(Gothic News Service, May 1, 2003) This May Day morning - at the busy rush-hour crossroad traffic around Piccadilly Circus - foot, bus and commercial traffic were brought to a stand still by the sight of four coffin sized aquarium tanks, each elevated on metal stands directly below the famous roundaboutís statue of Eros.
Carefully spaced and diagonally situated to face each other, the aquariums at first appeared to be another sensationalist sculptural work by Damian Hirst. However, instead of a lamb, a shark, or a cowís head suspended in formaldehyde, a much different sight hypnotically stopped pedestrians and vehicles alike.
Naked mannequins of President George Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair lay face up, suspended in a pale yellow liquid perhaps a refined, though relatively thick lubrication oil. Both figures were centered between the aquariumís transparent glass walls. Ironically, what appeared to be anatomical hearts were floated suspended towards the top of the tank, each held by a single thick artery attached to the cavity inside of each of the menís chests, both of which appeared to have been surgically opened.
In the other two aquariums each at adjoining angles to those of the President and the Prime Minister the contents were quite dissimilar. Also similarly suspended and frozen in the pale yellow liquid, one contained another figure apparently tilted to face the street. It appeared to be an adult male, however one made difficult to identify because of the absence of a head, its neck area tightly covered over with a dark scarf. The rest of the body lay dressed in a loose blue tank-top, light gray, black oil smeared trousers and black flip-flops. Sharp red flesh wounds haphazardly appeared over exposed areas of the figureís shoulders, arms and feet.
Curiously the other aquarium did not contain a body, but the model of an upright, golden harp, one with nine vertical strings, similar to those played in the courts of ancient Sumeria. In the angle of the morning sun even through the density of the light yellow - the singular harp appeared particularly radiant, invoking an ironic sense of absent royalty and song.
Pedestrians who were able to get close enough to the works discovered each aquarium to be meticulously subtitled with inlaid inscriptions on each of the metal tank frames. Under the figures of Bush and Blair, viewers could read an enigmatic, perhaps haunting phrase:
I Donít Speak German.
The words under the headless, dressed figure were a little more obvious:
Unknown Iraqi Civilian. Cluster.
Under the golden harp there was a simple phrase, perhaps more difficult to immediately interpret, a seeming exhortation:
Lament for the Makers.
At first the immediate crowd appeared stunned by the content of the works and then variously sad and furious. "Is this supposed to be us?" many asked while others resisted, "This is not us," repeating it over and over again, as if in disbelief that anybody would do this. Occasionally, a particularly angry person yelled out, "Why not Hussein? Why not Hussein?"
It took more than a hour for Londonís Bobbies to break up the crowd and carry the works away in a Yard van for booking as evidence, and that still without any knowledge of the perpetrator. Indeed some of crowd argued whether or not the work was by Damian Hirst and how or why he could have gone "this far." "I cannot imagine Hirst being foolish enough to make this kind of career move," a man with a kind of knowing authority spoke. "His work, as the critics say, might be into interrupting urban boredom, but this kind of publicity will kill him. Rich collectors, politically conservative as most of them are unless maybe they are Arabs - will just say no way."
"It's hard to believe anyone can be this cynical," someone added. "The Iraq invasion and Occupation is just not this bad."
Damian Hirstís galleries in London, Germany, Paris and New York were not available for comment on whether or not the artist was involved.
It took hours for normal traffic to resume at Piccadilly. In fact, the rest of the morning Londonís Bobbies worked themselves to pull down dozens of climbers down from holding on to the wings of Eros.
© Gothic News Service 2003