Damien Hirst's diamond skull and the capitalist sublime

Book chapter


White, L. 2009. Damien Hirst's diamond skull and the capitalist sublime. in: White, L. and Pajaczkowska, C. (ed.) The Sublime Now Newcastle Upon Tyne Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 155-171
Chapter titleDamien Hirst's diamond skull and the capitalist sublime
AuthorsWhite, L.
Abstract

Research Questions:
• What are the phantasies which underpin Hirst's For the Love of God (2007), and how can these be interpreted through theories of the sublime?
• How can the sublime (and its legacies in contemporary culture) be understood to be interwoven with the aesthetic and logical forms of capital?
• What representation of the globalised economy does For the Love of God make?
Research Context
• There is a current interdisciplinary discourse on the sublime. My own work’s place within this is investigating the sublime in contemporary art and culture, in particular examining relations between the sublime and the aesthetics of contemporary capitalism.
• This paper expands and develops a paper presented at the conference, "Trauma and the Sublime," Swansea University, 6-8 August 2008.
• It is published in a book of essays exploring the legacies of the sublime in contemporary art and culture.
Research Methods
• The essay makes a close reading of the author's experience of For the Love of God, placing it within the context of the themes and rhetorical repertoire of Hirst's other work, and reading it in terms of the social, economic and cultural histories, across the period of the development of the discourse of the sublime.
• The sculpture is, in particular, read against the echoes between the language of Kantian aesthetics, and Marx's terminology. This allows both a mobilisation and an interrogation of Marxian approaches to cultural history.
• The Freudian notion of phantasy is used to understand the production and consumption of Hirst's work.
Findings
• For the Love of God is “capitalist art,” traversed by the ideological contradictions of capitalism.
• The sculpture functions through an appeal to a sublime vision of the power and scale of global capital and entwines its viewers in a phantasy scene of consumption and labour.
• I trace this phantasy not just in the “postmodern” sublime, but also in longer histories of sublimity and economic discourse. Capital has long been the primary "sublime object" at the heart of the discourse on sublimity.
• Hirst's sculpture can be read as articulating phantasies of power in capitalist consumption, but also as a work in which anxieties about the violence and exploitation which lurk at the heart of capitalist production resurface.

KeywordsDamien Hirst; sublime; sublimity; economics and culture; capitalism; capital; diamonds; sharks
Research GroupDiasporas
Visual Culture and Curating cluster
LanguageEnglish
Page range155-171
Book titleThe Sublime Now
EditorsWhite, L. and Pajaczkowska, C.
PublisherCambridge Scholars Publishing
Place of publicationNewcastle Upon Tyne
ISBN
Hardcover9781443813020
Publication dates
PrintOct 2009
Publication process dates
Deposited28 Jan 2010
Output statusPublished
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