Hirst’ Shark and Perec’s Room

by

The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living

Damien Hirst, 1991

Some banal questions before some even more banal ones:

Is it a shark or a work-of-art? It’s both, no? it’s “a shark placed inside a work”, and it’s “a work placed inside a museum” that makes this shark in a work in a museum a work-of-art. Like Duchamp’s fountain.

Major changes to the object’s native territory provoke shifts in meaning; it’s the re-territorialization into a different topology that reincarnates the object as a different semantic object.

But what about minor changes within the same territory – so minor we can hardly notice?

When, in a given bedroom, you change the position of the bed, can you say you are changing rooms, or else what? (cf. topological analysis)

Georges Perec, Species of Spaces

Barton Fink’s room perpetual metamorphosis

Or in the case of Hirst’ Shark – The Shark began to disintegrate (poor preservation) and so Hirst was hired to replace it with a brand new shark, making sure this time the materials used in the preservation process will beat Time for a little longer.

A philosophical question was acknowledged by Hirst, as to whether the replacement shark meant that the result could still be considered the same artwork. He observed:

“It’s a big dilemma. Artists and conservators have different opinions about what’s important: the original artwork or the original intention. I come from a conceptual art background, so I think it should be the intention. It’s the same piece. But the jury will be out for a long time to come.”

Let alone, our language.

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