and the medico-scientific apparatuses that surround it. In his late teens, partly under the influence of Francis Bacon, he amassed – mostly by stealing – a large collection of pathology books, and was especially keen on volumes concerned with burns. He was drawn, he says, to the combination of hideous subject matter and pristine, detached photography; the books contained “delicious, desirable images”.
As a precursor to Hirst’s later conjunctions of dead animal matter – or representations of human death – with the gleaming metal and glass vitrine, With Dead Head is almost too good to be true. Here, it seems to proclaim, is Damien Hirst doing what we think Damien Hirst is meant to do: confronting us with the dismal but fascinating actuality of death and adopting a gleeful attitude to mortality.
Strange Random Death Quote:
“He was a great patriot, a humanitarian, a loyal friend – provided, of course, that he really is dead.” – Voltaire (French Philosopher and Writer. One of the greatest of all French authors, 1694-1778)
- London and the Tate Damien Hirst celebrate (desight.wordpress.com)
- VernissageTV: Damien Hirst Retrospective @ Tate Modern Video Recap (hypebeast.com)
- ‘Britart’ star Damien Hirst gets U.K. retrospective (ctv.ca)
- UK News: GALLERY: Tate Modern prepares to host Damien Hirst retrospective exhibition (walesonline.co.uk)
- National News: GALLERY: Tate Modern prepares to host Damien Hirst retrospective exhibition (coventrytelegraph.net)
- Damien Hirst’s first exhibition for 20 years is unveiled (itv.com)
- Skulls, sharks and polka dots in Damien Hirst show (sacbee.com)
- Damien Hirst’s career on show at Tate Modern retrospective (mirror.co.uk)
For Ai Weiwei the act of individuals voicing opinions and communicating with one another is of great importance.
From October 2010 to May 2011, visitors to his piece Sunflower Seeds, currently on show in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, can record a video; either asking him their question or answering one from him. So far, over 11,500 questions have been asked. This film features a select few.
Sunflower Seeds is made up of millions of small pieces, each apparently identical, but actually unique. However realistic they may seem, these life-sized sunflower seed husks are in fact intricately hand-crafted in porcelain.
And here’s a Making Of Sunflower Seeds (literally) …
Strange Random Art Quote:
I’m afraid that if you look at a thing long enough, it loses all of its meaning. – Andy Warhol
- Tate Modern’s ‘sunflower seeds’ contain lead (telegraph.co.uk)
- Sunflower seeds on “Sunflower Seeds” (wired.com)
- First Of Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds Up For Auction (piya.sandbox.luxist.com)
- Those 100 Million Sunflower Seeds Are Being Removed From the Tate Modern [Mistakes] (gizmodo.com)
- Millions of Hand-Painted Porcelain Sunflower Seeds (craftzine.com)
- Tate artist placed under house arrest (independent.co.uk)
- Tate seeds artwork contains lead paint (bbc.co.uk)
The tune is “Music for a Found Harmonium”, written and performed by the Penguin Café Orchestra, that eclectic and thoroughly British-eccentric group. Did we say that we like them? Well, there are many more examples available on YouTube!
Strange Random Art Quote:
Let me ask you something, what is not art? – Author Unknown
- Mientras Tanto En Mexico, (greg.org)
- The Sweet Spot (soundtime.wordpress.com)
- Penguin watching – Dunedin, New Zealand (travelpod.com)
- This week’s new live music (guardian.co.uk)
- Gabriel Orozco, Tate Modern, London (independent.co.uk)
- Gabriel Orozco: Permanent playtime (guardian.co.uk)
Creative, playful and inventive, Gabriel Orozco creates art in the streets, his apartment or wherever he is inspired. Born in Mexico but working across the globe, Orozco is renowned for his endless experimentation with found objects, which he subtly alters.
His sculptures, often made of everyday things that have interested him, reveal new ways of looking at something familiar. A skull with a geometric pattern carefully drawn onto it, a classic Citroën DS car which the artist sliced into thirds, removing the central part to exaggerate its streamlined design, and a scroll filled with numbers cut out of a phone book are just some of his unique sculptures.
Read about the Empty Shoe Box (1993) exhibit, which is, um, an empty shoe box …
Strange Random Modern Art Quote: