On Sunday morning I went to see the Damian Hirst exhibition at Tate Modern.
For those of you unable to visit, it’s a quite wonderful experience. There are old favourites, such as Mother And Child Divided, The Physical Impossibility Of Death In The Mind Of Someone Living and A Thousand Years:
But then there is also the room full of butterflies (In And Out Of Love), the perpetually floating beach ball (Loving In A World Of Desire) and that skull covered in diamonds (For The Love Of God), which is in a dark room in the Turbine Hall.
So that’s several of the most famous works of British art of the last twenty years, yet all I read about the exhibition before I went was a series of updates from my Facebook friends telling me how crap they thought it was.
Fair enough; I mean each to their own, and I can certainly understand how a perpetually floating beach ball might not be everyone’s cup of artistic Darjeeling (I should add that I went with my two small children, both of whom enjoyed seeing the inside of a cow), but I thought it was interesting how much you can do and still leave someone utterly unimpressed.
There was a goddamned shark in a tank! A room full of butterflies! Thousands of flies feasting on a dead cow’s head!
The funny thing is, even though we often assess awesome things to be ‘shit’, we miss the wonder in everyday objects just as frequently. For example, have you ever considered all the things that go into the piece of paper that’s sitting on the desk in front of you? The tree that it used to be, the miles it’s travelled, the process that turned a chunk of wood into a perfectly white slice of paper, the shop that has been set up to make it easy for you to acquire the paper for less than a penny, the way that you can apply a million different colours of ink to it in minute detail…
And that’s just a piece of paper.
Not a dove captured beautifully in mid-flight, suspended forever in a tank of formaldehyde, whose ethereal majesty you could gaze upon in wonder as you marvel at the essential mysteries of nature and our place in the universe.
Then dismiss it as crap (to hundreds of people simultaneously, instantaneously, for free, across the planet, at the touch of a button) .