Stuart Morgan interviews Damien Hirst
Stuart Morgan: The fly piece was a complete break for you, wasn’t it?
Damien Hirst: I wanted it to be about something particular and I wanted to say something worth saying. Life and death as a sculpture is a surprise. And the acceptable look of it is a bigger surprise. It’s like a society of some sort. The flies could be people, as the bottles in the drugs cabinets could. Formally, I wanted an empty space with moving points within it, moving like stars, a solution to the problem of how to suspend things without strings or wires and have them constantly change pattern in space.
SM: The first was called Hundred Years. Why?
DH: There’s a weight to it. First, it sounds like a lot. Then it sounds like a little. But it’s longer than you live. It’s relative. Flies don’t live as long as you do. It’s important that there’s another called One Thousand Years and that its the same.
SM: Not quite.
DH: Well, there’s no cow’s heads in it.
SM: Let’s pass to pieces you’ve conceived but haven’t yet made. The butterflies don’t live long either and are more acceptable in aesthetic terms than flies.
DH: Sometimes you’re negative, sometimes you’re positive. If you see people as flies, you can see them as butterflies, small and disgusting or fragile and beautiful. Something that intrigues me in all the work is the action of the world on things.
SM: In the butterfly work the butterflies are encouraged to settle on monochrome paintings.
DH: Yes. On the floor there’s a table with a white formica table top eight feet by four laid on wooden trestles, then in the four corners, large bowls maybe with a splashy abstract painting inside each, as well as sugar and water solution and cotton wool. That’s all in the one space.
SM: Weren’t you going to have cubes with holes in them?
DH: Not any more. I don’t want the idea that the live butterflies came from somewhere. Then there are five white paintings with pupae stuck onto them, sprayed with sugar and water. And it’s called In and Out of Love – White Paintings and Butterflies – a constantly ongoing thing, and the idea of a mini-universe with a title like this suggests that you are or you aren’t. If you are, you’re experiencing something delicious. If you’re not, then you’re out of love with somebody. I like the word ‘relationship’: relationships with objects, with people, relationships in a composition. That you can talk about anything in terms of relationships is quite funny. And relationships change all the time. It will look like an abstract 3D painting, moving. You want to make paintings more alive. I hope there will be moments of calm and moments of movement. If they all settle at once, it may be hard to see any butterflies at all. Then they will come to life in a way I would like art to come to life. So that’s in one space. In the other four boxes with holes in them, a hole in every face, darkness inside, then there are seven butterfly paintings on the walls with dead butterflies in the paint and I was thinking of having a table and on it either four empty bowls or big white circular ashtrays. Both spaces are called In and Out of Love. One’s the romantic view of it, the other is the harsh reality. I’m not sure which is which. There may be stubbed-out cigarettes or half full wine-glasses on the table. Then in the other space are two cabinets filled with drinking glasses, painted white, made of MDF and with doors that open. I may call them I Want You Because I Can’t Have You and I’ll Love You Forever Until I Don’t. They will be really bland glasses. Nothing fancy. And there will be too many for it to be a household object, but that’s the idea. An idea of nothingness or different uses for the same substance: looking through and looking at. So you’ll look through a glass door at a glass. Glass is invisible but you look through one glass to see another. Again, they’re related to people to the idea that people are transparent, empty.
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