This week I bring you the story of myself as a consumer consuming simulacrum of simulacra. We will consider, Daimen Hirst’s spot paintings and the main character in Robert Lopshire’s “Put me in the Zoo!” a children’s book. Hirst’s spots are traveling around the world right now and being displayed in museums and galleries – locations that I have just learned are called “white cubes” in the Art World. Currently, some of the spot paintings are on view in nearby Beverly Hills. All the advertising around Hirst’s spot paintings reminded me of, “Put me in the Zoo!” a book I read to and with my children many times when they were young. The creature in this popular children’s book has spots that he can change. The creature may be a cat or a leopard, but we never really know because he is just an imaginary creature that never existed, except in the story that was originally published in 1960 and continues in publication today.
Now I need to share my unorthodox train of thought here – Lopshire’s spotted creature is the original simulacra or the place marker for the real thing. The spotted creature is an imaginary animal that can talk and learns how to be himself while altering his spots in an infinite number of ways. In my mind, Hirst’s spot paintings are the simulacrum of the simulacra: they are the spots (from the spotted creature) but they have no image or reality, only color spots. Hirst’s assistants have completed over 1400 of these spot paintings since 1986. In my opinion, the spot paintings are mass-produced commodities and the Art World seems to be embracing them. I could make a version of the work myself, as a painter it would not be that difficult at all to emulate the spot paintings – they are made with a formula of sorts. However, I would rather like to join the Art World by creating my own work. I say to you, please put me in the Zoo! You would if you knew what I could do! Here I am! I study for my MFA so that I might join the postmodern movement or whatever.
It is at this point that I began to wonder if anyone else has made the connection of the spotted creature and the spot paintings, so I Googled it! Sure enough the Gallerist NY has published an article about Hirst and the connection to the spotted creature. According to an article I found in the New Yorker, Hirst “has recycled tropes from Marcel Duchamp, Surrealism, Francis Bacon, Minimalism, and numerous near-contemporaries” in making his spot paintings. Good for him! Hirst has figured out his formula for success in the art world. I have found out that his path has been circuitous and unconventional to say the least. As I read assorted articles this week and I see Hirst at it again – this time his pig in formaldehyde – the following poem happens to pop into my mind:
This little piggy went to market.
This little piggy stayed home.
This little piggy had roast beef,
This little piggy had none.
And this little piggy went wee wee wee all the way home.
Then when I view the title “This Little Piggy Went to Market, This Little Piggy Stayed at Home” I realize oh! I knew that. On Friday, on my way home from my school studio, I really did feel like running all the way home and staying at home because what is real and what is meaningless is all mixed up for me.
Over the past 15 years I did stay home to take care of my children and I have returned to school because I felt ready to move out into “the real world.” The problem of course is how to define myself in this most strange world called The Art World. A construct with Artists, Gallerists, Critics, Curators, Collectors, and a crazy white man like Hirst who calls himself an artist but as far as I can tell he is an idea man not necessarily a crafts person, builder, creator, painter, or sculptor. Concepts run paramount to art creation, or so I have been told. I understand that the idea has to be good to keep it interesting then I think oh shit, shit…who is copying whom here? If I take a few of my favorite children’s books and paint from them, a body of work I will have made, but the connection to the art historical references would also need to be made as well. Then I feel a dull boredom thinking about art making in this way. There must be a different way. In the end, in the story “Put me in the Zoo,” the main character defines success by what does not work for him. He is not welcome in the zoo. This is not insignificant. I am not Damien Hirst, nor do I ever want to be. I am not a spotted creature in a book; all I ever want to be is Me. So that brings me to my final thought, I am a consumer consuming simulacra while considering creating more of the same.