"I like them because they once contained life."
‘Forms Without Life’ and ‘Life Without You’ are two early works incorporating different presentations of sea shells. Hirst originally intended them for inclusion in ‘Internal Affairs’, a series dating from 1991 shown at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. Eventually, however, ‘Forms Without Life’ and ‘Life Without You’ were excluded from the auto-biographical series because he felt they were “too beautiful. Or the shells are anyway.”
Acting together to reinforce their differences, the pair address the implications of displaying works either on the wall or the floor, a distinction which Hirst addressed in the 'Mental Escapology' series. Whilst the shells in ‘Life Without You’ are laid out openly as if on a school nature table, ‘Forms Without You’ typifies the nineteenth century passion for placing items of curiosity within wall cabinets. Hirst explains the appeal of the glass-fronted cabinet as something that allows you to, “get hold of [the work] mentally but not physically somehow”.
Following the Tate Collection’s acquisition of ‘Forms Without Life’ in 1992, Hirst gifted the gallery ‘Life Without You’.