Skulls Are Us

| 11/19/2007 3:01:15 PM

Sketch of a skull by Leonardo da VinciHamlet held one and proclaimed, “Alas, poor Yorik.” Montezuma gave one to Hernando Cortes, and then Cortes killed Montezuma. The artist Damien Hirst recently sold one encrusted with diamonds for $100 million. They’re skulls, and everyone’s got one, but we’ll never be able to see our own. Writing for Voice, the online publication of the graphic design organization AIGA, writer David Barringer explores human fascination with skulls, from the pirate skull-and-crossbones to the cartoon festooned Victoria’s Secret bikinis. He concludes that artistic interest in skulls stems from a tension between what can and cannot be represented, and shows a “frustrated desire” that humans will never be able to see their own. In skulls, “we see a symbol of ourselves that asks us to see ourselves,” Barringer writes. If that doesn’t have your brain spinning, perhaps you should have your head examined.

 —Eric Kelsey 

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