Bioethics Blogs

The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living [EOL in Art 53]

Damien Hirst’s 1991 “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living” forces the viewer out of their element by introducing into a gallery setting, a shark that was real enough to frighten you.  The work consists of a thirteen-foot tiger shark preserved in a tank of formaldehyde, weighing a total of 23 tons.

By isolating the shark from its natural habitat, with the formaldehyde providing an illusion of life, the work explores our greatest fears, and the difficulty involved in adequately trying to express them. Hirst states: “You try and avoid death, but it’s such a big thing that you can’t. That’s the frightening thing isn’t it?


The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.