Damien Hirst, ‘A Thousand Years’, 1990, Glass, steel, silicone rubber, painted MDF, Insect-O-Cutor, cow’s head, blood, flies, maggots, metal dishes, cotton wool, sugar and water.
'A Thousand Years' is the first of Hirst’s works in which an arrangement of components is enclosed within a glass vitrine. Within its confines a life cycle is played out. Maggots hatch inside a minimal white box, develop into flies, then feed on severed cow’s head on the floor of the vitrine. Above, hatched flies circle around in the enclosed space. Many meet their end on an Insect-O-Cutor; others survive to continue the cycle. Hirst takes the principle of bringing real objects into the gallery a step further in this work, creating a literal enactment of birth, death and decay. While the glass vitrine alludes to the clean geometry of minimalism, it is filled with the messy life and death of organic matter.