A Hundred Years is a well-known artwork by Damien Hirst which, as it happens, was loved by Francis Bacon, another very well-known artist. It consists of two connecting glass chambers. In the first chamber is a box in which maggots hatch into flies. The flies past into the second chamber where they are attracted to the light emitted by an electrocuting device which kills them. And so, the artwork consists of the birth and the killing of flies.
Damien Hirst is well known in creating art which turns on death. The artwork is currently on exhibit at Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany.
PETA, the high-profile animal rights organisation, criticised it. They said: “Killing animals has nothing to do with art, it just shows the arrogance of people who literally will stop at nothing for their own interests.”
The artwork was also criticised by the city’s veterinary office. Both expressed opposition to the exhibit.
Subsequently, the artwork has been removed from display at the gallery.
Andreas Beitin, the gallery’s director told the German newspaper Braunschweiger Zeitung that they were unaware that flies were covered by German’s animal welfare laws specifically the Animal Welfare Act.
He said that the work was meant to draw attention to the fact that insects die every night from public light.
The basis of the criticism is that the rights of insects have been infringed; an interesting concept and many people will be surprised to hear it. Many will object to that thought. They will ask whether it is possible for insects such as flies to have rights. There is also the question as to whether flies are animals.
Insects are animals I believe and flies can feel pain although we are not sure exactly how they interpret it. But on those two factors it is reasonable to suggest that flies should have rights and can be protected by laws governing animal welfare.
In 2017 it was estimated that Damien Hirst had killed roughly 1 million creatures with 912,005 being insects and butterflies in the name of art.
One of his most famous works is The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living. You may remember that it is a tiger shark preserved in formaldehyde.
His One Hundred Years has been on show in an exhibition called Power! Light! at the gallery which explored the benefits and drawbacks of human innovation.
Hirst has become very rich on the back of his art. In 2020, he was in the Sunday Times Rich List with an estimated fortune of £350 million.
P.S. Nowadays rather than kill flies I release them to the outside! And you know, the best way to get rid of flies inside the home is to open the patio doors wide. This lets them in but it also allows them to escape. If you want windows open to let in a breeze ensure that flies have the means to escape and they will fairly quickly. I think that this is a better system than putting grills over the windows. A personal thought.
Below are more articles on animal rights.