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Thursday, 19 July 2012

Things that art keeps secret from me... (2)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2012
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

20 July

Continued from Things that art keeps secret from me... (1)

With the ten Medicine Cabinets (1989), as with Pharmacy (1992), if you know what the former contents of the packets, bottles and pill-boxes were used for, there is no pharmaceutical rationale behind how they have been arranged: for example, three different styles of labelling of Senokot bottles (god, E.M.I. and Anarchy), and two of Gaviscon, (Seventeen and E.M.I.), appear in unrelated cabinets (each one named, in order, after the tracks of the Sex Pistols' album Never Mind the Bollocks... .).

For all that is said about Hirst’s curatorship, the fact that an anti-psychotic or an anti-depressant is seen side by side with something quite unrelated such as a pain-killer leads me believe that it is the aesthetic appearance that has influenced the arrangement within the display-units. (This cannot as easily be seen from what the Tate’s catalogue features for Pharmacy, as it does it a relative disservice in depicting it, compared with the earlier works.) The lower shelf of Seventeen, at the right, contains a whole jumble, and, at the far left, a big brown glass bottle obscured by an item in front (as in other cabinets, e.g. No Feelings, Pretty Vacant and Bodies).

If then, as with Lullaby, the Seasons (2002), it is the overall effect that it is important, not the pills, tablets and capsules themselves, but their effect against their mirrored background, then anyone looking at these old containers of medication without thinking how they have been put on the shelf is missing a major element.
But what do people who profess to like Hirst's work see when they look at such things? No one seems to look at the so-called spot paintings (I have been to the show severeal times), and people seem to wander around the spaces created by Pharmacy (1992), and by the Medicine Cabinets (1989) as if what is there is a reverential re-creation of a curated store for medication.
But, if so, what are the four bowls with honeycomb and honey, each on top of a podium of a kind intended for reaching things down from upper shelves?
Do they normally occupy the otherwise placid evocation of a pharmacy, complete with those four sinuous vessels full, each one, of a coloured liquid? (Which one looks most like it would be fun to drink?)
It's normal in this installation, because it was previously so at Tate Britain, something about the self-styled Young British Artists (how young is young, Damien?).

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