This article explores themes and techniques of violence in the arts of Damien Hirst and interprets them as expressive forms of cultural pathology. While Hirst has produced his "shockaholic" art for more than two decades, his new prominence and power have flourished in the distinctive context of the past seven years. The article examines Hirst's 2007 creation of a diamond encrusted platinum cast of a human skull (Fig. 1L, 1R), suggesting affinities with Mr. Kurtz in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and with the ivory sculptures of 1890s Art Nouveau in Belgium. The impact of Hirst's art and merchandising empire on younger designers since 2007 is identified, lifting to view the emergence of a new consumer style of skins, skulls, and conspicuous destruction. The article ends with reflections on the triumph of the diamond skull in a period of war and violence at a distance, and the ubiquity of thanatal art in an era of laissez-faire extremism.


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pp. 391-424
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