Forget the pickled sharks, bring on the dead cows: The artist Damien Hirst has made a predictably weird commercial debut, Rhys Williams reports

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The Independent Online
DAMIEN HIRST has finally moved on from pickling sharks, encasing sheep and stuffing rats and is now into the serious business of skinning cows, defecating kidney beans and dressing models in meat bikinis. Not for art this time, but in the noble cause of advertising.

His commercial debut - a 60- second film promoting the 100% weird Friday night film slot on the cable and satellite channel TNT - will be screened in cinemas across the country in 10 days' time. Shorter versions will appear on TNT from Friday.

Devised by Hirst for the London-based agency Mustoe Merriman Herring Levy, it is his first work since signing up with the leading commercials director Tony Kaye - himself the producer of award winning work for Dunlop, Nike and Inter-City.

Working to the brief 'let's be weird' and shot over three days in and around butchers' shops and streets in London last week, the director's version shows a ginger-bearded man taking his pet canary Nigel for a walk. A soundtrack of cocktail lounge music composed by Malcolm Maclaren accompanies the hero past two women hoovering a lawn and then a hole in a wall. Inside three men with no eyes play cards before being interrupted by a skinned dead cow falling from the ceiling.

One of the men opens his hand to reveal a swarm of maggots which are then tossed into a pond by a fisherman. He casts his rod and catches a clown, who runs out of the water clutching his face. Cut back to the three men and one is holding two cow's eyes to his head. Another man sitting on an 18-foot stool with his trousers down explains his current dietary affliction: 'Everything seems to go straight through me.' Cut to a shot of an anus defecating a kidney bean.

Maclaren briefly features as a businessman in earrings before the action moves into a butcher's shop adorned with women wearing bikinis made out of meat. Our man is presented with a single sausage and goes back home.

Damian Horner, the agency's senior account director, said: 'The film is not a piece of art, but a commercial proposition.' He said the agency selected Hirst because of his reputation for producing weird images and the publicity his debut advertisement would generate.

Although it has never proved a major problem for Hirst, Mr Horner believes that being consistently weird for 60 seconds is a tricky business. 'People become accustomed to the images you're showing and start to feel comfortable with it. It's not a case of trying to shock the audience every 10 seconds. It's about changing the pace and rhythms of the images you see.'

TNT is reportedly 'delighted' with the film, though it has yet to approve a final version.

(Photograph omitted)