The pickled tiger shark bares its teeth with about as much fear inducing horror as a goldfish nibbling on a marshmallow. Had it been smashing its head against the walls of the vitrine, and not a carcass preserved in formaldehyde, it might have earned its lofty title of The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living. Sort of. Doubtful though.
Hirst says, “I thought, well if I could get one [shark] in a big enough space, actually in liquid, big enough to frighten you, that you feel you’re in there with it, feel that it could eat you, it would work.”
F*** off. F*** off. F*** OFF!!!!! I don’t usually swear.
Living in Camilla Parker-Bowles’ knicker draw [cheap shot, sorry Your Highness], rollerskating off cliffs, or facing down Pennywise the clown. That is primal. That is fear.
As it is, reading pretentious labels attached to dead animals is a witless metaphorical exercise of the imagination gland. It invites the viewer to suspend all reason and bathe in an intellectual lie – in the same way as the monotheists believe a fairytale, only Hirst is empty of comfort. Devoid of inspiration. When I look at it, I feel a tumour bubbling from my boredom lobe.
The other exhibits are as demoralising. The spot paintings are bog standard Ikea wallpaper. Cigarette butts, extinguished in various shapes, and displayed in glass cases. The cow cut in half. A sheep in a glass case. Why? To evoke an acute despair migraine? And not in a good way – like trying to understand the Higgs Boson particle.
I turn to the brochure for an explanation of the Medicine Cabinets – because all I can comprehend is a representation of what I see every week when I wonder past the chemist in my local Sainsbury’s Savacentre.
Apparently Hirst named one series of these pharmaceutical installations after the tracks on the Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks album because he was “listening to it at the time”.
It has all the philosophical rigour and originality of an X-factor contestant singing songs by Take That. But without the honesty and dubious charm.
And anyone can do it. Including a moron like me. I did a fart in this glass box.
There is questionable entertainment though. The kids accompanying me squeal in phobic revulsion at the buzzing flies around the severed cow’s head and the giant butterflies flying raised from pupae embedded in canvasses. They are pretty in that unnatural setting of white walls, the entrances to the artificially humid gallery being through heavy plastic curtains that would normally be found in the freezer of a meat factory. I quite like the butterflies. Them being animate things with a purpose.
And all these so called museological exhibits cannot hold a torch to the The Horniman museum’s Victorian natural history hall a few miles away in the south London suburb of Forest Hill.
Displaying everyday objects in a gallery and getting everyone else to do the grafting was done by another overrated critics’ darling called Andy Warhol.
Now I’m off to morph myself into a gas planet or imagine myself as a fly feasting on a banana skin accidentally left in a dog shit bin to gain some insight. Into something.