Horseflies buzzed loud over this putrid belly,
Whence sallied column and battalion
Of sable maggots, flowing like a mucose jelly,
Over this live tatterdemalion.
Waves seemed to rise and fall over this mass,
Spurting with crepitation,
As though this corpse, filled with breaths of gas,
Lived by multiplication.
This world uttered a curious melody,
Like waters, wind, or grains of wheat
That winnowers keep stirring rhythmically
In the broad baskets at their feet.
From his popular volume, Les Fleurs du mal, readers would inevitably stumble upon this graphic imagery in Charles Baudelaire’s poem appropriately entitled Une Charogne (A Carcass). The poet’s inclination for the macabre such as his recollection about a decomposing beast was an instance of the revolutionizing perspective and appreciation for beauty beyond ordinary expectations. Fresh concepts in literature and philosophy springing about in 19th century Western culture nonetheless included art and music- ideas that still remain as potent flares to the spectrum of modern-day ideologies and beliefs.
Today, there are contemporary artists like Damien Hirst from England known for provocative works, which affront the attitudes of common observers. Hirst has recently produced a colossal work named “The Miraculous Journey,” and it is artwork that ironically generates praise rather than the predictable churning of grudging hostility from the public.
“The Miraculous Journey” showcases, as Carol Vogel of the New York Times reports, “. . . 14 monumental bronze sculptures . . . chronicling the gestation of a fetus inside a uterus, from conception to birth, ending with a statue of a 46-foot-tall anatomically correct baby boy.” Hirst’s new opus will be the welcoming view as patients enter and exit the Sidra Medical and Research Center in Qatar, set to open in 2015.
Vogel also mentions that, “. . . he [Hirst] became fascinated with childbirth after having children of his own. ‘Everyone talks about our life’s journey before you’re born,’ he explained.” Essentially, “The Miraculous Journey” is a celebration of life, and one that has been created by an artist who has momentarily set aside all agenda. It is artwork that reverberates in the fiber of all humanity because expression of natural life is fundamental in every culture.
With the reputation that Hirst has garnered throughout his career, “The Miraculous Journey” is far from confrontational works such as “A Thousand Years,” which brings to life Baudelaire’s “Une Charogne” – a visual rendition of a rotting cow head enveloped by maggots and flies.
Perhaps Hirst has received negativity too from those who have customarily criticized his works before. This reaction would be undeserved – to sentence eternally artists to invective language and held in contempt because they have been previously pinned to an ill repute, never to receive any form of redemption or respect.
Damien Hirst should be applauded for acknowledging, albeit maybe temporarily, the beauty of life in its natural state. For the sake of human dignity, all should appreciate artists with their own individualistic perspective of life even if it is out of character, so to speak. The artist may have enraged many on several occasions, especially piercing the threshold of religion with sacrilegious art; however, it always remains noble to respect another’s human dignity regardless of any differing viewpoint.
By Edward Ablang, an intern for World Youth Alliance North America