No Arts; No Letters; No Society.
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.