Surfing the Spectacle

As if Human

One of the world’s most acclaimed artists had a big idea.

His name is Damien Hirst. And he thought, I’ll take some of my millions, buy a huge supply of diamonds, and hire experts to make a diamond encrusted skull.

And then I will sell it on the market for $100 million dollars.

And that’s what happened.


The work made an estimated $80 million dollars in profit and provided
a powerful comment on, um, something or other.

By the way, we don’t know who the skull originally belonged to.
Mr. Hirst apparently has found little interest in such a question.

Which is not unusual. There are millions of skulls still dressed in flesh
that no one cares about.

Some of these are called the homeless.


There is a secret about the homeless that few may know.

They are actual human beings. They have names. They have stories.

Mariam Eqbal knows this. She is a young artist in Richmond, Virginia, who began talking to homeless men and women. She wanted to find out who they were. Where did they come from? What are their memories? Their dreams?


She attended to their simple human dignity.

She listened. She took photographs. And she made illustrations.


A series of large portraits emerged. Then Ms. Eqbal had another idea.
Perhaps these images could move around the community.


She walked into the public transit authority and showed them the work.
By the time she left, she had approval to put them on city buses.


But the materials cost money.
She went door to door to local businesses looking for donations.

She got the money.


And the buses of the city carried the images from street to street.
Ms. Eqbal’s project did not yield a profit of $80 million dollars.

Indeed, we do not know the result of her transmissions.

Such expressions sometimes take root in the odd corners of our skulls
and cannot easily be measured.

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