A Thousand Years, 1990. Via artupdate.
Life and death are oppositions, but they are also a cycle. The most power piece that addresses this concept is A Thousand Years. In an enclosed glass vitrine, maggots hatch inside a white box, turn into flies and feed on a bloody severed cow’s head lying on the floor. Flies circle around in the vitrine. Some hit the insect-o-cutor and die, others survive and continue the cycle. Here, the glass vitrine bears a clean and minimal geometry, while messy life and death of organic matter is contained inside, creating a literal enactment of birth, death, and decay.
– via humanscribbles, polarities in hirst.
A Thousand Years, 1990. Via damienhirst.
‘A Thousand Years’ synthesizes two forces central to Hirst’s work: the desire to create an aesthetically successful visual display, and an exploration into the deep profundities of life and death. Although admitting to having a “Frankenstein moment” of horror at the death of the flies, the use of living creatures enabled Hirst to incorporate an element of movement into the works. After studying Naum Gabo, Hirst found that the flies successfully satisfied his ambition to “suspend things without strings or wires and have them constantly change pattern in space”.
The artist Lucian Freud stated that, with ‘A Thousand Years’ being one of his earliest exhibited pieces, Hirst had perhaps “started with the final act”. Explaining that, “your whole life could be like points in space, like nearly nothing,” Hirst provokes a reconsideration of how we respond to death in the works; the fate of the flies at the hands of a machine that is commonplace even in vegetarian restaurants, is rendered uncomfortable by the gallery setting. Of the thematic prevalence of death in his work, Hirst explains: “You can frighten people with death or an idea of their own mortality, or it can actually give them vigour.”