Saturday, 4 October 2008


A last puff on Damien. For now. In response to something argued by a writer I like and admire, so pax vobiscum, SF. Much of this refers to the debate that has been outrunning the comments box. This, unlike my last, is contra Hirst.

The title of Hirst's shark ('The Physical Impossibility of the Thought of Death in the Mind of One Living') bores me, if you'll forgive the pun, to death. It is portentous, grandstanding obviousness pretending to be a blinding revelation. It's sort of adolescent. I prefer just to think of it as the shark, nor does losing the title in the least reduce it for me. It's like the sculptors of the 60s calling their Philip King-type pieces 'Ixion' or 'Counterpoint IX'. They were hoping to gain something by specious association. Most titles are, most of the time, useful handles to pick things up by rather than an implicit part of the work.

I take the use of the word 'debate' to be referring to the bigger debate well beyond the circle of this blog. Because that debate about Hirst does exist. And so it should. It's just that the debate is not in itself the art. Nor should it be. The statement 'clearly a great artist' says to me what it seems to say, that Hirst is, clearly, a great artist.

Of course Hirst is an artist. So am I and so are you, so are all of us who have been engaged in this restricted debate. All 'clearly' artists. I will accept 'clearly' for that, in that we all produce art. 'Call that a poem?' someone might say, but as long as we and a few other people are happy to put the label poem, or prose, or whatever, to what we do, irrespective of whether it is a good or bad example of the art, we can safely assume 'clearly'. Greatness is something else.

And what has money to do with this, seeing that Francis Bacon's works fetch a fortune? Money has something quite specific to do with Hirst, in that his work directly engages with it. Picasso made fortunes but he produced so much work it was bound to lower his prices, but he didn't care. Money wasn't the issue, not part of the subject. Nor was it Bacon's, repetitive as he tended to become as time went on.

In Hirst it is part of the subject, to some degree it is the subject, and I, personally, don't like it. I don't like the smug backers, I don't like the smug critics, I don't like the smug prize-givers with their smug prizes, I don't like the smug buyers, I don't like the smug speculators. I detest their privileges, their monopolies, their bullying, their cartels, their flashing of flash ideas, cash and power, the fact that they create and maintain their own celebrity value, their cynicism masquerading as irony. And the fact that Hirst is right at the heart of this. He is, currently, its beating heart.

Which does not predispose me to like him.


Stephen Foster said...

You could teach art theory at art skool, going on like that: I never did meet a theroretical lecturer that liked artists: they've got too much ego. As I think we both know (knowing wink here).

I am proud to have provoked a post, though I think we'll have to Agree to the Unliklikhood of Assimilating the Other Bloke's Argument. Or somesuch (second knowing wink here; it's becoming a trope.)

Stephen Foster said...

nb: Bovina Sancta!

Background Artist said...

I think Hirsty is a one person ealking cash machine-as-artist with a production line staffed by factory hands churning out the dough for him.

. i read an interview with a musician who went to art school and played with Blur, Alex, alex James i think it was, on the coach back from Kiltimagh where one had been drinking at the In Sight of Raftery festival, waking up in a field covered in tick bites, after collapsing twenty minutes after a recital one waited all night to do, bagless, the wad of A4 poems i had brought, discarded into the void of drunkeness -- it was on the journey back - or it might have even been there -- in which James (if it was him) spoke of hid clique in which Damo was top seller, saying after Satchi spent his dough on that yrs YBA's from Goldsmiths around the Britpop birthing in which Liam and Noel spke for a generation on the cusp of things getting better, back to basics, doing away with the rooted unfairness, four yrs before the war -- after Chuck purchased these chaps and gals, Damo wuz a made man.

capo de capo, and James described scenes of boozing which are right out of Cronin's Dead As Doornails, but rather than the immediate post-Emergency Catacombs, McDaids and the Dukes, it was all New York penthouse VIP suites, lobbing bottles of bubbly over the parapet, Keith Allen dropping his kecks and urinating over whoever was the lucky chosen one, and Damo, our damo being top boozer getting to act out the teenage fantasy of being a millionire artist, all at once.

Just like Liam and Noel, who spoke the zeitgeist, articulated the hopes of the normal untitled folk, swept along on a wave in which it looked like New labour was gonna make it all fair, before they became millionires, and now more time rich tyhan poor, alomst a walking cliche, these working class artists who articulated Britpop second hand from the sixties of John and sir Paul.

Hirst, yeah, wow, great art, i am sure his dough will make the average punter stop and think he must be a prophet, but at the end of the day, he has lost what was there before Chuck S bought and paid for him, and his work is pop-art innit?

Saying, not much but, look at me, a person who won the lottery, well over-rated but if you want one to say the spaces in which Damo makes us apprehend our humanity, are the liminal degrees of sun-flowers and trees in which the demarcatgion of artistic intent, is rented out on the drip by a balding intellectual whose lost his mojo, yeah man, right on, Damo, Damo, what can you claim oh ! but yr wallet is fair, full and frankly The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, yeah, what a title, the shark itself seeming to ask us if the tank is a metaphor for the living and the surgically cut caracas, perhaps Damo's saying, saying, that before we die, to cognise the afterlife with a tin of formaldahyde and some shelves, representations of quoditian reality itself, perhaps then the divine source through which the life of art as dan, the tuatha de dannan, lives and further, that if Keith Allen came along and partied daddio, fostering the challenge of deepest anruth to ollamh, the great stream to the professor of eigse, then eces and coll, hazelenut at Segias well, will be Damo's to claim as his own?

gra agus siochain

Bob Cobblers

Stephen Foster said...

Well, yes. But Keith Allen will leave nothing of worth behind, Blur not much either, but they'll be studying Hirst at Art Schools (or University Colleges of the Arts) a hundred years from now with the same academic fervour any given Modernist or any Andy Warhol is studied today. FACT. The life and the way it is lived is of marginal consequence; the artifacts are all.

Background Artist said...


what are you on about? FA C..T!!! SHOUTING PAL..

*The life and the way it is lived is of marginal consequence; the artifacts are all*...and the Art 'e facts dunnit Fosto pal? hey hey, shouty ranter?

The artefacts Hirsty boy makes, how long do you think those tanks are gonna last? within twenty, 30, 40 however many yrs pal, will start sagging, collapse and then the dead carcases and formowhatsist will be worth zilch mate.

..he's a conjner, face it, i mean, what use has he ever done for the planet apart from ammass a load of dough for himself?

i don't see him helping out at the homeless shelter, donating his cheap shelves to any good cause. No face it, Damo is past it pal, and a boring git who stopped boozing and now, now, just coz he aint a pisshead, thinks the act of drying out makes him a great artists.

truth is a lot of these young bucks, hit big in their twenties when their minds are not fully matured, and theior conscience still very immature. ok so he could direct the putting up of shelves, explain to the taxidermist what he wanted over a few lovely snifters at Home House in between snorts of cocaine and drags of blow, an audeince of fawns tripping out on acid afreeing he was the messiah of pop art innit?

that's all Damo had pal, and when he hit forties and woke up, yer can seed it in his face, a rich potato head conning the billionaires coz chuck conferred artistic responsibility on him.

them artefacts mate, are plastic and dead flesh, total cost a few grands, labour a few more, profit, Art-as-cash in transcient fleeting air kisses, his poems-as-objects, his dan, his art, aint as good as mine, i believe, so buy my book Ovid Yeats - Love Poems, out soon fosto, and then, then mate, we can talk.

Billy C. said...

Jeezus Christ, ba! It's back to the bellows for me...or the elderberry tree to see how tall I've grown. :)

Poet in Residence said...

C'est ne pas un Pipe.
A work of art should have a poetic title. The great Renee´ Margritte said that. And that's what Hirst may have been trying to say in a 'work of long breath' kind of way.
This brings us 'from swerve of shore to bend of bay' and as it happens back to an earlier chat about Vladimir Nabokov which touched on the art of George Orwell, a writer whom Nabokov suggested was second rate. Well, I love to read George Orwell because he is an honest first-rate craftsman and not an over-inflated pompous git.
In his essay 'Politics and the English Language' Orwell inadvertantly demonstrates the kiss-kiss cocktail-party communication problem in art by quoting from the verbose verbiage of Professors Harold Laski and Lancelot Hogben:-
- Prof. Laski) I am not, indeed, sure whether it is not true to say that the Milton who once seemed not unlike a seventeenth-century Shelley had not become, out of an experience ever more bitter in each year, more alien* (sic) to the founder of that Jesuit sect which nothing could induce him to tolerate. (*presumably 'akin').
- Prof. Hogben) Above all, we cannot play ducks and drakes with a native battery of idioms which prescribe such egregious collocations of vocables as the Basic 'put up with' for 'tolerate' or 'put at a loss' for bewilder.

Margritte practised what he preached and sometimes paid a poet friend (sorry, can't remember the name) to dream-up suitably poetic titles for his paintings. Hey, there's an idea George...

George S said...

Steering well off topic there, PiR! Meanwhile we're gearing up for gang warfare over at Stephen F's. It's the jets versus the sharks.


I don't lack a sneaking fondness for double negatives. One is not altogether unphased by plain speaking when one's third person understands it to be not quite enough on every occasion.

Just language playing. And why, pray, should it not play? It is nice, occasionally, to rejoyce.

I'm trying to think of a title for this comment.

And Billy C - don't give up. The air in the bellows must be in there somewhere. Like the money down the wrong Lebowski's pan. Welcome.

NickP. said...

Hello George,

Here is the link with the translation in my blog !


George S said...

Thank you, Nick. I'll link to it in the sidebar. I wish I could say something by way of thanks that would actually be meaningful, but I lack the Greek (as i do most languages...)

I am most grateful you should have gone to the trouble.

NickP. said...

Thank you very much George ! :) And I want to thank you very much for the honor and the help you gave me so today I can publish this translation !

I will also add your website to my links section.

Thank you again !


Billy C. said...

Tiptoes in. I reek of garlic and carry a large cross. Is he around? ba I mean. He frightens me...but does he have an oversized suit to give me? I am carrying a large stick. An oak one. It will hurt. Believe me ba!

Oi you lot, keep away from mar mate, Foster. Leave him alone! I'm in his gang. I've shared a crapper and a bottle of Sancerre with him. He's been in my bedroom on the pretence that he wanted to borrow a few filter tips. I'll say no more. I can outstare any of you. It's what I do best.

George. Is he really your uncle? Thank you for the welcome. I like this new alias. It suits me like the suit.

Billy C.

Background Artist said...

Hey Billy C, are you that Collins fella hey hey, are yer, comin in 'ere frightening the goldfish?

..ha ha, take no notice of me, i am only a messer bending lingo, and have spent the last seven yrs 15 hours a day swimming upstream to Segias, source of it, and it was only last week ollamh came, squared up like the last hit of the telly, and now one is home and dry, the mind games with self, over.

when i was a kid, i played shakespeare at 13 and 14, loved it, and eng lit was my best subject and in the mock O i got an A and in the real exam a U, and it took me 24 yrs to suss out what happened, my life altered because when my imagination collided in print with a judge, s/he went bonkers, and penalised one for being too good and now, now that A - U each end of the spectrum, poetry returned as the eloquence to speak in the full range of accent from herr jammers to scangers, and fear not, i am a complete clown, only interested in love and peace, even bought fiona an apple juice in the stepehen's green hotel after the all irealnd reading in dublin on thursday, and the hard works done, ollamh path for the next five yrs, don't care who says what, coz love is all i am interested in billy c mate, and now i can be myself, a poor man in a bedsit, child of irish immigrants, a great imagination, no fear, as what's the worst that can happen?


and now i've got a book coming out Love Poems - Ovid Yeats, it's time to PR myself, and whip up some controversy in print, just like Kavanagh had it. yer can't beat a good row in print, get yerself talked about, and the new gen is here mate, move over simon, the beats of yore about to break the blurb-as-criticism the forty summat's bland up, and over the parapet of silence s/he steals, the work done, the street clear, net-poets coming up from the factory floor..


Bob Cobblers

George S said...

The Count and I are blood relations, Billy, within the six degrees meaning of the term.

I am perfectly safe apart from nights of the full moon when I am occasionally to be found crawling upside down on walls accompanied by one or two scantily clad women.

What can I do? It's better than stamp collecting.

Poet in Residence said...

'xpect Uncle could already be hanging about under Stamford bridge

OS. said...

Don't worry, ba, I know Billy well. He rarely strays from his territory. I think he went through the wrong door. He's a nosey b'satard is our billy. But he's ok. He'll be well impressed that you live in a bedsit. He sleeps in a bread oven. Under some straw. He feels safe with Foster though. F is a sort of intellectual umbrella to him.

Which reminds me. A funny thing happened this morning. I was at the putor. Billy was with me. Doing his usual thing, holding me up because he reads slowly, passing his dirty finger along my pc screen and mumbling the words under his breath. I got a slightly un-vacant stare from him.

"15 hours a day swimming upstream. BA? Mandz? George Blog? Foster blog?"

He went out and measured himself under the elderberry tree. I think he was thinking. I don't like Billy thinking too much but I prefer him measuring himself under the elderberry tree to messing my screen up with his dirty finger. I'll let you know what he says. It might take a couple of days. His thought processes are long in the making. Await my report. You do realise that once billy likes someone, he will show it in unusal you? He has been known to go missing for a few days. Hanging around the bedsits of those he likes. Peace and love he understands. He doesn't get too much love from me though. I kick his arse when he holds me up.

George, what about collecting poems? That would be more up your street? It would keep you from those scanty women who can lead you astray from the paths of righteousness. I think someone may be contacting you in that regard.

Background Artist said...

the names, the names, the druth have left us with a feeling for the names of our dead, so: as dhay sehy in wesht caarrk bhouy -- MC country - where one will be this week travelling around Desmond, Deasmhuman south munster Macroom, going on a clockwiose trip with papa and uncle, ending up in Achill at Lynotts pub in Bunacurry where one's grannie was native and then through Bohola (also Mayo) to the see the English and Swords, surname of mama's ppl, on a circuit, out of the bedsit but before that, an intellectual mask, have a go at saying summat thoughtful..

grá agus síocháin

Poet in Residence said...

"On a post-Mass Sunday morning about first pint time..."

My own journey was from Dublin to Galway to Kilfenorra to Dingle to Waterville to Cobh and back to Dublin. I met a host of lovely Irish characters. Drank a lot of black liquid, found the root and nail of Old Ireland in Kilfenora, wrote a poem about the famous lighthouse at Hook.