Always outnumbered. Generally overdresssed.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I like the Chapman Brothers - a few months ago I had the day off and it was one of those strange, magical days off when you feel like you're really getting one over on the world. I went to see their sculpture "Fucking Hell" at the White Cube and found it both hilarious and moving. It combined many of my interests: Nazis, gore, model making, to name but a few. Later that day I saw Beck in the street with his wife and baby - I got his autograph - not because I really wanted his autograph, but just that I might once have done, and I wanted a record of my non-excitement. It was that kind of day.

Anyway Jake Chapman (the handsome Chapman), has published a book and a friend took me along to see him talk to Dinos Chapman about it at the ICA.

The book is more or less unreadable - it's like Mills and Boon written by a comittee of the criminally insane. It doesn't work like a normal book, because it's written with a different set of criteria in mind - art criteria, not literary criteria. It's all form, zero communication. Every sentence is designed to negate itself, for instance, "she took to therapy like a duck to water, and her therapist's questions rolled of her like water off a ducks back" - which doesn't help you see anything - I mean it looks like it might, but then slaps you in the face. Chapman likened it to "teasing children with sweets". Obviously this quickly becomes appalling, and then keeps going, something like the literary version of one of their sculptures. I didn't buy a copy, but I appreciated it as an idea. I often feel that way about artists, I'm glad someone is doing it, and feel relieved I don't have to participate.

What I found really interesting though, was that as Jake Chapman went on and on describing his book, the process of writing it, it emerged that, although he was trying to see it as an art exercise, he'd begun to think of himself as a writer. And all the stuff he was talking about, the pain of composition, the anxiety about the book's reception, was just banal Radio 4 writerly stuff. So while he imagined himself as this alien enfant terrible let loose on a dozing literary scene, corrupting the very form of the novel, what had actually happened was quite the opposite - the novel seemed to have corrupted him.

The other thing that I like about the Chapmans is that they're millionaires. And that Dinos spends his spare time in his basement cutting together footage from to grindcore soundtracks.

There are two artist brothers, the Braithwaites, in the Will Self's excellent novel "Great Apes" who I think are based on the Chapmans. And the artist protagonist of that book is producing something that looks a lot like a 2D version of "Fucking Hell".

There are only a few ideas I suppose, you just have to wait for your turn with them.

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