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No Arts; No Letters; No Society.

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glass, Formica, MDF aluminum, steel, metal supports, surgical equipement, broken mirror, rosary beads, anatomical skulls, duct tape and pharmaceutical packaging
84 x 220 x 14 in. (213.36 x 558.8 x 35.56 cm)

About This Artwork

Damien Hirst has taken the title for this work from the seventeenth-century British philosopher Thomas Hobbes. In his central book, Leviathan, Hobbes asserts the need for social contract in his argument for sovereign rule. He notes that if a social contract is not upheld, humanity will return to its natural state: “No arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Hirst’s cabinets are chock-full of medical supplies, and contain human skulls. The work suggests that science and medical technology, fueled by rampant capitalism, have created a loophole in the contemporary contract. Self-preservation is in prescription drugs and surgical procedures, not through cooperation found in the sovereign rule of law as Hobbes theorized. Hirst presents a bleak outlook, where self-interest and fear drive progress rather than a collective good.