Standing Alone on the Precipice and Overlooking the Arctic Wastelands of Pure Terror, 1999 - 2000

overview

Data

Standing Alone on the Precipice and Overlooking the Arctic Wastelands of Pure Terror
1999 - 2000
2360 x 8710 x 110 mm | 92.9 x 342.9 x 4.3 in
Image: Photographed by Mike Parsons © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2012

Exhibitions

Group Exhibition - 2004
Tate Britain, London, United Kingdom
Solo Exhibition - 2004
Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, Naples, Italy
Group Exhibition - 2003
50th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy

Context

“It didn’t come from any of the things that I had, but it came from everything I had.”[1]

‘Standing Alone on the Precipice and Overlooking the Arctic Wastelands of Pure Terror’ is the first work in Hirst’s series of stainless steel pill cabinets. The vast polished cabinet has a mirrored backplate and includes thousands of pills positioned precisely on rows of shelves. The pills are made from resin and plaster and then hand painted. Initial attempts to use real pills were abandoned because the medication would eventually decay. Of the integrity of artistic materials in his work Hirst explains: “They look like real pills; that’s all that matters […] Art’s not real life. I’m into theatre not ‘truth to materials’. The whole dilemma is: Is it real or isn’t it?”[2]

The cabinet can be interpreted as Hirst’s response to Max Beckmann’s idea of painting as a way of dealing with the ‘void’. The early twentieth century artist described, “this unending void whose foreground we constantly have to fill with stuff of some sort in order not to notice its horrifying depth.”[3] Hirst conceived the work whilst in New York preparing for his major solo show at Gagosian Gallery in 2000, ‘Theories, Models, Methods, Approaches, Assumptions, Results and Findings’. He describes how he was “hit with an incredible doubt” regarding the cohesion of the exhibition: “I was struggling incredibly hard through all the ideas, all the sculptures, all the titles, everything that was going on in my head, trying to find something that would not just back up this situation, but bypass it – beyond belief […] And I came up with that sculpture. I got out of bed and drew it […] it was crystal fucking clear: the size, the title, everything.”[4]



[1] Damien Hirst cited in Damien Hirst and Gordon Burn, ‘On the Way to Work’ (Faber and Faber, 2001), 115

[2] ibid. 116

[3] Max Beckmann (1915) cited in Megan Craig, ‘Levinas and James: toward a pragmatic phenomenology’ (Indiana, 2010) 189

[4] Damien Hirst cited in Damien Hirst and Gordon Burn, ‘On the Way to Work’ (Faber and Faber, 2001), 115