Saturday, 17 July 2010

Divided opinions

(sorry it is a long one, I don't half ramble on do I? Just skip to bits you 're interested in!)
The Spanish Barn at Torre Abbey, named thus as it held a total of 397 Spanish prisoners.

Whilst on my holiday to Devon I saw something you wouldn’t believe. A cow and a calf. Not impressed? What if I told you that these animals were in a barn? No? How about if I told you that they were each cut in half, nose to tail, and bolted to the inside of a glass tank subsequently filled with acid and exhibited. Damien Hirst’s Turner Prize winning contemporary art piece has been exhibited in London, Tokyo and now, Torquay for the Torre Abbey house and garden’s art collective summer show called Tamed. I was rather excited to be able to leave the big bad city and still catch world culture, albeit rather characteristically in a barn by the sea.

The stand-off-point of the exhibit was the word Tamed, chosen to incorporate man’s need to control the environment around him. The letters provided the subtext motifs, Tamed, Art, Money, Environment, Divided.

The exhibit was interesting, if not for the art then for the way it had been organised. Walking through the ancient entrance to the Abbey’s Spanish Barn we were greeted by two elderly volunteers, one male and the other female, sat behind a fold away table one would expect in a Primary School luncheon hall. They asked if we were here for the exhibit and got us to write down our details whilst they argued between themselves about the lack of Torbay Council Supporting The Arts tote bags to give away. We got one between three. After buying a brochure and leaving them to their squabbles we turned to enter the exhibit. In the distance at the end of the barn stood the Hirst exhibit, its power and size overshadowed the other exhibits whichwere chosen to compliment it and help voyeurs appreciate Hirst’s award winning piece from a new perspective. It was difficult to concentrate on the other exhibits when all I wanted to do was run up to the cow and scream “Errrr, you can see its insides!”

Needless to say I didn’t and so here is a snap shot of two of my favourite exhibits. (Photos taken from brochure not exhibit)

Paul Coldwell, Bouquet (1991)

Made from wood, Portland stone, marble, lead and copper this piece aims to signify the passing and uncontrollable qualities of time whilst seemingly allowing viewers to remember that markings are made by every life on the environment. It looked like a cross section of earth where fossilised minerals and materials become like a story of life gone past. I felt the piece complimented the static frozen state of the Hirst exhibit as well as the ancient, aging Spanish Barn.

Mike Nelson, Taylor (1994)

Made from metal, canvas, wood and mixed media theexhibitname was taken from the lead in the Pierre Boulle novel Monkey Planet, which was made into the blockbuster Planet of the Apes. The piece is opposite to the Hirst exhibit which is a blatant exhibition of man’s power over animal, this piece however is about man’s submission to the elements. A raft, alone, drifting in a world ruled by another species. I liked it especially because it brought literature into the mix!

And now, Damien Hirst (2007) (Photos by Sarah Bagnall)

Many people have opinions on this piece, most of these people have not been to see it and take their opinions from The Daily Mail. It is striking, unnerving, disgusting, telling, scary, and sad. But you can’t have these opinions in context without standing in front of it, or in between the two halves as I did.

I felt guilty for feeling sad as I am a meat eating human who, by eating meat, condones the farming and slaughter of these animals to suit myneeds, ever more prevalent being stood within a barn. Why not slaughter them for art? Surely it a more permanent existence to that of a Big Mac? Hirst’s art makes you think about all things at once and I still don’t really know what I feel about it. It was both beautiful and sickening, in its physical form and in the fact that Hirst has profited off of the back of these murdered animals. It was silent as well as being very vocal, overpowering the exhibition. I think anyone with an opinion in mind should make sure they go to see it.

Memento Mori

End.