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bjection Sustained: Goya, the Chapman brothers and the Disasters of War
Philip Shaw
University of Leicester
Copyright © Association of Art Historians 2003

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Today the title the Disasters of War refers to at least three works. The first a set of
engravings etched by Francisco Goya, c. 1810±20, published posthumously in 1863 as
Los Desastres de la guerra, the second and third are a set of miniature dioramas and a
suite of engravings produced by Dinos and Jake Chapman in the 1990s. All three works
take as their subject the horrors of war. Goya's is based on his first-hand experience of
the sufferings of the Spanish people during and immediately after the Napoleonic
occupation. The Chapmans' are born out of a desire 'to virally infect or be contagious to'
the artist's 'association with humanism'. These latter Disasters attempt, in other words,
to reanimate the founding trauma of Goya's work, to reveal the indivisible remainder,
the abject object, that art criticism, wedded as it is to the ideology of humanism, seeks
to repress. Drawing on Lacanian psychoanalysis, this essay takes a critical look at the
nature and significance of this desire, asking whether or not the Chapmans' fascination
with the founding trauma of Goya's Disasters of War marks a reinvention of, rather than
a retreat from, the ethics of humanism.

DIGITAL OBJECT IDENTIFIER (DOI)


10.1111/j.0141-6790.2003.02604001.x About DOI

Today the title the Disasters of War refers to at least three works: the first a set of
engravings etched by Francisco Goya (1748±1828) from around 1810 to 1820 and
published posthumously as Los Desastres de la guerra in 1863; the second and third a
set of miniature dioramas and a suite of engravings produced by Dinos (b. 1962) and
Jake (b. 1966) Chapman in the 1990s. All three works take as their subject the horrors
of war: Goya's is based on his first-hand experience of the sufferings of the Spanish
people during the Napoleonic occupation and its immediate aftermath; the Chapmans',
which, in the first instance, take the form of a three-dimensional copy of Goya's
sequence, is born out of a desire 'to virally infect or be contagious to' the artist's
'association with humanism'.1 The latter Disasters are attempts, in other words, to
reanimate the founding trauma of Goya's work, to reveal the indivisible remainder, the
abject object, that art criticism, wedded as it is to the ideology of humanism, seeks to
repress.
Eschewing 'man' for matter, imminence for transcendence, the monstrous for the
sublime, Dinos and Jake Chapman, like many of their generation, regard Goya as a
strong precursor of 'new neurotic realism', a radical nihilist for whom the affirmation of
man remains, at best, a symptom of civilized fallibility, at worst a manifestation of mass,
psychotic breakdown. What the Chapmans 'affirm' therefore, with their 'infection' of
Goya, is the failure point of civilized, democratic society, the indigestible or non-
dialectical core which humanism strives to put to work. To revivify the disturbance of
this indigestible core, which is the abject by any other name, one must reposition Goya's
images outside the humanist framework; we must, in effect, repeat Los Desastres de la
guerra in another form so as to reactivate their critical difference. The form, in other
words, becomes critical, lending ironic counterpoise to existential angst; displacing the
fecundity of etching, lavis and drypoint, in the case of the sculptures, with the hyper-
reality of fibreglass, resin and paint; intensifying the violence of Goya's vision, in the
case of the later engravings, through a perverse overdetermination of Los Desastres'
primary medium.

Buoyed along by their schooling in post-Nietzschean critical theory (Bataille not Breton,
Deleuze not Derrida), together with their instinctive appreciation of the shock tactics of
abject art (from Piero Manzoni to Mike Kelley) and the faux naturalism of mannequin
art (from Hans Bellmer to Charles Ray), the Chapmans recreated Los Desastres'with the
intention of detracting from the expressionist qualities of a Goya drawing and trying to
find the most neurotic medium possible, which we perceived as models. It gave us a
sense of omnipotence to chop these toys up.'2 To 'detract' from the darkened knowledge
of 1810 requires some nerve. To admit an investment in a medium that is neurotic, with
all the connotations of flight and fancy that this entails, could be judged flip but in a
way that conveys, however perversely, a seriousness of intent.

But, first, why humanism? What lies behind the Chapmans' ire is a rich tradition of art-
historical commentary, dedicated to the re-visioning of Goya's horror from a rational or
ethical perspective. In the exhibition catalogue for the Hayward Gallery's touring
exhibition of war-related works by Jacques Callot, Goya and Otto Dix, Juliet Wilson-
Bareau states that Los Desastres de la guerra provide insight into 'the cruelty within all
human nature, the desire for dignity and the betrayal of a people's sense of its own
humanity'.3 The work is properly described as humanist, therefore, to the precise extent
that it compels the viewer to take up a moral stance against war. But as anyone who has
looked closely at Los Desastres will attest, the unstinting portrayal of rape, genocide,
torture and ritual mutilation, the abject at its most insistent, is at odds with the
transcendental aspirations of humanism. When Goya is located in a continuum with
Callot's Les misères et malheurs de la guerre (1633) and with Dix's Der Krieg (1924),
the effect is particularly acute: at what point does the representation of war find relief in
a certain kind of libidinal pleasure? Does the enjoyment of disaster qualify the raising of
a moral perspective? Thus Jake Chapman: 'to take a moral stance on violence you have
to engage with it and show it. We've used Goya's work in our own because it illustrates
that paradox. Moral taboos are normally demonstrated through utmost transgression.'4 If
the taboo, in this case, is the injunction against barbarism, then it is possible to see how
Goya's engagement with the abject object, be this in the shape of the maimed and
dismembered body, or the eruption of excremental matter, should arouse critical
suspicions.5 A culture may sustain Los Desastres, in the sense in which a body sustains
a wound, but wounds may become malignant, beyond the point of endurance. In the
light of this reasoning, Jake and Dinos Chapman are surely right to focus on the
'unconscious values' at the heart of Los Desastres' critique of war.6

The problem, however, is that this notion is far from startling. It fails, moreover, to take
into account the possibility that humanism might already have anticipated the force of
the non-dialectical remainder. Once this possibility is grasped, the abject object may no
longer be regarded as the negative other of identity, but rather as its foundational trauma.
Here, as elsewhere in this essay, I am guided by Slavoj Žižek's neo-Hegelian revision of
poststructuralist theory. Žižek's commentary on the 'night of the world' passage from
Hegel's 'Jenaer Realphilosophie' is especially relevant to this discussion:

The human being is this night, this empty nothing that contains everything in its
simplicity ± an unending wealth of many representations, images, of which none
belongs to him ± or which are not present. This night, the interior of nature, that exists
here ± pure self ± in phantasmagorical representations, is night all around it, in which
here shoots a bloody head ± there another white ghastly apparition, suddenly here before
it, and just so disappears. One catches sight of this night when one looks human beings
in the eye ± into a night that becomes awful.7

As Žizƒek continues, the 'unity the subject endeavours to impose' on this night 'is
always erratic, eccentric, unbalanced, "unsound", something that is externally and
violently imposed on to the multitude « every synthetic unity is based on an act of
"repression", and therefore generates some indivisible remainder.' At the risk of leaping
too quickly to the analysis of Goya's night, it is worth noting that his Desastres
engravings portray a related concern with the '"unruliness" of the subject's abyssal
freedom which violently explodes reality into a dispersed floating of membra disjecta'.8
Goya depicts the Romantic imagination at its most violent, disrupting passivity and
continuity in the name of pure invention. Whether the cause is enlightenment or
autocracy, the outcome is the same: the creation of hideously sensuous remainders. Yet,
in another sense, the serial depiction of the wounded and dismembered body does not so
much exceed the civilizing agenda of humanism as provide confirmation of its
necessary involvement with that which cannot be redeemed or laid to rest. This brings
Goya closer, perhaps, to the Freud of Totem and Taboo than Jake and Dinos Chapman,
with their 'basic household knowledge of psychoanalysis', might allow. 9

Leaving aside, for now, a detailed account of this aspect of the Disasters, there is
something about the Chapmans' refocillation of Goya that leaves me wondering whether
it is as clear-sighted, as post-modern, or for that matter post-Romantic, as the artists
would like us to assume. To what extent, in other words, do Los Desastres anticipate
and address the 'unconscious values' that the Chapmans supposedly 'tease out « within
the work'?10 Could it be that, contrary to the prevailing view, Goya has already brought
to light the irrationality that is at the core of the humanist tradition? And beyond this,
might it be appropriate to suggest that Goya provides a properly ethical response to the
elegant sardonism of Jake and Dinos Chapman, one that might prompt contemporary
audiences to reassess their understanding of the relations between violence and
representation?11

In response to these questions let us look more closely at Goya's recent critical reception.
To anyone familiar with the trajectory of theory over the past thirty years or so, the
notion that the affective charge of the Desastres is neutered by its association with
humanism might seem quaint, to say the least. Consider, as example, Gwyn Williams's
Goya and the Impossible Revolution, published in 1976. 12 In this Marxist classic, the
reader is guided through a series of fraught personal and historical oppositions, with
Williams emphasizing throughout the sense in which Goya's personal relation with his
subject matter is conditioned and informed by historical processes (the touchstone here
is Marx's preface to his A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy [1859]).
Goya's social being is mapped out thus: with social origins in the pueblo (Goya's father
was a gilder) and intellectual stakes in the pro-French ilustrados (during the occupation
he swore allegiance to Joseph Bonaparte and received the Napoleonic 'Royal Order of
Spain'), the artist was torn between competing impulses: on the one hand, an ideological
commitment to the principles of Gallic modernization, and thus to liberal ideas of
'normal change', and on the other a deep-seated engagement with the atavistic, pre-
political urgings of the Spanish populace.

For Williams, the dialectical struggle in Goya's life and times is manifested, most
vividly, in The Third of May 1808 (Madrid: Prado). As an act of historical
representation the painting documents the brutal suppression of the Spanish pueblo who,
on 2 May 1808, had risen up against the Imperial occupation in defence of the Bourbon
monarchy. The executions precipitated a mass revolt against the French, a struggle that
would turn into a lengthy 'war of independence', directed not only at the external threat
of imperialism but also at the internal forces of liberal constitutionalism, which were
working insidiously to drag Black Spain out of a pre-political feudal past and into a
secular, democratic future. In this sense the painting attests to the persistence of certain
key elements of the pre-political: the traumas residing at the core of liberal modernity.
What is specifically traumatic about this conflict, however, is the way in which it runs
against the crude perception of war as a binary opposition between a pacific domestic
sphere and a belligerent foreign other. Since, in Spain, the antagonist is both within and
without the social fabric, a tension that becomes especially marked following the
withdrawal of France in 1812, it becomes almost impossible to sustain any kind of
positive consistency; both sides, the forces of reaction and the forces of reason, must
confront the fact that the negative, disruptive power of the other, which is menacing
their identity, is simultaneously a positive condition of it. The Spanish war of
independence is thus best characterized as a struggle for (mis)recognition: a civic as
well as a defensive war in which both parties, the atavistic supporters of monarchy,
Catholicism and feudalism on the one hand and the liberal, bourgeois ilustrados on the
other, battle for ontological consistency.

Evidence of the tension, as Williams notes, is detectable in a number of prints from Los
Desastres de la guerra. In Los Desastres 2 (plate 1.1), for instance, the artist's
sympathies appear to be with the people; the detailed rendering of the patriot's defiance
in the face of anonymous cruelty arguably lends credence to the idea of Goya as an
instinctive supporter of the people. The effect is qualified, however, by the ambiguity of
the caption: Con razon ó sin ella (with or without reason, rightly or wrongly, for
something or for nothing). It is left for the viewer/reader to decide whether the positive
terms of these statements apply to the attackers or the defenders. In either case, the
ideological opposition of beleaguered patriotism and ruthless imperialism is undermined
by the tension between image and text.

1.1 Francisco Goya, Los Desastres de la guerra,


1810±1820, plate 2: Con razon ó sin ella (With
reason, or without). Etching, lavis, drypoint, burin
and burnisher, 15×20.9 cm. Copyright © British
Museum Department of Prints and Drawings.

[Normal View ]

As the sequence progresses, category distinctions become increasingly strained. Thus,


as the neo-Freudian critic Ronald Paulson observes, enmity becomes 'anonymous and
undifferentiated', with 'no distinction between French and Spanish, men or women' or,
one might add, between the heroic defenders of the fatherland and the barbaric
supporters of the old regime.13 What emerges, towards the end of the sequence, in the
visual blurring of pueblo, priests and kings, is again reiterated in the ironic verbal 'play'
of the captions. In Los Desastres 16 (plate 1.2), for instance, the text runs 'They help
themselves', although, as Williams notes, the Spanish is ambiguous, Se aprovechan
could mean 'they're of use to each other', 'they equip themselves', or even 'they're
learning'.14

1.2 Francisco Goya, Los Desastres de la guerra,


1810±1820, plate 16: Se aprovechan (They help
themselves). Etching, burnished lavis, drypoint
and burin, 16×23.7 cm. Copyright © British
Museum Department of Prints and Drawings.

[Normal View ]

To this list one might also add the connotations of good eating, a level of sense that
chimes well with Paulson's emphasis on the oral and anal eroticism in Goya's prints.
The idea that Spain consumes its dead, putting the corpse to good use as sustenance in
its bid to re-establish itself, is suggested here together with the mordant sense in which
the transition from infant incapacity to 'the assumption of the armour of an alienating
identity' entails the repression, and hence the inevitable return, of the fragmented
body. 15 Although not mentioned by Paulson, Lacan's theorizing in his paper on the
'Mirror Stage' is explicit on this point. For Lacan, the earliest, most primitive experience
of the body is one of dispersal. The 'cut-up body', or corps morcelé, is thus prior to the
alienating assumption of synthetic unity and coherence. Whilst the assumption of
wholeness may be a necessary precondition of entry into the symbolic order, remnants
of this fragmented body return in the form of imagos'constituted for the instincts
themselves':

Among these imagos are some that represent the elective vectors of aggressive
intentions, which they provide with an efficacy that might be called magical. These are
the images of castration, mutilation, dismemberment, dislocation, evisceration,
devouring, bursting open of the body, in short, the imagos that I have grouped together
under the apparently structural term of imagos of the fragmented body.16

To strip the enemy of its psychic 'armour' is to engage the ego in the fundamental
process of 'death-work', a mode of repetition 'in which the unified self continuously sees
itself undone ± castrated, mutilated, perforated, made partial'. Once again, the
compulsion to mutilate the body of the ot her is given symbolic coherence via the master
trope of abjection; incorporation and projection, ingestion and excretion are the means
by which the threatened totality endeavours to gain control over 'the fundamental
process of unbinding'.17

In Los Desastres the waste of war thus returns as disgorged matter (Los Desastres 16
[plate 1.3]), undifferentiated body parts (Los Desastres 10, 18 [plate 1.4] 21, 22, 23, 24,
30) and, crucially, the excremental (Los Desastres 28, 68). The obsession with
incorporation and projection thus locates the sequence in the realm of the imaginary, the
zone in which the infans gains its first experience of mastery and which precipitates the
illusory image of totality. That the sequence continually returns to this primal scene
suggests once again the extent to which narrative progression is stalled by the
compulsion to repeat. As Lennard Davis suggests, such a compulsion may well have, as
its root cause, a fascination with the erotics of dismemberment; in this reading,
incorporation and projection become the means by which castration and its symbolic
recuperation alternate in accordance with the pleasure principle. Goya's interest in the
opening up of the body, in the disruption of the skin as a metaphor for unity, wholeness
and completion, is particularly apposite in this respect. In those plates in which the body
is stripped of its covering, the eye/I is invited to partake in a dialectic of attraction and
repulsion, seeing in those unheimlich depths an imago of its own fundamental
incompletion. If the civilized ego is born out of the repression of this body, then war
may be regarded as an attempt to project the fear of unbinding onto the body of the
enemy.

1.3 Francisco Goya, Los Desastres de la guerra,


1810±1820, plate 12: Para eso habeis nacido? (Is
this what you were born for?). Etching, drypoint,
burin and burnisher, 15.9×23 cm. Copyright ©
British Museum Department of Prints and
Drawings.

[Normal View ]
1.4 Francisco Goya, Los Desastres de la guerra,
1810±1820, plate 18: Enterrar y callar (Bury them,
without a word). Etching, burnished lavis,
drypoint, burin and burnisher, 16.3×23.7 cm.
Copyright © British Museum Department of
Prints and Drawings.

[Normal View ]

At the same time as such projections introduce an element of the erotic into displays of
aggressivity, the suggestions of castration, which occur throughout the sequence,
together with gestures towards anality (Los Desastres 3), female abjection (Los
Desastres 30 [plate 1.5]) and the return to corporeal indifference (Los Desastres 27),
prompt a more general meditation on Goya's fascination with negation. Whilst
negativity is undoubtedly a key facet of the visual impact of Los Desastres, its effect is
redoubled by the semiotic disturbance of the commentaries. Plate 69 (plate 1.6) depicts
a corpse surrounded by the skeletons of beasts and men scrawling a simple, pithy
message: 'Nothing. That's what it says.' When, in 1863, Los Desastres de la guerra was
first published by the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid, the editors, disturbed by
the implications of Goya's atheistic commentary, altered the caption to 'Time will tell.'
For Williams, as for Paulson, the message is bleak but not incompatible with a form of
negative humanism, one that looks the negative in the face and endeavours
transcendence. Like the good men of the Royal Academy, in other words, the men of
Marx and Freud maintain faith in social progress, in a vision of humanity which takes
into account its investment in waste and ruin.

1.5 Francisco Goya, Los Desastres de la guerra,


1810±1820, plate 30: Estragos de la guerra
(Ravages of War). Etching, drypoint, burin and
burnisher, 14.1×17 cm. Copyright © British
Museum Department of Prints and Drawings.

[Normal View ]

1.6 Francisco Goya, Los Desastres de la guerra,


1810±1820, plate 69: Nada. Ello dirá (Nothing.
Time will tell). Etching, burnished aquatint, lavis
and drypoint, 15.5×20.1 cm. Copyright © British
Museum Department of Prints and Drawings.

[Normal View ]

In the wake of the Lacanian critique of the negative, however, we might well wish to
query this approach. If 'it' says 'nada', as Goya's commentary helpfully explains, then it
seems reasonable to assume that plate 69 marks the point at which symbolization fails.
In this sense, nothing comes of nothing; like the distended skull in Hans Holbein's The
Ambassadors, the corpse's message defies dialectical recuperation. At the end of the
sequence, there is no more play, no semiosis in excess of visual sense. Instead Goya
leaves his viewers with a glimpse of that which, to adapt a further Lacanian formulation,
'sticks in the throat' of identification, an untenable subject position made all the more
impossible by the failure of the commentary to wrest the negative from the grip of
extinction. Seeing oneself from the point of view of this 'it', which in itself is nothing,
entails succumbing to 'that other point where the subject sees himself caused as a lack
by [objet] a, and where [objet] a fills the gap constituted by the inaugural division of the
subject'.18 In figuring objet a as nothing, no longer even the negated 'thing' of abjection,
Goya presents the viewer with a fitting image of the lure on which symbolization
depends; the idea that the subject is sustained by its relation with an other which fills in
the gap of that 'impossible' object, the 'Real', around which identification clusters and
towards which it is fatally attracted.19

To explain this idea more clearly it is worth spending some time thinking about the
significance of plate 39 (plate 1.7), perhaps the most shocking of all Goya's Desastres.
The plate is entitled Grande hazaña! Con muertos!, which translates as 'What a feat!
With dead men!', or 'Great deeds against the dead', and it is conventional to take this
statement as an unproblematic expression of bleak irony, directed against the forces of
barbarism. What is shown here is abjection at its most unsettling: the dismembered
body as the formlessness to which society returns when the lawless brutality of the Real
is allowed to overflow into reality. But this description doesn't exactly capture the
transgressive effect of Goya's image, for there is something wilfully excessive, even
contrived, about Goya's composition, which qualifies the integrity of its moral stance.
With sacrificial, ritualistic over- tones, the image depicts three castratos draped from a
tree, three figures echoing the crucifixion, their absurdly suggestive poses at odds with
the solemnity of death. The notion is underscored when we meditate on the ironic
contrast between the leaf-laden tree, symbolic of the cyclical economy of nature, and
the unregenerate mortality draped and skewered on its branches. The tableau convulses
the taboo that offers the loathsome corpse as a counterbalance to sacrifice; instead of
differentiating the abject and the sacred, Goya succeeds in a kind of violent yoking,
suffusing the abject with sacrificial meaning whilst subjecting the sacred to
sadomasochistic defilement.

1.7 Francisco Goya, Los Desastres de la guerra,


1810±1820, plate 39: Grande hazaña! Con
muertos! (Great deeds against the dead). Etching,
lavis and drypoint, 15.6×20.8 cm. Copyright ©
British Museum Department of Prints and
Drawings.

[Normal View ]

If sexuality is founded in contradiction, in the division and divisiveness of meaning,


then Goya's image is disturbingly erotic. And certainly this is the aspect of Goya's
particular disturbance that attracts the gaze of Dinos and Jake Chapman. In view of the
anguish that accompanies the erotic in Goya's vision, however, it is a salutary
experience to turn to the suave neutrality of the Chapman brothers ± for there is perhaps
no better way to describe their work. But I want to suggest that something of the Real is
evoked here as well, though it may not be where we expect to find it. But to start at the
beginning: like many people, I first saw Dinos and Jake Chapman's recreation of
Grande hazaña! Con muertos!, re-titled in English as Great Deeds Against the Dead 2
(plate 1.8) at the well-publicized Sensation exhibition in the autumn of 1997. The piece
had been displayed before: at Victoria Miro in 1993; at Andrea Rosen, New York, in
1994; and then again at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, in 1996. 20 With
Sensation, however, the Chapman brothers, along with fellow 'Young British Artists'
Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas, Tracey Emin, Gavin Turk, Mark Wallinger and Marc Quinn,
brought their concern with abjection to a mass audience. Death was suddenly de rigueur,
as was the 'pop' fascination with immanence, surfaces and the repetition of outmoded
forms ± from the sub-Duchampian readymades of Emin and Hirst to the belated hyper-
realism of Wallinger (after Stubbs), Turk (after Warhol) and the Chapmans (after Goya).

1.8 Dinos and Jake Chapman, Great Deeds


Against the Dead 2, 1994, Mixed media with
plinth, 277×244×152 cm. Copyright © Jay
Jopling/White Cube Gallery, London.

[Normal View ]

But talk of reanimation, as if the expressionist qualities of Goya's vision could be


brought back to life, does not exactly capture the intention and effect of the Chapmans'
work. Announcing that they 'were interested in making a dead sculpture. Dead in
content and dead ± or inert ± in materiality',21 the artists set out, with self-conscious
verve, to create a non-dialectical, non-utilitarian and ultimately post-humanist object.
The effect of this transformation is certainly arresting. Where Goya suffuses his image
with violent juxtapositions, jolting the viewer back and forth between competing
attitudes and experiences, here there is no emotive contrast, no chiaroscuro from which
to derive significant affect. Stripped of darkness, drained of life (witness the absence of
any foliage on the supporting tree), the life-size fibreglass sculpture, unlike the plate, is
perversely two-dimensional; its deadness is total. The Chapmans' figures are
standardized, they could be storeroom dummies, or surgical models ± in either case the
effect is brutally estranging. Where Goya challenges the viewer to probe into a wound
that is dark, unfathomable and thus paradoxically imbued with obscene vitality (see, for
example, the dark stain that takes the place of the face of the central figure), the effect
of the Chapmans' plasticized wounds is to nullify the gaze. In this latter vision
everything is open to the gaze, yet curiously the object fails to generate sustained
attention. If, as Lacan claims, 'The objet a in the field of the visible is the gaze', then the
status of the gaze as symbolic of the central lack of desire has been transformed into
something altogether more deadening: not the gaze as objet a, but rather as the
emptiness, the void or gap that objet a stands in for.22 In short, what we see when we
gaze at Great Deeds Against the Dead 2 is the Lacanian Real.

The artists have spoken of their desire to produce an object with 'zero cultural value', 'to
produce aesthetic inertia'.23 Unlike many of their peers in the world of abject art (for
example, Mike Kelley, Andres Serrano, John Miller), they are savvy enough to realize
that abjection is precisely what feeds the contemporary art market, converting the
excremental into so many affirmations of the sanctity of art. Where death is marked in
the Chapmans' work, it does not serve the interests of the sacred. The banal texture of
Great Deeds suggests instead a kind of neutrality, or suspension of desire, perhaps even
a convulsion, 'one that reduces the moral certitude of Goya's critique to a position of
hysterical, uncontrollable laughter'.

This last statement comes from Douglas Fogle, an art critic with a keen interest in
concepts of transgression. It's worth reading on:

Neither the intentionality of conscious meaning (the stock in trade of conceptualism)


nor the moral vicissitudes of humanism hold sway here as Goya's litany of aesthetic
outrage is misdirected by the Chapmans into a spectacle of failed artistic transference
which de-magnetizes the moral compass, leaving the viewer in an ambivalent position
oscillating between the binary poles of abject disgust and perverse delectation.

Specifically, Fogle argues that 'in ritually sacrificing Goya', the artists have

performed a kind of scatological clearing « which allows them to exorcise the


venerable sanctity of the Romantic theology of the artist, replacing it with a notion of
the sacred more aligned with its scatological origins, thereby freeing them to make work
which « might 'shake' [the oedipal corpus of liberal humanism] to its foundations.24

The artists themselves are somewhat more circumspect than Fogle. In presenting
themselves as 'always already « functions of discourse', as the 'servile' labourers of a
failed 'cultural climax', the notion of libidinal transgression remains, at best, a fantasy.
The assertion of 'a scatological aesthetic for the tired of seeing' remains subservient to
the culture industry on which it feeds, as does their faith in the old, Dadaist notion of art
as 'an attack on conscious meaning'.25 What Fogle misses, therefore, in his approach to
the Chapmans' work, is the emphasis placed by the artists themselves on the limitations
of libidinal transgression; an aesthetic that aims 'to occupy a de-territorial space' is just
as likely to succumb to the logic of cultural sublimation as it is to exceed it. 26 For all its
laconic perversity, the work of the Chapmans is 'buttered on both sides', its
'deconstructive imperative' serviced and constrained 'according to the rules of an
industrial dispute'. In light of this Saatchian pact, could it be that Dinos and Jake
Chapman are more serious, that is, more Hegelian, than their supporters would wish?

This notion becomes clearer when we consider two related pieces of work, both dating
from the early 1990s. In 1996, at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, the brothers
exhibited Great Deeds alongside eighty-three smaller-scale replicas (Great Deeds
Against the Dead 1), and a group of finely crafted dioramas, each depicting in miniature
a plate from Los Desastres (Disasters of War, 1993, plate 1.9). Like the models on
display in the later Apocalypse exhibition at the Royal Academy, there is something
about the Chapmans' work in miniature that runs against the facile shock value of their
larger work. Fashioned in what Jake Chapman calls 'the most neurotic medium
possible',27 these small-scale Disasters were a concerted attempt to stage a flight from
reality, or rather to attach the self to 'a different piece of reality', in this case the serial
reproduction of mutilated toy figurines, 'from the one against which it has to defend
itself'.28 Since, as Lacan points out, neurosis is essentially a defence against the
reappearance of the non-symbolized in the Real,29 could those models turn out, after all,
to be a 'reaction formation' to an underlying trauma? And, were this to be the case,
might one conclude that the retreat from Romantic expressionism and the embrace of
'hysterical laughter' is less transgressive and more defensive than the artists might
allow?

1.9 Dinos and Jake Chapman, Disasters of War,


1993. Mixed media, 130×200 cm. Copyright ©
Tate Gallery, London.

[Normal View ]

But what exactly are the Chapmans afraid of? I'd like to propose that what is Real or
traumatic in the Chapmans' sculptures is not the encounter with the fragmented body.
For, unlike Goya, when the abject is displayed in their work, the effect is camp, dull,
even boring. Here one could easily invoke Baudrillard's distinction between the
discourses of poetry and psychoanalysis as a means of justifying the coolness of the
work of the Chapman brothers. In Baudrillard's thesis, where 'the psychoanalytic
signifier remains a surface indexed on the turbulent reality of the unconscious', the
poetic, by contrast,

diffracts and radiates in the anagrammatic process; it no longer falls under the blows of
the law that erects it, nor under the blows of the repressed which binds it, it no longer
has anything to designate it, not even the ambivalence of the repressed signified. It is
nothing more than the dissemination and absolution of value, experienced, however,
without the shadow of anxiety, in total enjoyment.30

The repetition of Goya, that is, drives Los Desastres to the point where there is no
longer a 'dream thought' or libido to testify to the productive economy of the
unconscious. In accordance with Baudrillard's thesis, meaning in the Chapmans' work is
no longer tied to a signified. And the effect of all this, as the artists insist, is
fundamentally comic.31 For Baudrillard, invoking Freud's gloss on Kant,

('[The comic is] a tense expectation that suddenly vanished, [transformed] into nothing').
In other words: where there used to be something, now there is nothing± not even the
unconscious. Where there used to be some kind of finality (albeit unconscious), or even
a value (albeit repressed), now there is nothing. Enjoyment is the haemorrhage of value,
the disintegration of the code « In the comic, the moral imperative « is lifted.32

The comic, however, does not account fully for the actual effect of the Disasters, for
there is, it seems to me, an elegiac, even Romantic, aspect in the Chapmans' work that
runs against the slick excesses of the simulacra. That this revision of the Chapmans'
schema should entail a further reversal of Baudrillard's comic exchange should come as
no surprise. For as much as the mutilated figurines in these works speak of the banality
of castration and the impossibility of profundity, so too do they testify to a form of lyric
longing: for the obscene enjoyment that is the product of radical transgression, there
being no other form of enjoyment in the absence of the law. Rather interestingly,
therefore, it is this marking of the banality of horror, in the absence of the moral law,
that causes the viewer to reassess trauma, not as some burgeoning, insistent event, as a
violent memory say, which continues to impinge on normal life, but instead, in the later
Lacanian sense of the 'missed encounter'.33 Such work is pitiful precisely because it
forces the viewer to measure the distance, quite literally so when overlooking the
miniatures, between trauma and recovery, the abject event and its postmodern
dematerialization. In measuring this distance, the viewer is introduced, inevitably, to the
bar of repression, and thus to the resurrection of value.

The reproduction of catastrophe, contrary to the official tenets of postmodernism, thus


creates its own form of disjunction. Like Jeff Wall's Dead Troops Talk (1992, plate
1.10), a massive Cibachrome transparency depicting the harrowing aftermath of a
conflict in Afghanistan, the work of the Chapmans is a calculated affront against the
very idea that viewers can imagine what war is really like.34 When we gaze at Great
Deeds are we not made aware of the extent to which technology sanitizes images of the
utmost suffering, to the point where we long, perversely no doubt, for contact with the
fecund, palpitating body of Los Desastres? It is worth thinking that the Chapmans
produced these works against a background (the artistic reference is appropriate here) of
international conflict. Like Goya, they are self-proclaimed war artists, but the war, as
well as the means of its reproduction, has changed. To the Western observer, what
distinguishes the military interventions in Iraq, the Balkans and Afghanistan from the
wars of the past is precisely the lack of direct encounter. Unlike previous campaigns,
where armies clashed in face-to-face combat, the violence of modern conflict is
projected outwards to such an extent, aided by the development of 'smart' weapons and
'stealth' technology, that the belligerent subject is unable to recognize itself in relation to
the desire of the antagonistic other.35 By a strange irony, the notion of the Real as a
violent or catastrophic event, figured in images of extreme suffering, becomes the
fantasy that protects this subject from the knowledge of its 'dehumanization'.36

1.10 Jeff Wall, Dead Troops Talk, (A vision


after an ambush of a Red Army patrol near
Moqor, Afghanistan, winter 1986), 1992.
Cibachrome transparency in lightbox,
229×417 cm. Copyright © Jeff Wall, image
courtesy of the artist.

[Normal View ]

The force of this statement is worth dwelling on. Where Baudrillard triumphs in the end
of the unconscious and the liberation of enjoyment, Žizƒek registers a humanist concern
with the death of tragedy. If, in recent conflicts, the deployment of 'smart' and 'stealth'
technology represents in some way the dominance of the symbolic order over the
imaginary chaos of war, then one can see how nostalgia for the fragmented body takes
shape as postmodern fantasy. As Lacan noted in the 1950s, 'the coming into operation
of the symbolic function « ends up abolishing the action of the individual so
completely that by the same token it eliminates his tragic relation with the world.'37

The waning of that tragic relation is, it seems to me, manifestly represented in the work
of Jake and Dinos Chapman. Look again at the wounds on display in Great Deeds
Against the Dead 2 (plate 1.8). Despite the Chapmans' insistence that 'the segmented
mannequin « incite[s] a fear of castration',38 the scene of castration is not the traumatic
element in this sculpture. What is missing here is the provider of symbolic authority,
otherwise known as 'the Name-of-the-Father, the prohibitory "castrating" agency that
enables the subject's entry into the symbolic order, and thus into the domain of desire'.39
Unlike Goya's horrifying vision of the commingling of violence and desire, and here it
is worth noting that dismemberment is the subject of at least two images from the same
cluster (Los Desastres 33 and 37 [plates 1.11 and 1.12]), the Chapmans' sculpture is
disconcertingly bland, dead to any kind of prohibitory demand. In connection with this
effect, mention should be made here of an installation entitled Little Death Machine
(Castrated), 1993, recently on display at Tate Modern. Formerly entitled Little Death
Machine, the work, which comprises two cast sculptures of the brain, one of which is
bashed by a hammer while a prosthetic phallus ejects synthetic semen onto the other,
was decommissioned by the Tate when the conservators found traces of botulism in the
milk bottles used to contain the 'semen', making it a danger to the gallery-going public.
The Chapmans state that 'When our sculptures work they achieve the position of
reducing the viewer to a state of absolute moral panic « they're completely
troublesome objects.' Yet, as Jennifer Ramkalawon notes, the work is not so much
'castrated' as impotent; the 'viewer/voyeur feels cheated of the experience and is left
dissatisfied, like an unfulfilled partner.'40

1.11 Francisco Goya, Los Desastres de la


guerra, 1810±1820, plate 33: Qué hai que hacer
mas? (What more can be done?). Etching, lavis,
burin and burnisher, 15.7×20.7 cm. Copyright ©
British Museum Department of Prints and
Drawings.

[Normal View ]
1.12 Francisco Goya, Los Desastres de la
guerra, 1810±1820, plate 37: Esto es peor (This is
still worse). Etching, lavis and drypoint,
15.7×20.8 cm. Copyright © British Museum
Department of Prints and Drawings.

[Normal View ]

Ramkalawon's observation may be extended to Great Deeds Against the Dead 2. Is this
sculpture not, despite its horrifying features, an indication of the futility of postmodern
abjection? Well, no doubt. But it is worth adding, again with a glance towards the
unexpected seriousness of Jake and Dinos Chapman, that the expression of futility
might not be without purpose. In gazing at these objects, what the viewer longs for is
precisely the reactivation of desire: for the signifying bar, for the repressed, for the
traumatic Real that is the origin and tendency of all jouissance. What one longs for, in
short, is the return of Goya. The trauma that Dinos and Jake Chapman assume is veiled
by the redemptive ideologies of humanism emerges, then, as that Thing (das Ding), the
fundamental emptiness that comes into being with an object's loss. In Lacan's revision
of Freud, das Ding is not a thing in the physical sense but rather the emptiness fashioned
from the loss of the object. Nothing in itself, the Thing must necessarily be represented
by something else.41 Pathos in the art of the Chapmans is thus brought about through the
endeavour to represent Goya's loss. It seems that the attempt to 'bypass disembodies
notions of aesthetic enjoyment'; to expose 'the psychoanalytic text's fixated attempts' to
curtail pleasure is doomed from the start.42

In 1998 the publisher Edward Booth-Clibborn invited Jake and Dinos Chapman to
produce a portfolio of prints. The resulting Disasters of War (1999) mark a return, as
Ramkalawon notes, to the artists' ongoing dialogue with art history, and place renewed
emphasis on the role of drawing in their work. As Ramkalawon goes on to explain,
Booth-Clibborn arranged for the artists to work with the printers Simon Marsh and Peter
Kosowicz at Hope Sufferance Press in South London. Using a variety of techniques,
including drypoint, aquatint and soft- and hard-ground etching, the Chapmans worked
quickly to produce eighty-three prints, the entire process taking no longer than thirty
days. The prints come in four editions: black ink on a white background in an edition of
fifteen, plus three artists' proof sets; ten sets printed in white ink on black chine collé;
three sets juxtaposing pictures from a child's colouring book with the original prints;
and two hand-coloured sets. The artists signed all the plates.

These new Disasters take Goya's sequence as departure point, rather than copy text,
transforming the original with apocalyptic imagery drawn from the Holocaust,
contemporary world conflicts, and the realms of pornography, Surrealism and science
fiction. The impulse to mutate rather than repeat is evident too in the drawing style,
which veers precariously from the edgy intensity of Antonin Artaud to the comic
grotesquery of Dix, and then again from the wandering line of Andre Masson to the
biomorphic strangeness of Alfred Wols (plates 1.13 and 1.14). The overall effect is
child-like, naïve and at times deliberately amateurish, with little or no sense of
governing intention.
1.13 Dinos and Jake Chapman, Disasters of
War, 1999. Etching and aquatint, 12.3×14.8 cm.
Copyright © British Museum Department of
Prints and Drawings.

[Normal View ]

1.14 Dinos and Jake Chapman, Disasters of


War, 1999. Etching and aquatint, 13.3×19.2 cm.
Copyright © British Museum Department of
Prints and Drawings.

[Normal View ]

A commitment to the contingent is echoed in the conditions of production. Instead of


transcribing the images from preparatory drawings, the artists drew directly onto the
plates: 'They were supplied with 83 plates (one per image) and would request which
technique they wanted or thought suitable.'43 The prints, then, were no longer the work
of a single individual but rather of a collective. The frenzied pace of production,
together with the collaborative approach, had the interesting effect of enabling the
artists to 'expel', as Jake Chapman explains, 'all of the anxieties that a single person has
in the production of their own work'. In the absence of any clearly discernible bar to
contain the 'pleasure of « the process', the prints would seem then to meet the
requirements of a pure scatological aesthetic. With the repressive ego 'initiated into a
process', the work is free to make spectacular play of the constraints normally
associated with the excitement and maintenance of 'a certain kind of libidinal
pleasure'.44

In this manner, as Jake Chapman goes on to claim, the prints 'intensify' Goya's own
tendency constantly to exceed 'the limits of prohibition'. And for the artist, the devil, as
always, is in the detail:

We started to notice certain solarized areas in [Goya's] images which were often the
points of extreme violence, (for example) an area of castration becomes heavily drawn.
So the process of drawing becomes a form of intensification of certain areas.45

In a redrafting of plate 36, Not(in This Case) Either (plate 1.15) the smiling French
soldier is replaced by a crudely executed Siamese twin (plate 1.16). Where in Goya's
version mirth is prompted by satisfaction at having violated a taboo, the expressions in
the Chapmans' print are essentially without shame. The latter image is disconcerting
precisely because it fails to include any reference to the censoring mechanisms that
distinguish the perverted pleasures of adulthood from the pre-oedipal satisfactions of
infancy. Freed from the consciousness of sin, the double-headed figure is free, too, of
the commitment to individuation. Its being, like its pleasures, proliferates without
reserve. In the absence of any signifying cut, the burden falls on the viewer to re-
establish the divisions between laughter and profundity, insanity and identity, which the
print effectively suspends.

1.15 Francisco Goya, Los Desastres de la


guerra, 1810±1820, plate 36, Not (in This Case)
Either. Etching, burnished aquatint, drypoint,
burin and burnisher, 15.6×20.5 cm. Copyright ©
British Museum Department of Prints and
Drawings.

[Normal View ]

1.16 Dinos and Jake Chapman, Disasters of War,


1999. Etching and aquatint, 13×19.3 cm.
Copyright © British Museum Department of
Prints and Drawings.

[Normal View ]

When the artists return to Grande hazana! Con muertos! (plate 1.17), the emphasis is
once again on the attempt to 'bypass disembodied notions of aesthetic enjoyment'.46 The
effect of the scrawled swastika is unsettling enough, conjuring as it does an association
between the atrocities of the French invasion of Spain and the Nazi holocaust, and there
is something here, too, of the interest in détournement characteristic of Situationism and
the late 1970s British punk movement, but what is perhaps more disturbing is the way
in which the image ± a meticulous reversal of the original Disaster± resembles a
printing block, a device for producing an unlimited series of Great Deeds. As such, the
image might be said to invite the viewer to recall the relations between pleasure and
production, which condition the work as a whole.

1.17 Dinos and Jake Chapman, Disasters of


War, 1999. Etching and aquatint. 14.4×19.4 cm.
Copyright © British Museum Department of
Prints and Drawings.

[Normal View ]

But to what extent do these images assist in the desire to move beyond an amoral
fascination with suffering? The British Museum holds both the Disasters of War, 1999,
and Los Desastres de la guerra, 1863. When the works are compared, the thought occurs
that the consciousness of the relations between pleasure, pain and prohibition is no less
marked in the Chapmans than it is in Goya. In so far as the Disasters encourage viewers
to take a close look at the dependence of ethics on what Bataille calls 'the (regulated)
transgression of taboos', it is tempting to conclude that the Chapmans' 'viral infection' is
indeed a serious attempt to expose the structural perversities of liberal humanism.47
Where the Chapmans might be said to fail, however, is in their reluctance to progress
beyond this exposure. Faced with such unrelenting nihilism, the viewer must work hard
to re-establish the grounds for an ethical critique of the representation of war. Thus
where an artist such as Jeff Wall (plate 1.10) invites viewers to regard themselves not
merely as passive consumers of horror, but as potential agents of change, the Chapmans
seem content merely to wallow in tragic futility. When Great Deeds Against the Dead 2
and The Disasters of War are viewed alongside Dead Troops Talk it is hard to see how
the Chapmans' post-oedipal fantasies, their embrace of the simulacrum and their
contempt for the human can take us any further in dealing with the brute realities of war.
Humanism, as Wall acknowledges, may well be traversed by the desire for 'shock and
awe', but it is also capable of providing thoughtful and intelligent commentary on its
internal contradictions. In times like these, the ability of art to condemn the fascination
with abjection must surely be sustained.

While remaining suspicious of humanism, the Chapmans' latest intervention in Goya's


sequence comes close to fulfilling this role. In 2001 the artists purchased an historically
significant edition of Los Desastres de la guerra. Issued in 1937 as a protest against
Fascist outrages in the Spanish civil war, the edition includes a frontispiece showing a
photograph of bomb damage to the Goya Foundation. As such the work offers
confirmation of the force of art, its ability to resist and triumph over the ravages of war.
What the Chapmans have done to this edition appears at first to be a violent affront to
this force. Re-titled Insult to Injury, the prints have been 'rectified', to use the artists'
description, by the addition of ghoulish clown and puppy heads, drawn on every 'visible
victim' in all eighty plates (plate 1.18). The complete set of engravings was exhibited at
the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, in an exhibition entitled The Rape of Creativity
(12 April±8 June 2003). 48

1.18 Dinos and Jake Chapman, Disasters of


War, 1999, Insult to Injury. Etching, burnished
acquatint, lavis, drypoint and other media,
15.5×20.1 cm. Copyright © Jay Jopling/White
Cube Gallery, London.

[Normal View ]

Jake Chapman describes his own and Dinos's intention in producing the work:

[Goya]'s the artist who represents that kind of expressionistic struggle of the
Enlightenment with the ancién regime, so it's kind of nice to kick its underbelly.
Because he has a predilection for violence under the aegis of a moral framework.
There's so much pleasure in his work. To produce the law, one has to transgress it. Not
to be too glib in the current conditions, but there's something quite interesting in the fact
that the war of the Peninsula saw Napoleonic forces bringing rationality and
enlightenment to a region that was presumed Catholic and marked by superstition and
irrationality. And here's Goya, who's very cut free from the Church, who embodies this
autonomous enlightened being, embodied as a gelatinous dead mass without redemption
± then you hear George Bush and Tony Blair talking about democracy as though it has
some kind of natural harmony with nature, as though it's not an ideology.49

The parallels drawn between the 'enlightened' annexation of Spain and the recent
'humanitarian' interventions in Iraq are nicely highlighted in this account. But it is the
work itself that provides perhaps the most compelling testimony to the artists' intent. As
Jonathan Jones notes, 'the clown heads and puppy faces are astonishingly horrible. They
are given life, personality, by some very acute drawing, and so it's not a collision but a
collaboration, an assimilation, as they really do seem to belong in the pictures.' In this
defamiliarized version of Los Desastres, the Chapman brothers' obsession with the
amoral and unredeemable taps directly into an aspect of Goya that humanist readings
tend to neglect. As Jones suggests, by adding Insult to Injury, Jake and Dinos Chapman
respond to 'the most primitive and archaic and Catholic pessimism of [Goya's] art ± the
sense not just of irrationality but something more tangible and diabolic'. These rectified
images are thus not so much a violation of the sanctity of art ± for in a very real sense,
there are no properly 'original' sets of Los Desastres±'as an extension of Goya's despair'.
The Chapmans themselves claim that they prefer to be denounced as 'banal anti-
humanists than praised piously as humanists', yet there is something in these latest
Disasters which verges on the profound.50 By a strange reversal, in an age where Anglo-
American troops hold fire on enemy forces sheltering in holy sites, whilst routinely
subjecting city-dwelling civilians to missile attack, an act of desecration becomes a way
of telling the truth. This is to go beyond the mere revelation of internal contradictions; it
is to despair at the very idea of human progress. In this sense, the Chapmans are perhaps
closer to Goya than most critics would allow.

 


1 Jake Chapman, 'Jake Chapman on Goya: Drawings from his Private Albums', Hot
Tickets, no. 41, 23 February±1 March 2001, p. 41.

2 Martin Maloney, 'The Chapman Bros.: when will I be famous', Flash Art, no. 189,
1996, p. 64.

3 Juliet Wilson-Bareau, 'Goya: The Disasters of War', Disasters of War: Callot, Goya,
Dix, London: South Bank Centre Publications, 1998, p. 37.
4 Chapman, 'Jake Chapman on Goya', p. 41.

5 See Julia Kristeva, The Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, trans. Leon
Roudiez, New York, 1982. Abjection, pace Freud, is presented here as a dual process of
projection and incorporation ± an expulsion of that which threatens the integrity of the
self, and an introjection of a taboo object or impulse into the self so as to defend against
it. The abject stands therefore as the perverse material core of synthetic identification.

6 Elsewhere, in conversation with Jennifer Ramkalawon, Jake Chapman states that what
fascinates the artists is 'the extent to which the practical application of making a work of
art to enforce a certain prohibitive, repressive or ethical point i.e. that murder and death
is bad necessarily descends into the most excessive forms of demonstration, most
excessive forms of spectacle and relieves itself of a certain kind of libidinal pleasure and
libidinal economy in order to actually communicate some form of disgust'. See Jennifer
Ramkalawon, 'Jake and Dinos Chapman's Disasters of War', Print Quarterly, vol. 18, no.
1, 2001, pp. 64±77, 69.

7 G.W.F. Hegel, 'Jenaer Realphilosophie', in Frühe politische Systeme, Frankfurt, 1974,


p. 204; trans. quoted, from Donald Phillip Verene, Hegel's Recollections, Albany, NY,
1985, pp. 7±8. See Slavoj Žizƒek, The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Centre of Political
Ontology, London and New York, 1999, pp. 29±30.

8 Žizƒek, The Ticklish Subject, p. 33.

9 Klaus Biesenbach and Emma Dexter, 'Foreword', Chapmanworld, London: ICA


Publications, 1996, n.p.

10 Chapman, 'Jake Chapman on Goya', p. 41.

11 Mention should be made here of the critical reception of the Chapman brothers' work.
The artists' contributions to the Sensation exhibition at the Royal Academy (18
September±28 December 1997) provoked an ongoing debat e on the worthlessness of
contemporary British art, ranging in tone from the anarcho-Christian moralizing of Paul
Virilio's The Information Bomb, trans. Chris Turner, London and New York, 2000 to
the neo-Leavisite scepticism of Julian Stallybrass's High Art Lite, London and New
York, 1999 and, most recently, Anthony Julius's Transgressions: The Offence of Art,
London, 2002. By way of contrast see Chapmanworld. The calculated impenetrability
of Nick Land's contribution to this catalogue of the artists' works is presented as a
challenge to 'rationalist' appropriations of the artists' work.

12 See Gwyn Williams, Goya and the Impossible Revolution, London, 1976.

13 Ronald Paulson, Representations of Revolution, 1789±1820, New Haven and


London, 1983, pp. 336±7.

14 Williams, Goya and the Impossible Revolution, p. 8.

15 Jacques Lacan, Ecrits: A Selection, trans. Alan Sheridan, London, 1977, p. 4.

16 Lacan, Ecrits, p. 11.

17 Lennard J. Davis, Enforcing Normalcy: Disability, Deafness, and the Body, London
and New York, 1995, pp. 118±20.

18 Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. The Seminar of


Jacques Lacan, Book XI, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Alan Sheridan, London, 1979,
p. 270.

19 To desire a little piece of the real is, in effect, to dally with the lack which constitutes
the inaugural division of the subject. Hence the desire for further accumulation of partial
objects in an endless bid to heal the primal wound. Elizabeth Roudinesco discusses
Lacan's revision of Bataille's parte maudite (doomed or accursed part) in Jacques Lacan:
An Outline of a Life and a History of a System of Thought, trans. Barbara Bray,
Cambridge, 1999, pp. 135, 217. See also Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of
Psychoanalysis, p. 270.

20 Tate has since acquired the piece for its permanent collection.

21 Maia Damianovic, 'Dinos and Jake Chapman', Journal of Contemporary Art, 1997, p.
5: http://www.jca-online.com/chapman.html.

22 See Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, p. 105.

23 Robert Rosenblum, 'Dinos and Jake Chapman', Artforum, no. 1, 1996, pp. 100±101.

24 Douglas Fogle, 'A Scatological Aesthetics for the Tired of Seeing', in Chapmanworld,
n.p.

25 From the Chapmans' anti-manifesto, We are Artists. The full text, in letraset, was
imposed over brown painted smears on a wall of the Hales Gallery, London, in 1992.
The work is reproduced in Chapmanworld, n.p.

26 Douglas Fogle, 'Interview with Dinos and Jake Chapman', laap op de avond, no. 9,
1995, pp. 1±4, 3: http://www.vpro.nl/data/laat/materiaal/chapman-bros-interview.shtml.

27 Chapman, 'Jake Chapman on Goya', p. 64.

28 Sigmund Freud, On Psychopathology. The Pelican Freud Library, Vol. 10, trans.
James Strachey, compiled and ed. Angela Richards, London, 1979, p. 226.
29 Jacques Lacan, The Psychoses, 1955±1956. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book III,
ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Russell Grigg, New York, 1993, pp. 86±7.

30 Jean Baudrillard, Symbolic Exchange and Death, trans. Iain Hamilton Grant, London,
1993, p. 227.

31 Thus David Falconer: '[the Chapmans'] art attempts to bypass disembodied notions
of aesthetic enjoyment: it is about pleasure in that it spectacularises the psychoanalytic
text's fixated attempts to circumscribe it, as well as being a calculated attempt to arouse
a visceral response (whether it be expressed as amusement or disgust).' From D.
Falconer, 'Doctorin' the Retardis', in Chapmanworld, n.p.

32 Baudrillard, Symbolic Exchange and Death, p. 230.

33 For Lacan, the fantasy of engaging with dismemberment is a lure, designed to


conceal the truth that 'reality « can no longer produce itself except by repeating itself
endlessly in some never attained awakening.' The real must therefore 'be sought beyond
the dream ± in what the dream has enveloped, hidden from us'. See Lacan, The Four
Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, pp. 53±60, passim.

34 Susan Sontag discusses this image and other related war images in Regarding the
Pain of Others, London, 2003.

35 Though as I write (25 March 2003), the nature of the conflict in Iraq would appear to
qualify this thesis.

36 Slavoj Žizƒ ek, The Fragile Absolute or, Why is the Christian Legacy Worth Fighting
For? London and New York, 2000, pp. 76±8.

37 Lacan, The Psychoses, 1955±1956, p. 168.


38 Fogle, 'Interview with Dinos and Jake Chapman', p. 3.

39 Žizƒek, The Fragile Absolute, p. 75.

40 See Fogle, 'Interview with Dinos and Jake Chapman', and Ramkalawon, 'Jake and
Dinos Chapman's Disasters of War', p. 74.

41 See Jacques Lacan, The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, 1959±1960. The Seminar of


Jacques Lacan, Book VII, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Dennis Porter, New York,
1992, p. 63, p. 119.

42 Falconer, 'Doctorin' the Retardis'.

43 Ramkalawon, 'Jake and Dinos Chapman's Disasters of War', p. 69.

44 All quotations are from Jake Chapman, from an interview with Jennifer Ramkalawon,
'Jake and Dinos Chapman's Disasters of War', p. 69.

45 Ramkalawon, 'Jake and Dinos Chapman's Disasters of War', p. 69.

46 Falconer, 'Doctorin' the Retardis'.

47 Ramkalawon, 'Jake and Dinos Chapman's Disasters of War', p. 72.

48 As reported in the Guardian, 31 March 2003, p. 11.


49 Quoted by Jonathan Jones in a special feature on Insult to Injury printed in G2
section of the Guardian, 31 March 2003, pp. 2±4.

50 Jones, in G2, p. 4.



 

    
 
 


      
Richard Dorment
Published: 12:01AM BST 30 Apr 2003

The Chapmans' doctored version of Goya's Disasters of War

As we have just seen from the yawns evoked by the pornographic carryings-on in XXX
at the Riverside Studios, it takes a lot of hard work to provoke us jaded critics to even
the faintest flicker of moral indignation. But in a new work entitled Insult to Injury, the
brothers Jake and Dinos Chapman have managed to raise the hackles of art historians by
violating something much more sacred to the art world than the human body - another
work of art.

In a considered act of artistic vandalism, they have re-worked a complete set of Goya's
etchings, The Disasters of War, adding comical and grotesque faces to the original
figures with the apparent intention of trivialising one of the most profound works of art
ever made. That the set of etchings on which the Chapmans worked was printed as late
as 1937 doesn't mitigate the crime. It would be just as shocking had they destroyed
original prints by Chris Ofili or Michael Landy.

And yet, standing in front of the retouched etchings in the Chapmans' new show at
Modern Art Oxford, I have to admit that the result is extraordinarily powerful. I hope
they aren't setting a nasty precedent here, but, as always when the Chapmans are on
form, the absolute conviction they bring to their work sweeps the viewer along with
them, even if we find ourselves kicking and screaming as we go.

Art - or a lot of it, anyway - has to do with a heightening of sensation, with creating a
new awareness of familiar things. With the first stroke of the Chapmans' pen on the first
of Goya's prints, you feel acutely the unique, irreplaceable status of an original work of
art. In daring to make even a single mark on that pristine impression, the Chapmans
have enacted the ultimate artistic transgression. But look again, and you see that the
delicacy of their draughtsmanship is anything but disrespectful. Every line is an act of
homage to a revered Old Master.

What's more, their solemn concentration on the meaning of the images actually
enhances the horror of each print, because the perkiness and indifference of the mask-
like faces serve to bring out the obscenity beneath the violence. Still clutching a crucifix,
a monk in a Mickey Mouse mask suffers the garrotte. A clown's face on a hanged man
calls attention to the trousers dropped around his ankles, as if to say, "Whoops! I've
been castrated!"

The question remains: to what purpose have the Chapmans gone to all this trouble? It
naturally occurs to us to find some pattern in the choice of figures to which they have
given the faces of comical mice or grinning skeletons. Did they single out for this
treatment all the victims depicted by Goya, while leaving the perpetrators untouched? If
so, the project would represent a profound analysis of Goya's imagery, for as we
progress through the series, we become aware of how difficult it is to differentiate
between victim, perpetrator, accomplice, and mere onlooker. But to think like this is to
think more rationally, more like grown-ups, than I think the Chapmans do. As far as I
can tell, there is no rhyme or reason to their interventions - aggressors and victims
receive equal, indiscriminate attention.

I long ago reached the conclusion that the Chapmans are genuinely strange people, two
grown men arrested in early adolescence. And yet, they are also technically
accomplished artists who have thought long and hard about the nature of Goya's art. In
Insult to Injury, they suggest that Goya's preoccupation with rape, castration, torture,
evisceration, disembowelment and mass murder is not in its essence so very different
from the idle fantasies of a schoolboy doodling in the margins of his notebook during a
boring history lesson. But that is simply another way of saying, with Baudelaire, that
genius is the ability to retrieve childhood at will.

The centrepiece of the Chapmans' show at Oxford Modern (otherwise consisting of


relatively conventional drawings, sculptures, and paintings of only so-so interest, and
not particularly well lit or displayed) is an installation called The Rape of Creativity. A
broken-down camper, its grungy interior papered with images torn from porn magazines
and its larder stocked with weapons of the sort favoured by the Michigan Militia,
announces that we are standing on sacred ground: backwoods America, setting for films
such as Deliverance and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

Sure enough, across the turd-strewn yard by the white picket fence, we spot a stuffed
dog (in fact, a mutant, with the head of a sheep) carrying in its mouth a severed human
hand. Possibly this limb belongs to the amateur sculptor who has been hacking away at
a tree trunk with an axe, trying to carve out the figure of a buxom young woman, a sort
of giant wooden sex toy. Even the lowest forms of pond life have artistic aspirations.
That the pond (and the trailer) is the domain of the Chapmans themselves is not in doubt,
for clay models of their own sculptures are still on the kitchen table, and an art book
about the German sculptor Georg Baselitz (not the reading of your average redneck) lies
on the floor. Cowering under a rough blanket inside the trail er is a frightened figure
with staring eyes, masturbating. Oh - and the ultimate horror, Classic FM is playing on
the radio. The artist's studio has been conflated with the lair of the Unabomber.

The title of the piece, The Rape of Creativity, suggests that the Chapmans are taking
contemporary art's obsession with nastiness to its logical conclusion by combining in
one tableau every cliche of recent modern art. And so, we peek voyeuristically into the
camper in exactly the same way that we view the spreadeagled nude in Marcel
Duchamp's Etant Donne. There are echoes, too, of Robert Gober, the king of
meticulously crafted body parts, and purveyor of pornographic wallpaper. The German
sculptor Gunter Forg works with taxidermy, grafting the heads of sheep on to the bodies
of dogs, as the Chapmans have done here.

You could call the whole tableau a tribute to the Californian installation artist Mike
Kelley, who specialises in hilariously exposing the culture of the American underclass;
and, once you associate the crudely hacked sculptures of the German Baselitz with the
attentions the axeman here has paid to the half-carved tree, you can't get the image out
of your mind. Speaking of axe murderers, step forward English artist Abigail Lane,
queen of contemporary schlock horror installations. And don't those cast bronze turds,
glistening with shiny brown paint, remind you of Gavin Turk's bags and boxes?

What I've identified as parody and quotation has a point, and it's not so very different
from the one the Chapmans make in The Disasters of War. Art flourishes in muck. Out
of the darkest parts of human experience the most powerful creations emerge - and so
does a lot of the blackest humour.

All this silliness may not be the Chapmans at their most imaginative or original, but it is
still pretty entertaining. After their panoramic, three-dimensional assemblage Hell,
shown at the RA in 2000, and last year's superb parodies of African sculpture, The
Chapman Family Collection, the boys really are on a roll.

©V The exhibition is at Modern Art Oxford (01865 722733) until June 8.


Christopher Turner on Jake and Dinos Chapman
Jake and Dinos Chapman
J  
2003
All images courtesy Jay Jopling/White Cube (London) © Jake and Dinos Chapman.
Photo: Stephen White
Painted bronze
246x244x125cm

Jake and Dinos Chapman obsessively return to Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes¶
gore-filled J     series. Jake himself describes their studio floor debris
as, µa sediment of Goya pictures.¶ Christopher Turner surveys the brothers¶
³rectification´ of the great Spaniard¶s work and how they have overwhelmed even
Goya¶s original with their own distinctive brand of pornographic Surrealism.

 

'Jake and Dinos Chapman: When Humans Walked the Earth' at Tate Britain 30 January
- 10 June 2007'Jake and Dinos Chapman: Bad Art for Bad People' at Tate Liverpool 15
December 2006 - 4 March 2007Works by Jake and Dinos Chapman in the Tate
Collection

"Christ, they've really done a job on this place," remarked the police officer who visited
Jake and Dinos Chapman's Peckham studio after it had been burgled. Though there had
been a break-in, the mess that caught the officer's eye was, in fact, the normal state of
the studio floor: "A sediment of Goya pictures," as Jake Chapman described the
scattered debris, "heaped in layers." According to the art critic Richard Cork, the Goya
books that the brothers had carved up and scattered around to make their disorderly
image library were all "smeared and splashed with blood from cuts in the Chapmans'
fingers as they worked on the images with scissors, razors and paper knives".

The Chapman brothers, fresh out of the Royal College of Art, had become obsessed
with Goya's gory ouvre - to the point, as Jake Chapman told me in a phone interview,
that they later even considered changing their surname to Goya. They were especially
haunted by the famous series of etchings known as J    , in which
Goya portrayed the atrocities he had witnessed in the Peninsular War between Spain
and France (1808-1814) with a visceral horror. In his book on Goya, Robert Hughes
claims the series is "the greatest antiwar manifesto in the history of art". Goya's sardonic
titles offer a cumulative sense of terror: "This is bad," warns the caption to a picture of a
monk stabbed through the heart by a French sabre; "This is worse," reads one of a
Spaniard who has been impaled on a tree from his anus to his throat; "One can't look,"
declares another, beneath a group pleading for their lives as a cluster of bayonets
appears through the edge of the frame. The Disasters of War was deemed too horrific to
be shown in Goya's lifetime, with the prints being published for the first time in 1863 -
35 years after his death.
Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes
x 
    1810-1820 (first pub. 1863)
© The Trustees of the British Museum
Etching, fine and large grain aquatint, hatching
15x20cm

Goya's use of art as a provocation has inspired the Chapmans, who are well known for
their aggressive use of shock tactics, to create works of "vertiginous obscenity", as they
term them, from their earliest days. Returning to J     repeatedly for
more than a decade, they have adapted Goya's example for contemporary impact. To the
Chapmans, his unflinching aesthetic was ahead of its time; they praised him as "the first
Modernist artist; the first who had psychological and political depth". "Goya is the black
source of the grim stream," wrote the art pundit Matthew Collings. "He's at one end and
Jake and Dinos Chapman are at the other."

Other artists, such as Jeff Wall, who made a composite photograph called J   
 in 1992, have been inspired by J    , but the Chapmans have
appropriated it almost as obsessively as Picasso did Manet's once controversial  
J     (Picasso made 157 drawings, 27 paintings, six linocuts and five
sculptures after Manet's painting). "Our work proceeds more by compulsion than by
inspiration," says Jake Chapman. He offers as an example the story of Beckett's Molloy,
who moves stones from pocket to pocket, sucking each one as he goes. "As he circulates
these stones, all kinds of complex patterns emerge; meaning emerges out of all the
combinations and variables." In a piece entitled 
      
  (1997), the Chapmans included their own reworking of Goya. You might say that
if you understand their use of Goya, you will understand their work as a whole.

In 1993 the brothers re-created J     as a series of miniature tableaux.


They melted down toy soldiers, twisting, maiming and painting them to resemble
Lilliputian versions of Goya's prints, each intricate and bloody scene enshrined on its
own little island of mossy green. The following year they re-created plate 39 of 
J     ! " # J $ # - on a larger scale, using nylon-wigged
mannequins. ! J  %  J  (1994), which was their contribution to the
legendary 'Sensation' exhibition at the Royal Academy, depicts three naked male bodies
bound to a tree; blood dribbles from the crotches of these shop dummies where their
genitalia would have been, if they'd ever had them. One victim's arm dangles by its
fingers from the makeshift gallows alongside the carcass of his torso, the severed head
skewered on a branch.
Jake and Dinos Chapman
! J  %  J  1994
Photo: Stephen White
Mixed Media
277x244x152.5cm

The Chapmans once told the art critic Robert Rosenblum that ! " # represented a
secular crucifixion, "because the body is elaborated as flesh, as matter. No longer the
religious body, no longer redeemed by God. Goya introduces finality - the absolute
terror of material termination". There is something troublingly artful about the
arrangement of the figures. They have been posed by their murderers - as a warning to
others - in a gruesome echo of the classical statue of Laocoon and his two sons writhing
in the coils of a huge serpent. Robert Hughes wrote of Goya's macabre trio: "They
remind us that, if only they had been marble and the work of their destruction had been
done by time rather than sabres, neoclassicists. would have been in aesthetic raptures
over them."The Chapmans realise the fragmented classicism hinted at in Goya's print in
the heroic scale of their sculpture, but they mean the magnification to assault rather than
uplift the viewer.
In 9 %% &  , Susan Sontag wrote that, unlike most images of
mutilation and torture, Goya's J     "cannot be looked at in a spirit of
prurience" - it is devoid of pornography. The Chapmans, who have endlessly returned to
! " # with a rubber-necking insistency, would disagree. "I don't think that there's
an opposition between a salacious interest and a noble one," Jake Chapman says. For
them there is a "convulsive beauty" in the violent image, and they are wedded to the
Surrealists' avant-garde belief that such shocks and jolts can wake us from the dream-
state of a commodity culture by, as Jake puts it, "shocking the viewer from the edifice
of comfort". (The brothers' work might be collectively titled J    
' (.) "He's defended as a humanist," Jake once said of Goya's prints, "but there
are moments of pleasure. They have an intensity, a humour and a tendency to
undermine their own dignity."

Their first work to arouse controversy, ! J  has become something of a


trademark for the Chapmans, even though it refers to a work by another artist, and they
have frequently quoted it in their subsequent art. For example, )  (1999-2000), an
apocalyptic scrum of 5,000 miniature figures, included an explicit quotation of ! 
J  . (Almost too fittingly, perhaps, )  was destroyed in the Momart warehouse fire
in May 2004. It is being rebuilt, seventeen per cent bigger.) In one of the Chapmans'
doodles of "* * (1994), a figure with a dildo nose and a sphincter for a mouth
made the same year as ! J  , the figure no longer wears a t-shirt emblazoned
with the artists' manifesto - the first line of which reads: "We are sore-eyed scopophiliac
oxymorons" - but one with a logo version of ! J  . The Chapmans point to Goya
as a forebear to their more disturbing sculptures, like this one, almost as if to justify
their assault on the aesthetic sensibility of the viewer.
Jake and Dinos Chapman
J ()  1999 - 2000
© Jake and Dinos Chapman. Courtesy Jay Jopling/White Cube (London). Photograph:
Stephen White
Glass fibre, plastic and mixed media

In  +  (1996), whose title is the name to which Pol Pot gave his genocidal dream
for Cambodia, Goya's gallows tree becomes a climbing frame for three children, naked
except for clumpy trainers. One of these prepubescent mannequins, who is related to the
Chapmans' other Hans Bellmer-like aberrations, hangs upside down so that her long hair
almost touches the floor in an obvious allusion to Goya's headless piece of meat. In their
disturbing J    ! (1997) - a "dyslexic disruption" of Goya, in their own
description - a genetically mutated mannequin bends back into itself and seems to give
birth to its own head.When ! J  %  J  was first shown, the police
paid a visit to the Victoria Miro Gallery in answer to a visitor's charge of obscenity.
They were appeased with startling ease when they were shown that the Chapmans'
chamber of horrors was based on Goya's print. "They left with an image of the Goya,"
Jake recalls, "so it was historical authenticity that gave us licence." (Anthony Julius has
referred to this strategy as the "canonical defence" of shock art; another defence, as
Matthew Collings remarked in relation to this sculpture, is to insulate the work with
"ironic discourse goo"- quoting from Bataille and Kristeva to make it "cool rather than
just horrible".) But ! J  is, if anything, more kitsch than shocking - Goya meets
Jeff Koons.

Jake and Dinos Chapman


!%*" 2000
Photo: Stephen White
Etching from a portfolio of 83
37x42.3cm

In 1999, in a series of 83 etchings plainly titled J    , the Chapmans began


to take on Goya's masterpiece in his own medium (hadn't Goya, after all, copied
Velázquez in his first etchings?). In their first graphic version of ! " # Goya's
print has been amateurishly traced and a swastika carved into the plate over the image.
The result resembles the famous SDP anti-Hitler election poster of 1932, which shows a
worker crucified on the wheel of a swastika. But in this case, the image is reversed in
printing, so that the Goya appears as if in a mirror, and the swastika - an ugly neo-
fascist desecration - has been transformed into the Hindu symbol of peace ("Indian for
have a nice day," as Jake Chapman puts it). In a tinted version, made in 2000, a crowd
of silent witnesses looks on, casting long shadows up to the blood-spattered group; in
!%*" (2000) the print has been overlaid with a picture plundered from a child's
colouring book featuring some malevolent-looking cats in a bath. In 2001 the
decapitated head is overlaid with a painted one with goofy ears, a red nose and the sort
of grimace that the cartoonist Steve Bell might have given Tony Blair.
Jake and Dinos Chapman
J     1993
© Jake and Dinos Chapman. Courtesy Jay Jopling/White Cube (London)
Mixed Media
Variable dimensions

All these variations on a theme were a rehearsal for


 
 (2004), for which
the brothers bought a series of J     for £25,000 - printed in 1937 from
original plates - and systematically defaced it, adding the heads of Mickey Mouse and
grinning clowns to the figures, covering Goya with a graffiti of gas masks, bug eyes,
insect antennae and the ubiquitous swastika. (They later created a similar work using
Goya's  '*  series, called

 
.) The Chapmans were
condemned in some corners of the press for this act of vandalism. They answered their
critics with the "canonical defence", this time citing Robert Rauschenberg's ,  
-%J% of 1953, for which the artist asked de Kooning to donate a valuable
drawing so that he could create a new work by erasing it, to justify their attempt to
eclipse Goya.

The Chapmans' "rectification", or "improvement", as they termed their adaptation,


revealed their ambivalent relation to the master; they mocked their endless return to
Goya in the title of an exhibition of these works, 'Like a Dog Returns to Its Vomit'. It is
as if they couldn't shrug off his influence, however hard they tried, and where this was
once reverence, they had been haunted by Goya to the point of iconoclasm. When asked
if he'd have liked to have met his mentor, Dinos Chapman replied: "I'd like to have
stepped on his toes, shouted in his ears and punched him in the face."

Almost a decade after their first ! J  %  J , the Chapmans created
another version. They seemed finally to have made Goya's image their own, unpicking
it and transforming it into a seething mass of decomposition.  
(2003) resembles the
extravagant images of death that are constructed in papier mâché in Mexico to celebrate
the Day of the Dead. It shows Goya's three rotting victims being licked clean by an
army of insects and slithery creatures that come in waves of putrefaction; a swarm of
maggots, snails, flies, rats and spiders, each one a prop acquired from a Halloween shop
and individually cast in bronze. A sated raven sits menacingly at the top of the tree.

After years of battling the image, they appear to have overwhelmed Goya's original with
their own brand of pornographic Surrealism. Indeed, now the Goya they refer to is the
one they have already reinvented: a rotting severed head rudely spiked on a branch, the
only patch of flesh still to be eaten, has been given Spock ears, a red nose, horns and a
deathly grin.

. J ' (  / 012J * ( 3445 6$* 34478

. J ' (   903:. 14. 34478

'        Cabinet (%; 8) Adventures in the
Orgasmatron   )  '   8

   




 

 
   
 
 

   

      


  
 
   
 
 

By Emily Bearn
Published: 12:01AM GMT 29 Oct 2002

Previous

1 of 2 Images

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Brothers in arts: Jake [left] and Dinos Chapman

Over the years, the work of Dinos and Jake Chapman has caused some bewilderment.
Take Fucking Hell, a compilation of 30,000 mutilated plastic soldiers arranged in the
shape of a giant swastika (the centrepiece of the Royal Academy's Apocalypse show).

Then there was the set of life-sized nude mannequins with sexual organs for faces; and
the three-dimensional version of Goya's Disasters of War, which included multiple
decapitations and manglings. The brothers' contribution to the opening exhibition of the
Tate Modern at Bankside, on the other hand, depicted a hammer through a brain,
connected to a limp male organ. (The Queen was gently steered away from it at the
official opening.)

They deny that their intention is to shock, but their work resonates with a clear desire to
do so. And - in an industry in which a lot of people are struggling to do the same thing -
it's paid off. Sylvester Stallone is a fan; Charles Saatchi paid £500,000 for Fucking Hell;
they are represented by the unimpeachably fashionable London gallery, White Cube - a
new show opens this week - and, over the past 10 years, they have gained enough
column inches to make a giant papier-mache penis.

Their profile has been bolstered by a reputation for volatility (Jake was once evicted
from the Groucho Club for behaving in a "threatening and intimidating manner") and,
before meeting them, one of their representatives at White Cube cautioned me that they
are terribly sensitive.

I am not to write about any of their new work, as they do not want to foster "pre-
conceptualised" ideas about their new exhibition - billed as "an extraordinary
assemblage of rare ethnographic fetish objects . . . including trophies from the former
colonial regions of Camgib, Seirf and Ekoc". (Spell them out backwards: most
amusing.).
We have arranged to meet at 2 o'clock at their studio in east London. They are not there.
Someone from a neighbouring studio eventually tracks them down on their mobile
telephone, and I am instructed to turn left and go to "the cafe on the corner". There is no
cafe on the corner, so I return to the studio and find them outside on the pavement.

I get the feeling that they would just as soon I hadn't found them at all. For though polite,
they seem nervous, almost reticent. Both are handsome, though Dinos - who is dressed
in goofy black glasses and camouflage combat trousers rolled up to his knees - looks
sweeter. (At 40, he is the elder by five years.)

Their voices are almost identical (both are well-spoken), but Dinos points out that I can
distinguish them on tape by the fact that "Jake will talk and I won't". They are in fact
both verbose, though Jake is more so. For every word Dinos talks, he probably speaks
100, most of them many-syllabled and all of them disgorged with such fluent rapidity
that you wonder how his tongue can keep pace with his brain. (Or vice versa.) It is all,
loosely speaking, about art, and much sounds like babble.

Here, for example, is how they describe one of their works: "Drawing upon Munch's
famous existential image of the screaming man, this digital design is the iconic residue
of humanity after science and technology has had its wicked way: a multi-nucleated
progeriac, an inflamed encephalitic Cartesian organ fighting for survival in an
increasingly hostile, non-organic world."

We are sitting on high stools in their cavernous, freezing studio, surrounded by


discarded gas heaters, empty Snapple bottles, bits of bicycle, slices of tree trunk and
enough indistinguishable-looking rubble to fill a scrapyard. As Jake points out, any of it
could be a work of art. Most of it looks like rubbish. A collection of finished work (the
content of their forthcoming show) is visible through a door, but, as they remind me
four times, I'm not to mention it.

On the table next to us is a work in progress, upon which I am allowed to comment. It


consists of mutilated human figures, some of them hanging, some of them in what look
like torture devices, all contained within a church (possibly gothic), which is shaped like
a swastika. "It's about petrified death and dead religion," explains Jake. "We've always
been religiously childish. We still are."

Any discussion of their work is difficult, as they dismiss most of my questions as


"reductive", "not mystical" or "inappropriate". They clearly have little esteem for their
audience, and have suggested the public should be "means tested" for intellectual
suitability to view their work: "Galleries should not seek to be redemptible spaces for
bourgeois people to pay their dues to culture," explains Jake. "Some people need to be
alienated."

He denies, however, that their intention is simply to make people recoil: "Nothing in a
gallery is repulsive. There should not be an assumption that art should idealise people's
lives. Some people might have problems with a composition of genitalia, but sometimes
shock is merely a Pavlovian response."
"We're not irreverent," adds Dinos. "Our work is only irreverent in that it allows certain
people a little frisson."

In some of their work the artistic merit is elusive. The giant glass-fibre sculpture of
Stephen Hawking in his wheelchair, balancing on the edge of a cliff, the mock Bible
filled with images of sexual organs, and a video depicting one woman pleasuring
another with the penis-nose of a beheaded dummy, all spring to mind.

They are, however, skilled draughtsmen, as evidenced in Disasters of War, a recently


published book containing 83 of their hand-painted etchings, which were inspired by
Goya's prints of the same title (the book is a highlight of this weekend's Artists Book
Fair at the London Institute).

Each image is executed in painstaking detail, and most are fairly arresting: one picture
features a cluster of bodies, beneath the caption: "Look. 36 penises, 16 vaginas, 6
anuses. It must be a girl!"; another shows a penis-like finger gouging an eye, while a
few pages on you find a large insect balanced on a testicle and a man gorging on a
human limb.

The etchings were made in 1999 and quickly sold out. Priced at £15,000, complete sets
in black-and-white were bought by institutions such as the British Museum and the
Metropolitan Museum in New York.

Wherever their inspiration lies, it does not seem to be in art. They cannot name a painter
they like, and appear to hold most in disdain: Francis Bacon's work is "retarded 1950s
English existentialism"; Freud's is a "drab kitchen-sink drama"; the National Gallery is
"full of rubbish" except, perhaps, for the Goyas, which are "quite good for a deaf
Spanishman".

They are childishly irreverent - the Prime Minister is "a fascist"; Simon Rattle is a
"twat". It's good for publicity, and publicity is part of the game: "The domain of making
art has seeped into all forms of the media," explains Jake, kicking at his bar stool.

"The manipulation of the press is an expansive domain of the work of art. A work of art
doesn't end at the door of the gallery. To be an artist in the 21st century you have to be
aware that the 21st century is about informatics."

The brothers' enthusiasm for information has limits: they deflect personal questions with
convoluted art-speak. Their father was an art teacher, their mother an orthodox Greek
Cypriot; they were brought up in Cheltenham; moved to Hastings where they attended a
local comprehensive; enrolled at the Royal College of Art ("shit", "a complete waste of
time" and "full of people tickling oil paint around"); and started working together soon
after graduating.

"We're not joined at the hip," explains Jake. "Our lives are very different. We didn't
merge our work because we were brothers. We did it because our ideas converged."
They say they would consider going their own ways only "if things get boring".
For the moment, they appear settled. Dinos lives with a textile designer and has two
children who "play an active part in taking on the misanthropic lineage"; Jake has a
girlfriend; and both remain resolutely loyal to each other: "I make my work for Dinos
and Dinos makes his for me," explains Jake.

"That's right," says Dinos. "We work for each other." They have a wider audience and -
though they can charge upwards of £30,000 for one piece - are airily dismissive about
money: "We are not idealistic about the world," says Jake. "It's a shitty place in which
capitalism and the production of art are not separated."

The Chapman brothers seem almost overwhelmingly arrogant - after an hour in their
company you long to stick a pin in them to see if they'll deflate. But beneath all the
bravado, they give the impression of being rather shy.

They thrive on publicity but, the more they get, the more elusive they become: "People
sometimes confuse us with the work, but no work of art has ever been personal," says
Jake. "We are allergic to the idea that art is a manifestation of personality."

"That's right," adds Dinos. "It's not that we don't have emotions; it's just that we don't
think people would be interested in them." Instead, they have set out to interest people
in mutated plastic figurines. And the fact that they have succeeded says more about the
vagaries of our art market than it does about the Chapman brothers.

 


         
 
  
   !"#
$"%&'(%&"&   syndicat@telegraph.co.uk

About · Room guide · Visiting info · Events & Education · Further resources 30
January ± 10 June 2007

 

Jake and Dinos Chapman


 
   2006
View of this exhibition at Tate Britain
Photo © Tate 2006
Jake and Dinos Chapman (born in 1962 and 1966 respectively) are among the
most significant and best-known contemporary British artists working today.
Together they have created an exceptional body of work which draws from all
areas of culture including art history, philosophy, artificial intelligence and
cybernetic theory.

To coincide with their mid-career exhibition at Tate Liverpool (15 December


2006 ± 4 March 2007) they have created this installation especially for Tate
Britain. Taking their sculpture  J  $*  <'  = 1993, now in the
Tate Collection, as a point of departure, the Chapmans have created a series of
improbable machines that emulate human functions such as breathing, thinking or
sexual intercourse. In their subversive wit and black humour, the works recall the
disturbing sexual fetishism and fascination with dismemberment of the
Surrealists.

 )(   , 2007 contests the distinctions we make between
man and machine and assumptions about historical progress. Cast in the
traditional medium of bronze, these objects evoke the heroic tradition of
monumental sculpture. However their scatological imagery, subversive intent and
complex associations suggest a sense of impending collapse

Entry to the exhibition is free. It is accompanied by an exhibition catalogue,


produced by Tate Liverpool which is the first publication to take an overview of
the Chapmans' work to date, and includes working drawings and installation shots
relating to the new work.
Jake and Dinos Chapman
 
   2006
View of this exhibition at Tate Britain
Photos © Tate 2006
)
  

Interview by William Furlong

Dinos & Jake Chapman respond to questions on their work 'Zygotic acceleration,
biogenetic, de-subliated libidinal model (enlarged X 1000)' at the Victoria Miro Gallery.

from Audio Arts Magazine Volume 15 Number 3, 1995


 

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~    : This piece, +%***  09%  *0J ( 


$ < %  1444=, which is the long title, comprises 20 figures of
children between the age of 8 and 12, I imagine, with relocated genitalia, and they are
joined together in an oval configuration. I have felt quite disturbed looking at this piece,
and I thought that what I responded to was a tension generated through combinations of
opposites. The grotesque and the extremely matter of fact, the surreal and the real,
pleasure and revulsion. I know that you¶ve talked about the object not being the thing
that¶s important, but the discourse that surrounds the object. Can you elaborate on some
of those readings?

  : One of the points about setting an object up that has certain values
placed in opposition to each other is that they don¶t necessarily neutralise each other but
they set up a kind of physiological oscillation, so the reading of the work never really
becomes clear. I think we were interested in the point at which the object could almost
make itself absent by an overburdening presence. These are oxymoronic statements. But
it was the way in which we could make an object ambiguous but also ambivalent; I
mean that in its psychoanalytic sense. When we said we were not necessarily interested
in the objectness of the object, it was a way of trying to decide how a work of art
functions, how it operates in terms of the spectator, how it operates in terms of the
intentions that almost become possessive about an object. And it seems to me the most
interesting thing about a work of art is that it dispossesses intentions. So in some senses
the object becomes a residue of all of the things it fails to do. We wanted to make that
happen in terms of its materiality but also its otherness.
~ : There¶s something that the majority of us feel we own, when we look at imagery
of young children, but the interventions that you¶ve made contradict that sense of
ownership and familiarity. You¶ve created alienation where normally there is bonding.

: in some ways it¶s an attempt to produce a kind of love object, but in order for that
object to be a love object it would have to be a hate object at the same time. In order to
be a perfect desiring object it would have to be simultaneously very spiteful to the
viewer, because that in a sense is how desire is negotiated.

~ : It is also negotiated by a kind of reconciliation between the two tendencies: that of


destruction and of construction that you seem to embody within one object here.

: I think masochism and sadism are constitutive of sexuality, so in order to produce
an object which is a perfect vehicle for libidinal projection, that object would have to be
simultaneously masochistic and sadistic. So, I think that¶s the experience of viewing the
thing, a sense of ambivalence. Having to sort out the moral and ethical content of the
work and a collapse of that framework into something amoral, which is laughter. We
were not trying to indicate some dignified discourse. We weren¶t necessarily making
work to promote some theoretical response that would be commensurate with our
notions of what we do, but the work becomes a kind of confessionary object, an object
almost to incite self-suspicion. The response to the work becomes an index of
repression, so the more vehement the reaction, the more that reaction indicates
something about the instability of that moral disgust. So that moral disgust becomes a
kind of physiological pleasure, but a pleasure that can¶t call itself by its proper name.
Again the work alienates and dispossesses us. We know a work is finished when it gives
us the sense that the work has no personal connection to us. In that sense the reason for
us making the work is to challenge the idea that you have some control.

~ : You¶ve used the term µthe comodification of desire¶. That presumably could refer
to the work here.

: I understand desire to be already a relation of power. I suppose there¶s a tautology


or a contradiction in saying µthe comodification of desire¶, because in some senses
desire doesn¶t exist before a comodification. So I think we make a parallel between
comodification and iconicity, in as much as we¶re interested in representation ± after all,
we¶re artists. But we¶re trying to think of objects of desire rather than objects which
represent desire. Our work obviously has a representational reality, that reality is
undermined by its own means.

~ : Is there any narrative that the piece explores?

: Instead of narrative it becomes permutation. It becomes a means of exhausting a


proposition. I think we¶re interested in the idea that each work we make is merely
placing things in a different order, which accounts for a different proposition for the
spectator. I suppose the work seems to entrap a certain leading element in which a
narrative or an ethical content is looked for. It¶s interesting that people should raise
questions about whether this is an object of abuse or whether this relates to some real
dysfunctional situation.


  : Any figurative sculpture implies some kind of narrative, but it¶s not
intentional that that should be read in any way. They are just there. Going back to the
child abuse thing, that¶s a narrative that has to be placed on top of the sculpture anyway.
I think there¶s no narrative other than what the viewer imposes on it.

: The way in which we make reference to the body is perhaps how it functions as a
dysfunctional set of desiring propositions which are not necessarily at home with each
other. So I think the work is already pathologically involved with a definition of what
the body is not and is at the same time. So it¶s not a question of representing of the body
but it¶s a question of understanding how the body can¶t possibly represent itself.

~ : In a piece by Julie Burchill in the Sunday Times she writes: µAt the end of the
century the visual arts are moving irretrievably to the right. What we see in the galleries
these days is simply the no-holds-barred, the ultimate representation of right-wing
nastiness.¶ She goes on to talk about child abuse, racism, misogyny, fascism and so on,
and she links you with those tendencies. Do you see that as a spurious connection?

: The person being called a fascist can¶t answer back because it¶s such an
ideologically sensitive question. I think we are only representing the conditions of
desire in our time. If our work is fascist, it¶s because desire is already fascist, and
involves a certain terrifying of the subject. It¶s an ideological question, and a question
that would almost require us to redeem our own work, which we¶re not interested in
doing.

)
  

 
* 
±±fRom±now=on±theRes±just±hell±being±ReheAteD±±[1]

'The molding machines are noisy and hot. The air is filled with a strong chemical smell.
I have to repeat the same motions, over and over' [...][2]

The commandeering of increasingly vast budgets for the development and promotion of
toy lines sufficiently intense to compel juvenile 'consumption machines'[3] to 'catch em
all' exerts unprecedented economic pressure on the side of production. From every
province of the Middle Kingdom flows of deterritorialised labour are sucked into the
circuits of virtual lilliputian realms, to minister to the molding, assembly and decoration
of their exquisitely imagineered and highly speciated plastic fauna. Passing through the
remains of razed farmsteads now irrigated with rivulets of toxic effluent, the 'biggest
movement of people in human history'[4] streams towards the dark satanic happy-mills
pushing through the blasted earth of the Pearl River Delta. Young female workers, for
years at a time, make the barbed-wired high-security industrial compounds their
rudimentary home. Anxious, exhausted , haunted by 'guolaosi'[5] and tales of the 'many
young people returned home from the factories with disfigurements and strange
illnesses',[6] they troop daily between the new workshops of the world and their
annexed bunker-dormitories, where tiny part-objects swim in the feverish half-light of
their unquiet dreams: The bionic arm of a robot soldier clutching a diminutive AK47;
the dismembered torso of a powder-pink infant; the bobtail of a happy red bunny; a
hamburger with a mask and a cheesy grimace ... Shards of simulacra from an imaginary
whose remote-controlled reproductive organs they have become.

'The air in the spraying and colouring department was filled with paint dust and smelled
sourly of chemicals ± acetone, ethylene, trichloride, benzene ± and hurt her throat [...]
she had to paint one every 7.2 seconds ± 4,000 a day [...] the air was fuzzy with fibrous
dust and the smell of burning plastic.'[7]

Severed from family and culture, economically immobilised, plagued by toxic allergies,
headaches and blurred vision,[8] circumscribed by a battery of disciplinary injunctions,
they sweat fear and resignation as they anticipate another day decorating the assault
vehicles of imaginary armies under the minutely-attentive gaze of their uniformed
supervisors. Passing beneath the gates of the manufacturing compound, they cast an
uncomprehending but rueful glance at the emblem that arches overhead: A candy-
coloured rainbow topped by two bulbous, maniacally-grinning cartoon slapheads:
CHAPSBROŒ ± 'Making the World Smile.'

We are not necessarily in the realm of the childs toy, but that of a demographic
ostensibly responsive to different criteria. When, in 1997, Hornby's Great British
trainset empire, which had blossomed thanks to postwar distaste for the finely-
engineered and formerly hegemonic German brands,[9] evacuated their Margate factory
(now slated for redevelopment as a 'heritage centre') to shift production to China, they
reinvested the cost-savings in 'more quality and detail and [...] more product' for their
now 70 percent adult customer base.[10] 'We have to [...] give them a product that is
clearly acceptable as an adult purchase and doesn't trivialize the interest. So the
dimensional accuracy and the decoration and so on has to be absolutely spot on ± they're
very discerning.'[11] 'Fucking Hell' is precisely a collectable for the discerning, a
Franklinstein for the Minted; But also an H0-gauge branch-line for Bataille's locomotive
whose wheels and pistons give parodic expression to the perpetual, frenzied motion of a
world defined by 'two primary motions of rotation and sexual movement'[12] (the
terrestrial orb as a 'fucking hell').

'There have been countless conflicts in which large swathes of urban cityscapes have
been reduced to hardcore. Representing them in model form has always been a
challenge. Using Exactoscale brick papers, it shouldn't be too difficult to make quite a
number of damaged buildings.'[13]
The eagerness with which, before the ashes of 2000's oven-ready 'Hell' had cooled,
work began on this new model dwarfing its predecessor in scale, ambition, and sheer
futility, only attests to the inevitability with which every serious hobbyist's quest for
'every conceivable detail ... super-detail ... superb realism ... intricate detailing ...
Intricately detailed beyond ... wildest dreams'[14] continually menaces 'real life' with its
cancerous little empires. 'There is an old saying in the hobby that a model railway
layout is never finished ... there is no end to what you can do ... Newcomers to the
hobby soon find out that layouts and models, even in the relatively small 00 gauge, take
up more space than they imagined.'[15] After only 30 man-years of labour on the part of
their long-suffering assistants, it goes without saying that announcement of the
'completion' of CHAPSBROŒ's latest work is somewhat arbitrary. Nazis vs mutants ±
'The whole subject is infinitely interesting, with endless ramifications and
applications.'[16]

Already in works such as the compendious 'All of Our Ideas For The Next Twenty
Years' (1997) CHAPSBROΠsouped up the combinatorial engine of cryptozoological
inanity evidenced in the sketches of Bosch,[17] as he extrapolates the tragic anatomies,
rudely-fashioned prosthetics and ambulatory contrivances of quadriplegic tinkers into
enough new lines of slavering hellspawn to furnish the covers of Slayer albums for
years to come. CHAPSBROŒ's demons,assembled from a contemporary imagination
well-stocked by two centuries of ever more refined atrocity, are deployed in their garden
of delights with little allegorical ceremony. Pace the enigmatic symbolism of Bosch's
hellscapes, this universe of pain has nothing to tell us; It aims at an infinite
intensification of the plague-logic recorded by CHAPSBROΠspar Goya: 'Rightly or
wrongly ± the same; one can't tell why ± nor in this case; I saw it ± and this too; they
don't like it ± neither do they ± nor do these ...' Ironic, amplificative or conjunctive, the
impassive iterations cross over physical, social and partisan lines, and from horror into
horrified laughter, indicating that behind Goya's edifying pageant of atrocities lurks a
Sadean fascination with the senseless fury of which it affords a glimpse.

Breaking through negation as a 'partial process' compromised by its submission to


military directive or natural law and binding the violent act to some projected
refecundation, Sade's ultra-violent appropriation of the Kantian theory of Ideas has the
cold light of reason tease the libertine with a 'primary nature' of the purest violence,
tantalisingly unattainable through mere local infractions unless, possibly, through a
concerted 'apathetic repetition' that would 'reverberate' to infinity.[18] 'Fucking Hell'
represents 'a further effort' towards the perpetration of such a 'perfect crime' in miniature,
a listless vision of eternal return as the perpetual motion of total war gone loco,
counteracting indefinitely any congelation on the 'political' plane. This is worse.

It is also a crime against art, the relentless pursuit of the hobbyist's petty mania on an
industrial scale continuing a campaign against the hygienic narrative of modern art, by
toying with the venerable notion of the readymade. Dismembering, reconfiguring and
painstakingly painting tens of thousands of miniature bodies, CHAPSBROŒ's
production-line for 'extreme rectification' elevates a parodically zombified form of what
Duchamp denounced as the 'olfactory masturbation' of the 'stupid painter'[19] into an
artisanal Apocalypse Now (I love the smell of Humbrol in the morning). Where the
campaign against the 'retinal' subordinated eye to decisive mind, here a simultaneous
'scopophilia'[20] and 'phobia of ocularity'[21] employs every signifier of intensity to
assemble a crawling-all-over nullity - Gluesniffing noses no longer pressed up against
the glass of the 'shop window' looking for 'proof of existence of the world outside'
art[22] in the shape of 'real' (authentically functional) objects ± a shovel, a bicycle wheel,
a bottlerack ± to give a hand up in the world; For there is only outside=inside, selections
made from a virtual multitude pullulating in a bacterial dance of zygotic acceleration
upon an 'inorganic and disorganised [...] labyrinthine skin',[23] a moebian rollercoaster,
a delirious modulation of miscegenated phyla opposing itself to the 'closed theatre' of
'the representative [white] cube'[24] and its 'critical' debates. Duchamp's 'infra-thin'
passage from virgin to bride,[25] consummated by the institutionally-sealed name of the
artist, gives way to an 'ultra-thick', labour-intensive combinatorial explosion, seeking
only to make things worse, to bring them down in the world. An accelerated and
interminable product development cycle detached from all economic imperatives auto-
bricolages new, abominable conjunctions, materialising 'dyslexic disruptions' and
gruesome bad jokes. The name comes only at the end: No longer misreadable as
heralding a portentous portrait of the underworld, it is outburst not moral orientation,
expletive rather than nominative. Here too, it is 'the viewer who finishes the work', with
an exclamation: 'Fucking Hell!'

A crime against interpretation: 'This shit doesn't make sense, it's impossible to read'.
Between the two of us, art in the third person is of no significance. It already involves a
crowd (What a mistake to have ever said 'the' Chapmans). CHAPSBROΠ(multiple-it)
is decomposed of viciously deformed matters, distributed according to a scatter-logic
that is 'radial'[26] or 'at least lattice rather than linear',[27] relayed 'more by compulsion
than by inspiration'[28] in the manner of an exquisitely-accelerated corpsing between
terms whose duplicity affords the product an 'automatic illegitimacy.'[29] Its use of the
gallery as a 'control environment'[30] for experiments in heteromorality nourishes the
suspicion that some invidious contrivance, some unnatural assemblage is at work. Well
known for working over subjects which disagree with it, it is too clever by half, refuses
to shed symptoms, neither exhibiting nor soliciting shame or guilt. In general, a
problematic charge whose account of its parentage is contaminated by horror flicks and
incontinental theorising.

CHAPSBROŒ's assemblage of readymade virtual part-objects offers up absolutely no


'raw facts' for psychoanalytical grilling. And since both constitute self-legitimating
integral productions of their own reflexively-processed delirium, unverifiable through
any external referent,[31] the artwork cannot be 'judged' by psychoanalysis, whose
principles it has in any case long since absorbed and variously rectified. Terminating
their 'interminable reciprocal deconstruction'[32] entails foregoing any therapeutic
'working through' in favour of a point-by-point 'heuristic parallelism' operating through
'loose couplings' between singular points of the two heterogeneous series.
CHAPSBROΠclearly aligns itself in such 'couplings' with (1) librarian Bataille's
expulsion for shit-stirring the surrealists by refusing to anticipate any
revelation/revolution (id has nothing to tell us) and collapsing Breton's puerile
oneiroscape into the horrors of base materialism (Big Boss's attempted 'cure': you-think-
you've-escaped-but-thinking-belongs-to-Kuntrol) (2) Schizoanalysis[33] of an
heterogeneous unconscious that is no longer subjective, but machinic, libidinal, social,
transhistorical, and in the process of being catastrophically decoded by Kapital. No less
than Koons' (1999-2000) 'Easyfun-Ethereal' assemblages of 'Hair with Cheese'
(themselves channelling Ernst's inconscience-fictional collages prophesying that 'les
images s'abaisseront jusqu'au sol'),[34] CHAPSBROŒ's marauding mutant hordes
generously assemble and offer up for guilt-free enjoyment aspects of the bourgeois
imaginary usually simultaneously satisfied and disavowed. Where Koons unwraps
kitsch from its prophylactic wrapper of irony, CHAPSBROΠoffer a playground of
ultra-violence without didactic value, modelled on subcultural products (horror film,
death metal, fantasy wargames) distinguished mostly by their zero cultural cachet,
tastelessness and relish for violence. But despite CHAPSBROŒ's conviction that the
kind of images that adorn the covers of schoolboys' exercise books and metal albums
also inhabit the 'Lurid Dreams of my Bank Manager' (1999), they offer no redemption,
no solution but only an intensification of the problem. No utopian reconciliation with
our disavowed dreams (Koons unashamedly CheeriosŒ-venerating future aristocracy).
For CHAPSBROŒ's invitation, not content with ushering in banality, more
problematically exposes and espouses the cohabitation of banality with our precious
moral touchstones.

A crime against morality: CHAPSBROŒ-Goya's first merger, 1993's diminutive


'Disasters of War', along with its death-size counterpart 'Great Deeds Against the Dead',
indicated this path, one which diverges significantly from 'Insult to Injury's (2003)
masked intensifications. In the 1993 'Disasters' Goya is belittled and inertialised, the
obscene imagery broken out of its reverential art-historical frame and reduced to a
miniature technicolor diorama. The orgiastic representation lavished on these minutely-
detailed setpieces 'suggests' nothing, determination down to the last millimetre creating
a brittle carapace of intensity wrapped around a rotted-out core. 'The commander and
wounded crewman are [...] beautifully sculptured [...] note the extra tears added to the
trousers by the author'.[35] As moral force is asphyxiated under the weight of detail,
prurience is at once exposed and frustrated, leaving you asking what it was that you
wanted more of, and reaching for shock to comfort yourself.

The macroform of 'Fucking Hell' perfectly encapsulates the dynamic: The swastika,
which runs through the cultural unconscious like writing through a stick of seaside rock,
a shorthand emblem for the holocaust ± itself 'a token that permits rapid concord',[36] a
cipher for the compact that binds us in moral solidarity, standing for the common
knowledge that we have all 'learnt our lessons' ('as if mass death were a morality
play')[37] ± it engenders an anticipation of something agreeably salutary, a further prop
for the cult of self-satisfied memorialisation. But no ± there is nothing, or too much, to
see. 'We have such sights to show you'.[38] Rather than using the rubrics of historical
singularity and incomparability to 'block perception',[39] 'Fucking Hell' overloads it
with an excessive yet vacuous slaughter. Something vaguer, diffuse and portentous,
would have been more welcome. But rather than monumental mausolea and palaces of
remembrance, CHAPSBROŒ's mourning is modelled on that of the child survivors of
year zero drone violence who, after the fall of Khmer, turned the notorious Tuol Sleng
prison into a hot tourist spot, bricolaging gaudy souvenirs out of collected human skulls,
cheerful reminders of genocidal absurdity more apt than any number of starchitected,
tastefully-conceptual holocaust edutainment centres.

Supplying enough to whet the appetite for a good compassion-workout in other people's
misery (but, as it continues to ask, how much would not be enough?), CHAPSBROŒ
refuses to follow through either with elevating conceptual gestures that would serve as
conduits for token exchange of 'deeply-felt compassion', or deliciously suggestive
chiaroscuro that would allow us to indulge our fantasies. (You could try photocopying
the catalogue photos again and again until, lost in inky blackness, you could almost
believe the bodies were real ... You get a bit of what you wanted). But no matter how
neurotically inert the presentation, or how unreal the landscape upon which we are
invited to exercise the imagination, its reception, so it seems, only repeatedly attests to
the überbrands' power to hair-trigger the moral reflexes. Ultimately CHAPSBROŒ's
invitation is one we cannot take up: As concord crashes and burns, our autopilot turns
kamikaze, the promise of liberation is converted into a convulsion, moral identity
exposed as problematic tension by the ensuing laughter. Geology of Morals: The molten
core beneath the physiologically-encrusted character-armour of civilized consensus
boils up in seismic waves, ejaculating lava that immediately cools into uncomfortable
scabs that we can't help scratching and scratching and scratching until they bleed again.

Van Driessen: Y'know, this could be a really positive experience for you guys. There's a
wonderful and exciting world out there waiting out there when you discover that we
don't need TV to entertain us
Butthead: Huhuhurrr ... he said 'anus'
Beavis: he, heheheh ... entertain us, anus.
Van Driessen: Have you guys heard a word I said?
Butthead: Uuuhhh ... yeah: anus.
± Beavis and Butthead do America[40]

Professor: Name two pronouns.


Student: Who, me?
Professor: According to the market, you are right.
± Economist's joke

A crime against critique: As Picarseholé's 1937 strip 'Dreams and Lies' vied with the
Spanish civil war reprise of Goya's 'Disasters', Turing was busy tinkering with his little
machines, infinite ticker-tape nightmares whose 'states of mind' are recorded by a
'computer' = 'person working in a desultory manner', a tireless idiot juggling zeros and
ones, the warp and weft that in its fateful collision with the abstract general equivalent
would accelerate the Locke-in of a 'second nature' for which too much is never enough,
the unhooking of markets from utility. There Will Be Blood, count on it. 010101
recarpets the tungsten-carbide stomach,[41] making for a surface more conducive to
slipups and bad jokes than to a firm footing.

Dare you to enjoy the jokes, refuse to learn your lessons or grow up ... Adhering to the
letter of the masochistic contract whereby the artist repeatedly nails its pinhead audience
by assaulting them with more and more shit, on the understanding that they will have
been improved and edified by licking it up, CHAPSBROΠleaves us to fabricate our
own legitimations (or to consume them readymade from the Tate's white labels). But it
leaves open another choice: Refuse the supposedly predestined process through which
'disgust [...] shame and the claims of aesthetic and moral ideals'[42] ensure the
economic subordination of the infantile to organic adult destiny, as reproductive-
historical 'end-pleasure' transcends the enjoyment of what is now retroduced as 'fore-
pleasure', an 'incentive bonus'[43] orienting us towards the demands of perpetuity. If the
reasonable demands of everyday neurosis, endemic depression and culturally-
sanctioned habitual child-abuse must necessarily cast perversion retrospectively as a
'peculiarly archaic'[44] throwback to a 'primaeval period'[45] or 'prehistoric epoch'[46]
(see CHAPSBROΠplayset 'Hell Sixty-Five Million Years BC' [2004-5]), conversely
every good pervert must betray history and finality, fail critique, and relapse, playing
with his toys in debasement of Geist, continually bringing things down whilst refusing
to help with the foundations. Just as two-faced kunt Karl found his better half ± old
bearded prosecutor Marx ± unable to finish his case against Kapitalism, unable to
achieve the critical coupling with excitable little-girl Marx, unable to put to death 'the
polymorphous perversity of capital' in order to give birth to 'child-socialism':[47] He
pursued the prosecution interminably, endlessly playing with himself and toying with
the defendant.

Finally, to resist or 'critique' the absurd theatre of the art-world itself would be just more
risible vanity. 'No need to do a critique of metaphysics (or of political economy, which
is the same thing), since critique presupposes and ceaselessly creates this very same
theatricality; rather be inside and forget it, that's the position of the death drive.'[48] No
question of 'testing the limits' or sneaking near enough the engine of redemption to piss
in its fuel tank. If there is only outside=inside, then it is a question neither of averting
nor assuring recuperation. Nor of entryism, since the institution is a perfect host body,
with a tungsten-carbide stomach, always hungry, never afflicted by indigestion.
Legitimation by the progressively-minded trustees of culture=neurosis is only ever a
matter of time, and the shock-absorbing metabolic memory-core always has time on its
side. Sad forebodings of what is to come: 'Fucking Hell' will Frieze over. As collectable,
it conforms to the criteria it systematically exposes as neurotic dissimulations of the
cruel, dismembering virtuality of childs play, prehistoric delirium of hyperkapital.
Desperately clinging to any excuse to carry on playing the game whilst protesting it's all
educashunal, the lobsters squeal to the broth: 'Tell us what to think next'. And
CHAPSBROŒ, on new orders from 'the organic body, organized with survival as its
goal against what excites it to death',[49] retools the factory of the unconscious to churn
out a million high-quality 1:87 scale fully-posable action-packed varieties of feculent
hellspawn.

ENDNOTES

[1] Nick Land, 'ziigothiC±==X=CoDA==±(CooKing±lobsters±with±jAKe±AnD-


Dinos)', in 'Chapmanworld' (ICA, London 1996)

[2] 'Toys of Misery: A Report on the Toy Industry of China', National Labor Committee,
Jan. 2002. At

[3] E. Clark, 'The Real Toy Story: Inside the Ruthless Battle for Britain's Youngest
Consumers' (Random House/Black Swan, London 2007), p.211

[4] Ibid., p.253

[5] Ibid., p.211

[6] Ibid., p.258

[7] Ibid., p.267, p.270

[8] Ibid., p.258

[9] C. Ellis, 'The Hornby Book of Model Railways '(Navigator Guides, Melton
Constable 2007), p.13 [10] E. Clark, 'The Real Toy Story', p.284; 'Model Executive Puts
Hornby Back On Track', 'The Guardian', 21 December 2007

[11] Clark, Op. cit., p.176

[12] G. Bataille, 'The Solar Anus', 'Visions of Excess', trans. A. Stoekl (University of
Minnesota Press, Minneapolis 1985), p.6

[13] P. Allen, 'Hitler, Stalin and Brickpaper', 'Wargames Illustrated', 246, April 2008.

[14] Ellis, 'op. cit.', p.23, p.49, p.91, p.110

[15] Ibid., p.vii

[16] Ibid., p.11

[17] See C. de Tolnay, 'Hieronymous Bosch', trans M. Bullock and H. Mins (Methuen,
London 1966): pp. 314 -16

[18] See P. Klossowski, 'Sade My Neighbour', trans. A. Lingis (Northwestern


University Press, Evanston, Ill. 1991); G. Deleuze, 'Masochism: Coldness and Cruelty',
trans. J. McNeil (Zone, New York 1989), Ch. 2

[19] See T. de Duve, 'Pictorial Nominalism', trans. D. Polan (University of Minnesota


Press, Minneapolis 1991)

[20] 'We Are Artists', 1991: 'We are sore-eyed scopophiliac oxymorons'

[21] J. Chapman & S. Baker, 'Jake Chapman on Georges Bataille: an Interview with
Simon Baker', 'Papers of Surrealism', Winter 2003
[22] M. Duchamp, 'à l'infinitif / in the infinitive', trans. J. Matisse, R. Hamilton, E. Bonk.
(the typosophic society, 1999), p.5

[23] J.F. Lyotard, 'Libidinal Economy', trans. I.H.Grant (Athlone, London 1993), p. 4

[24] Ibid., Interpolation mine

[25] See T. de Duve, Op. cit, Ch. 2

[26] L. Head & D. Barrett (ed.), 'New Art Up-Close 3': 'Jake and Dinos Chapman
'(Royal Jelly Factory, London 2007), p.7

[27] Chapman and Baker, Op. cit

[28] Jake Chapman, 'I'd Like to have Stepped on Goya's Toes', 'Tate etc'. Issue 8,
Autumn 2006.

[29] Jake and Dinos Chapman, M. Lippiatt interview, at

[30] Chapman and Baker, Op. cit

[31] de Duve, Op. cit., p.7

[32] de Duve, Op. cit., p.37

[33] See G. Deleuze, F. Guattari, 'Anti-Oedipus:Capitalism and Schizophrenia', trans.


Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen R. Lane (University of Minnesota Press,
Minneapolis 1983)

[34] 'La femme 100 têtes,' 1929. On CHAPSBOROŒ and Ernst, see P. Osborne 'From
Whole to Parts and Back Again: The Chapman Brothers' Surrealism, Reworked and
Improved', C. Townsend (ed.), 'The Art of Jake & Dinos Chapman', Thames and
Hudson, forthcoming

[35] N. Petroni, 'Last Stand at Stalingrad', 'Model Military International', Issue 24, April
2008

[36] W. Sofsky, 'The Order of Terror: The Concentration Camp', trans. W. Templer
(Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ 1996), p.6

[37] Ibid., p.5

[38] 'Hellraiser', New World Pictures 1987, Dir. Clive Barker

[39] Sofsky, Op. cit., p.9

[40] Paramount Pictures, Dir. Mike Judge, 1996


[41] 'Modern society is a stomach carpeted with tungsten-carbide a very expensive
stomach where discourses and figures are used up turn to dust come to reinforce the
barrier they claimed to erode [...] the stomach turns your words and your images into
commodities an identity critique even hate are incorporated' J.F. Lyotard, 'Dérive à
partir de marx et freud '(Union Générale d'Éditions, Paris 1973), p.31

[42] S. Freud, 'Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality', J. Strachey (trans. J. Strachey,
ed. A. Richards) 'On Sexuality' (Penguin, London 1977), p.93

[43] Ibid., p.118

[44] Ibid., p.118'

[45] Ibid., p.88

[46] Ibid., p.91

[47] Lyotard, Op.cit., pp.97-8

[48] Ibid., p.3

[49] Ibid., p.2


Text from 'Fucking Hell', published by Jay Jopling / White Cube, (London), 2008
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