1. The artist had the drugs tested in a laboratory to determine their 15-20% purity.
2. He says the piece isn’t a parable about drug addiction or substance abuse.
He says: “I honestly can’t remember what initially sparked the idea but as in most of my work the subject is human behaviour. It’s all around us, enigmatic and ever changing. To me, human behaviour seems to be the result of the conflict and cooperation of two dynamic forces within us: the vestigial animal instincts, without which we wouldn’t have survived our dangerous past, and our need to live a communal lifestyle set in ‘civilized’ societies. These two forces are mutually opposed.
Essentially, we cannot live together and we cannot live apart. The point where these opposing forces meet is the point from which our true ‘human’ energy emerges.”
3. Instead, the cocaine is supposed to operate in conjuction with a symbol of mortality.
He says: “Certainly, mortality and our own ability to understand our ultimate death in a removed, intellectual way, I believe, is one of the key behaviours that separate us from the animals. How we manage to live productive lives, while contemplating and anticipating our own death all the time, is one of the questions I think this piece aims to depict.”
4. And he defends himself against allegations of glamorizing drugs.
“The main reason I used cocaine […] is because it compliments the intended message. Cocaine helps relieve the tension between the conflicting forces within us by activating areas deep in the brain that reward us for ‘good behaviours’, such as those associated with food, sex and healthy pleasure. In practice, the use of cocaine is prevalent across all socioeconomic strata, so in that sense it’s also representative and democratic.
All in all, I think using an explicit medium and message is justified when it facilitates a genuinely interesting or relevant thought process. Otherwise it’s superficial glamour.”
5. He has written a poem to accompany the piece:
Once we were animals.
Like any other, we lived in an environment of fear and want.
Then, we became ‘human’ and aspired to be better.
We learned to control our environment but the fear stayed,
because we never learned to control ourselves.
It is frightening to look at the face of our animal side laid bare
by comfortable excess; the spoils of its aggression.
But what exactly is it about this image that is so confronting?
Is it this division in our idea of self?
Or is it a realization that though we have mastered the outside world,
we will always remain subservient to our inner selves.