Justine Raith – “Cave Man” painting below:
American photographer Andres Serrano is renowned for using bodily fluids and faeces in his work. The photograph ‘Piss Christ’ (1987) sparked outrage amongst Christians for depicting a small plastic crucifix submerged in the artist’s urine. His 2011 exhibition of this work at a gallery in Avignon resulted in an angry response from French Catholic fundamentalists, which included hate mail and abusive telephone calls. This led to 1,000 people marching through the streets to protest outside the gallery and the subsequent vandalism of the photograph. Serrano is also known for his work concerning the homeless, such as a collection of 200 signs he purchased from them (‘Sign of the Times’, 2013) and the photographic series entitled ‘Residents of New York’ (2014).
A fascination with death is present in many of Damien Hirst’s creations, from dead animals in tanks of formaldehyde to cabinets of medicines and a diamond-encrusted skull. Hirst draws attention to the fragility of life and the closeness of mortality for all living beings. He also controversially demonstrates the cycle of nature with ‘live sculptures’ like ‘A Thousand Years’, where flies hatch from maggots and feed on a rotting cow’s head, or die via an insect-o-cutor. Criticism has been aimed at the way the Young British Artists and contemporaries use assistants to produce works, such as Hirst’s repetitive dot paintings. As one of the UK’s wealthiest artists, Hirst has attracted further criticism for turning art works into financially driven commodities.
Karl Marx said “history always repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second as farce”.