Monday, March 4, 2013

Bio-Art: Love Lost/Lost Love.

Remember Damien Hirst? The guy who pickled sharks and various farm animals, then put them on display? Good. Remember how I said that artists had to keep trying and trying to shock if shock value was one of their big selling points? Yes? Good, because Damien Hirst has taken that step. 

Like something out of a Disney movie, British comedy, or both, these fish are here to see an underwater gynecologist. The two-part piece is called Love Lost or Lost Love, depending on what tank you're looking at. They're supposed to be seen together. They are not Hirst's usual formaldehyde puppets; these are live fish in a real aquarium that needs maintenance, just like an in-home aquarium. It was done in 2000, but it's still good to know that Hirst can keep things alive, too. Dunking things in formaldehyde had to be getting old.

There are two separate aquaria filled with different fish. One features African freshwater fish; the other contains nothing but common black carp. Both of them feature the setting of an undersea gynecologist. Again, "so a fish goes to the gynecologist" sounds like a bar joke. It's just such a surreal idea, but given tomorrow's animal, fish must need all sorts of crazy medical treatments.

So, what's the punchline? These are African freshwater fish. Another tank has carp in a similar situation. Carp are notoriously invasive species, pushing all freshwater fish out of the ecosystem. Guess who needs help reproducing and who doesn't? I'm not sure if that was what Hirst intended, but that's what good art does: leave itself open to interpretation.

This set of tanks has to be one of Hirst's most creative setups yet. An aquarium is an in-home work of art that many people take for granted, let alone try to make a statement out of. Face it: whatever tank decor Petco has, it just can't compete with medical equipment.

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