Have You Ever Really Looked at the Sun?

Group Exhibition. Haunch of Venison, Berlin, Germany.

1 May 2010 – 14 August 2010

Photographed by Peter Mallet, courtesy of Haunch of Venison © Michael Joo and Damien Hirst/ Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2012

Having met at ‘Unfair’, Cologne, in 1991, Hirst and Joo became close friends in New York in the early 90s. The pair appeared in a series of important group shows over the succeeding years. Amongst these were ‘Aperto '93’, the 1993 Venice Biennale exhibition in which Hirst showed ‘Mother and Child Divided’ (1993) and Joo showed ‘Mongoloid – Version B29’ (1993), painted on a section of aeroplane fuselage. Hirst also included Joo’s work in both the Serpentine Gallery exhibitions he curated: ‘Some Went Mad, Some Ran Away’ (1994); and ‘In the darkest hour, there may be light’ (2006).

The conceptual foundation of ‘Have You Ever Really Looked At The Sun?’ originated after both artists found they were working concurrently on zebra pieces. After Joo exhibited ‘Stripped (Instinctual)’ (2005), a life-size sculpture of a zebra with inverted stripes, at the Bohen Foundation New York, in 2005, Hirst chose the work for inclusion in ‘In the darkest hour, there may be light’ (2006). At the same time, a zoo gifted Hirst a zebra, which he used to create the ‘Natural History’ work ‘The Incredible Journey’ (2008). This formaldehyde work was included alongside a different interpretation of a zebra, Joo’s 'Doppelganger (Pink Rocinante)’ (2009), in the Berlin exhibition. 

Explaining that “the show seemed to encompass lots of different aspects about life,” Hirst and Joo originally gave the exhibition the working title ‘Life’, in reference to David Attenborough’s natural history documentary. The eventual title originated from a joke, but Hirst also explains: “‘Have you ever really looked at the sun?’ is like, ‘Have you ever really looked at anything?’ It’s about looking at art, ultimately, and I think, you know, that diagram [a dissection of the sun used for the exhibition catalogue’s cover] is an attempt to explain the unexplainable.”[1]

Amongst the 43 works included in the double show was Joo’s monumental ‘Tree’ (2001) – an oak tree measuring over 100 feet, dissected with steel piping [rods?]. ‘Tree’ was exhibited alongside Hirst’s fly piece ‘Let’s Eat Outdoors Today’ (1990-1991) and a new ‘Mental Escapology’ work, ‘The Battle Between Good and Evil’ (2007), in which two beach balls, one white, one black, are kept afloat from a squared black-and-white base by an air supply. The piece, structurally reminiscent of ‘Loving in a World of Desire’ (1996), has the same title as a work for which Hirst made fabrication plans in 1991.

On the occasion of the exhibition, a catalogue was published containing a joint interview with Joo and Hirst conducted by Hans Ulrich Obrist, and an essay by John Gray (Other Criteria/Haunch of Venison, 2010).

[1] Damien Hirst cited in Hans Ulrich Obrist, ‘Shaved Monkeys on Crack: Interview with Michael Joo and Damien Hirst’, ‘Have You Ever Really Looked At The Sun?’ (Other Criteria/Haunch of Venison, 2010), unpag.