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Flogging A Dead Horse

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Jake Chapman

Time for subversion.

Today we're filming with iconoclast Jake Chapman.  Brothers Jake and Dinos are sculptors, printmakers, and installation artists who work together as a duo.  The brothers collaborated with Wire, the subject of forthcoming feature People In A Film.  

The twenty-first century has not only seen Wire producing some of their finest music, it’s also seen them executing some of their most audacious non-rock manoeuvres, including a multi-media collaboration with YBA artists Jake and Dinos Chapman.  The end result; a live performance featuring films of a brightly clad exercise team doing rigorous work-outs choreographed to the music of Wire at the Barbican's Only Connect.  Brothers Jake and Dinos Chapman juxtaposed Wire's hallowed Pink Flag with inane, smiling, sweaty youngsters doing step workouts on a projected backdrop.

Today we're interviewing Jake with Graham Duff.

Jake and Dinos Chapman are leading British contemporary artists who came to prominence during the 1990s.  Having graduated from the Royal College of Art in London in 1990, their first critical success was Disasters of War, a diorama-like sculptural piece comprised of reclaimed plastic figurines arranged to resemble the scene from the Goya painting of the same name.  The Chapman brothers worked as assistants for Gilbert and George; despite this connection, the two sets of artists work in distinctly different styles.  The work of the brothers Chapman is often darkly humorous, hostile, and subversive, and the artists are cited as describing viewers’ laughter and reaction to their works as more significant than the work itself.  The Chapmans have created a substantial, highly intelligent and challenging body of work that addresses the very heart of human experience and moral behaviour. 


In addition to their dioramas, the Chapmans are known for their mannequin-like sculptural works, which often resemble conjoined Barbie dolls and feature genitalia in unexpected places. By finding inspiration in both high culture and mass culture, such as Hieronymus Bosch and McDonald’s fast food, the Chapmans bring both gravity and comedy to their work. Their art has been exhibited in venues around the world, such as the Gagosian Gallery in New York, the White Cube Gallery and Tate Britain in London, the Triumph Gallery in Moscow, and MoMA's PS1 Contemporary Art Center in New York, among many others. The artists live and work in London which is where we're meeting Jake today.

Jake and Dinos interrogate what we value as art, questioning the widely held view that the purpose of art is to be morally redemptive or socially edifying. They ask us to consider what we see as good or bad art – whether 'bad' art really is made by or for bad people – and to probe the assumptions that underlie established aesthetic criteria. They frequently employ subversive strategies through which they question the role of the artist and the complicity of the viewing audience.

The Chapmans' art is characterised by scepticism, parody and irreverence. It combines a vast range of influences, drawn from philosophy, critical theory, psychoanalysis, art history and popular culture.  Their work engages with controversial issues including the human capacity for barbarity, war and violence, the 'banality of evil' in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and the perpetual human preoccupation with mortality.  It also addresses the transgressive realities of bodily existence as manifested in plastic surgery, genetic manipulation and cloning.  A number of works tackle our assumptions about sex and sexuality, including the presumed innocence and asexuality of children, and the proximity between sex and death.  Through an aesthetics of horror and disgust, they deal with the instability of moral and ideological belief systems, particularly those founded on eighteenth century Enlightenment thought, Christianity or consumerism.  Another recurrent theme is the concept of originality, the validity of aesthetic appropriation and thus the nature of artistic creation itself. The painstaking craftsmanship and evident graphic facility exhibited in their work is played off against their tendency to endlessly recycle (their own and others') ideas.