On admiring pharmaceuticals in London

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"Pharmacy" at the Tate  

"Pharmacy" at J&J High Wycombe

Hours waiting at customs, TSA officials looking at see-through body scans of your junk, schlepping cases of photo gear around corporate offices – all of this is the decidedly non-glamorous side of producing corporate videos. But when you have a Sunday off in London and get to see the hottest new exhibit at the Tate Modern – it’s hard to beat. Hence my photographic homage to Damien Hirst above – on the left: his life-size pharmacy room and on the right: me on location at the corporate headquarters of the health care company we were shooting. Not bad eh?

Admittedly, Hirst’s “Pharmacy” was not one of the highpoints of his retrospective. The art speak goes “coloured liquids representing the four elements of earth, air, fire and water – suggesting the palliative power of modern medicine.” Whatever. Hirst himself is a little more honest about it: “You can only cure people for so long and then they’re going to die anyway.”

I knew I’d be shocked and awed by the outrageous Hirst pieces – the shark suspended in a tank, the stained glass windows made of butterfly wings, the severed head of a cow designed to grow maggots etc. I didn’t expect to be as moved as I was by his series of stainless steel cabinets containing facsimile pills – each one individually produced to replicate actual medicine. They’re beautiful, set against the mirrored background that forces you to see yourself in the pills we all consume.

Hirst made all the other contemporary, conceptual art at the Tate look like art-school projects, and high school art school projects at that. Check out the video tour (it’s worth the commercial at the head) to see how big this guy thinks. http://arrestedmotion.com/2012/04/videos-damien-hirst-retrospective-tate-modern/

I complain about Gary’s collection of dead things he photographs, but at least we don’t have a wall-sized disc of black flies or a wall dripping with butterfly-hatching goo.  Maybe that’s why I loved the video on the bottom floor of the Tate where Hirst recalls his mother saying, “Oh for the love of God,” every time he started a new project. It’s the title of the centerpiece in the show: the diamond-encrusted human skull. If only I could get Gary to start lining all of his deer jaws with rubies or jade….

For the Love of God

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