Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Damien Hirst: "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living"

The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living is an artwork created in 1992 by Damien Hirst, an English artist and a leading member of the "Young British Artists" (or YBA). It consists of a tiger shark preserved in formaldehyde in a vitrine. It was originally commissioned in 1991 by Charles Saatchi, who sold it in 2004, to Steven A. Cohen for an undisclosed amount, widely reported to have been $8 million dollars, however the title of Don Thompson's book, The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art, suggests a higher figure. It is considered the iconic work of British art in the 1990s,[2] and has become a symbol of Britart worldwide.[3]

Its technical specifications are: "Tiger shark, glass, steel, 5% formaldehyde solution, 213 x 518 x 213 cm."

"Mr. Hirst often aims to fry the mind (and misses more than he hits), but he does so by setting up direct, often visceral experiences, of which the shark remains the most outstanding. In keeping with the piece’s title, the shark is simultaneously life and death incarnate in a way you don’t quite grasp until you see it, suspended and silent, in its tank. It gives the innately demonic urge to live a demonic, deathlike form."[8]

*Due to deterioration of the original 14-foot (4.3 m) tiger shark, it was replaced with a new specimen in 2006. It is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City until 2010.[1]

1. ^ Smith, Roberta (16 October 2007). "Just When You Thought It Was Safe". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-10-16. 2. ^ Brooks, Richard. "Hirst's shark is sold to America", The Sunday Times, 16 January 2005. Retrieved 14 October 2008. 3. ^ Davies, Serena. "Why painting is back in the frame", The Daily Telegraph, 8 January 2005. Retrieved 15 October 2008.4. ^ a b "Saatchi mulls £6.25m shark offer", BBC. Retrieved 23 February 2007 5. ^ a b Barber, Lynn "Bleeding art", The Observer, 20 April 2003. Retrieved 1 September 2007. 6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Vogel, Carol "Swimming with famous dead sharks,2 New York Times, 1 October 2006. Retrieved 23 February 2007 7. ^ "Damien Hirst", The Artchive. Retrieved 23 February 2007 8. ^ Smith, Roberta (16 October 2007). "Just When You Thought It Was Safe". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-08-16. 9. ^ Akbar, Arifa. "A formaldehyde frenzy as buyers snap up Hirst works", The Independent, 16 September 2008. Retrieved 16 September 2008. 10. ^ Kennedy, Maev "Art market a 'cultural obscenity'", The Guardian, 3 June 2004. Retrieved 1 September 2007. 11. ^ Alberge, Dalya. "Traditionalists mark shark attack on Hirst", The Times, 10 April 2003. Retrieved 6 February 2008. 12. ^ "A Dead Shark Isn't Art" on the Stuckism International web site Retrieved 21 September 2008

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Go To Hell: Darvaza, Turkmenistan

In the hot, expansive Karakum desert in Turkmenistan, near the 350 person village of Derweze, is a hole 328 feet wide that has been on fire, continuously, for 38 years. Known as the Darvaza Gas Crater or the "Gates of Hells" by locals, the crater can be seen glowing for miles around.
The hole is the outcome not of nature but of an industrial accident. In 1971 a Soviet drilling rig accidentally punched into a massive underground natural gas cavern, causing the ground to collapse and the entire drilling rig to fall in. Having punctured a pocket of gas, poisonous fumes began leaking from the hole at an alarming rate. To head off a potential environmental catastrophe, the Soviets set the hole alight. The crater hasn't stopped burning since."

"Though little information is available about the fate of the Soviet drilling rig, presumably it is still down there somewhere, on the other side of the "Gates of Hell."

John H. Bradley went and documented the trip. Check out his story and other photos.

English Russia
Atlas Obscura

Thursday, March 4, 2010

"The Mysterious Stranger" by Mark Twain

The Mysterious Stranger is an unfinished work and the last novel attempted by the American author Mark Twain. It was worked on periodically from roughly 1890 up until his death in 1910. The body of work is a serious social commentary by Twain addressing his ideas of the Moral Sense and the "damned human race". A "complete" version was published posthumously in 1916 by Twain's biographer Albert Bigelow Paine under the name The Mysterious Stranger, A Romance, but this version is under scrutiny concerning the extent of editing performed on Twain's manuscripts by Paine. The published version is a novella.

Twain actually wrote multiple versions of this story, each unfinished and each involving the character of "Satan". The first substantial version is commonly referred to as The Chronicle of Young Satan and tells of the adventures of Satan, the sinless nephew of the biblical Satan, in an Austrian village in the Middle Ages. The story ends abruptly in the middle of a scene involving Satan entertaining a prince in India, suggesting Twain died before he finished writing it.
The second substantial version Twain attempted to write is
known as Schoolhouse Hill which involves the familiar characters of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer and their adventures with Satan, referred to in this version as "No. 44, New Series 864962", and is set in America. Schoolhouse Hill is the shortest of the three versions.
The third version, called No. 44, the Mysterious Stranger: Being an Ancient Tale Found in a Jug and Freely Translated from the Jug, returns to Medieval Austria and tells of No. 44's mysterious appearance at the door of a print shop and his use of heavenly powers to expose the futility of mankind's existence. This version also introduces an idea Twain was toying with at the end of his life involving a duality of the "self", one being the "Waking Self" and the other being the "Dream Self". Twain explores these ideas through the use of "Duplicates", copies of the print shop workers made by No. 44. This version contains an actual ending, however the version is not considered as complete as Twain would have intended.

The most famous version of "The Mysterious Stranger"

An Excerpt. The Final Chapter: 11
as much as a year Satan continued these visits, but at last he came less often, and then for a long time he did not come at all. This always made me lonely and melancholy. I felt that he was
losing interest in our tiny world and might at any time abandon his visits entirely. When one day he finally came to me I was overjoyed, but only for a little while. He had come to say good-by, he told me, and for the last time. He had investigations and undertakings in other corners of the universe, he said, that would keep him busy for a longer period than I could wait for his return.

"And you are going away, and will not come back any more?"

"Yes," he said. "We have comraded long together, and it has been pleasant--pleasant for both; but I must go now, and we shall not see each other any more."

"In this life, Satan, but in another? We shall meet in another, surely?"

Then, all tranquilly and soberly, he made the strange answer, "There is no other."

A subtle influence blew upon my spirit from his, bringing with it a vague, dim, but blessed and hopeful feeling that the incredible words might be true--even must be true.

"Have you never suspected this, Theodor?"

"No. How could I? But if it can only be true--"

"It is true."

A gust of thankfulness rose in my breast, but a doubt checked it before it could issue in words, and I said, "But--but--we have seen that future life--seen it in its actuality, and so-- "It was a vision--it had no existence."

I could hardly breathe for the great hope that was struggling in me. "A vision? --a vi--"

"Life itself is only a vision, a dream."

It was electrical. By God! I had had that very thought a thousand times in my musings!

"Nothing exists; all is a dream. God--man--the world--the sun, the moon, the wilderness of stars--a dream, all a dream; they have no existence. Nothing exists save empty space--and you!"


"And you are not you--you have no body, no blood, no bones, you are but a thought. I myself have no existence; I am but a dream--your dream, creature of your imagination. In a moment you will have realized this, then you will banish me from your visions and I shall dissolve into the nothingness out of which you made me....

"I am perishing already--I am failing--I am passing away. In a little while you will be alone in shoreless space, to wander its limitless solitudes without friend or comrade forever--for you will remain a thought, the only existent thought, and by your nature inextinguishable, indestructible. But I, your poor servant, have revealed you to yourself and set you free. Dream other dreams, and better!

"Strange! that you should not have suspected years ago--centuries, ages, eons, ago! --for you have existed, companionless, through all the eternities. Strange, indeed, that you should not have suspected that your universe and its contents were only dreams, visions, fiction! Strange, because they are so frankly and hysterically insane--like all dreams: a God who could make good children as easily as bad, yet preferred to make bad ones; who could have made every one of them happy, yet never made a single happy one; who made them prize their bitter life, yet stingily cut it short; who gave his angels eternal happiness unearned, yet required his other children to earn it; who gave his angels painless lives, yet cursed his other children with biting miseries and maladies of mind and body; who mouths justice and invented hell--mouths mercy and invented hell--mouths Golden Rules, and forgiveness multiplied by seventy times seven, and invented hell; who mouths morals to other people and has none himself; who frowns upon crimes, yet commits them all; who created man without invitation, then tries to shuffle the responsibility for man's acts upon man, instead of honorably placing it where it belongs, upon himself; and finally, with altogether divine obtuseness, invites this poor, abused slave to worship him!...

"You perceive, now, that these things are all impossible except in a dream. You perceive that they are pure and puerile insanities, the silly creations of an imagination that is not conscious of its freaks--in a word, that they are a dream, and you the maker of it. The dream-marks are all present; you should have recognized them earlier.

"It is true, that which I have revealed to you; there is no God, no universe, no human race, no earthly life, no heaven, no hell. It is all a dream--a grotesque and foolish dream. Nothing exists but you. And you are but a thought--a vagrant thought, a useless thought, a homeless thought, wandering forlorn among the empty eternities!"

He vanished, and left me appalled; for I knew, and realized, that all he had said was true

*A scene about this story also appears in the 1985 claymation film The Adventures of Mark Twain, where Satan gets Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn and Becky Thatcher to construct small clay people to bring to life and live in a small kingdom together before Satan destroys them through fighting, plagues and natural disasters, depicting the futility of mankind. The scene also quotes Satan's last line from the book.

The Scene is left out when shown on television.

Link to the scene

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Illustrations of Laurie Lipton

School has got me busy, sorry about the lack of posts. I have a lot to post but very little time to do so. Thanks for checking back. I promise you that it's going to get interesting....

"Laurie Lipton was born in New York. She was the first person to graduate from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pennsylvania with a Fine Arts Degree in Drawing (with honours). She has lived in Holland, Belgium, Germany and France and has made her home in London since 1986."

"It was all abstract and conceptual art at my university. I cut my classes and sat for hours in the library copying Durer, Memling and Van Eyck. So even though I went to one of the best universities for art in the USA, I am self-taught. My weird way of drawing took a horrendous amout of time, but I was able to get the same kind of luminous quality that the Renaissance Flemish painters had achieved. My teachers tried to dissuade me and get me to "draw for drawing's sake" and loosen up, but I knew what I wanted. I ached to make something no one had ever seen before with pencil."

"Diane Arbus was another of my inspirations, and her use of black and white (the color of ghosts, memory and madness) opened up a world of possibilities for me."

Check out Laurie's site. Prints are available for purchase.