Thursday, April 07, 2005

Perverting bodies

Has it ever occurred to you the new art scene often seems like some sick playground?
If it hasn't, it might now.

Welcome to the generation of the deranged, disgusting and perverted kids. To the artists that turn people into monsters from a child's nightmare and exploit every possible aweful fantasy one could have in works which make the word "play" sound scary.
Say goodbye to the harmonious universe where goodness meets beauty meets truth. Adieu, Apollo. Hello, Dionysos. Hello, Mr. Freud.

Paul McCarthy is probably the most known of the disgracers.
Born in 1945, he has created works in many means and many styles, but remains associated to the triumphantly scatological and nauseating games he played with many of his heroes.
McCarthy admits he finds the label "shock artist" confusing. "I can't say my pieces were ever directed at trying to shock an audience. (...) At the time that I was making [those early works], I felt I was trying to deal with certain issues and that it was somehow a kind of language to discuss something. It was never a desire to shock in the sense of shock as entertainment. If anything, I was trying to make pieces that were potent rather than shocking, or trying to make pieces that would cause a reaction or do something real."

Whatever his reasons, McCarthy certainly knows he is shocking. The mockery sometimes makes me think of the medieval fabliaux, or of Gargantua and Pantagruel, in the way it explores new ways of being naughty in art.

If you thought this was extreme, try the Chapman brothers. No, not these Chapman brothers. Those:

Dinos and Jake Chapman also go beyond their "perverted series". They have, for instance, played around with pop culture

in various ways

Dinos and Jake Chapman (described better in this article and this critical comment) always underline that in their "body perversions" they were not interested as much in the perversion as such, and much more in the possible forms of a body, and what comes of it. Nonetheless, the two have clearly read the whole Freud library, since they quote him every second sentence - and the falluses and anuses abound. Is it fun? Well, I guess I'm too repressed to feel it as something truly entertaining. There is something surprizingly academic, thought-out about it. But it does show us how far we are from being truly "open-minded", and how useful our taboos can be. At least they allow the artists to brake them.
Here is an interesting (though quite fafarafa) interview with the Chapman brothers.
Some comments: They say:
The body can be jettisoned beyond identity, ostensibly because it is obsolete.
If it were really obsolete, there 1) wouldn't be a sculptor to make it; 2) wouldn't be anything for the artist to play with.
Not a provocation, but a convulsion; simply a convulsion.
I agree. And the spectators - all of us, also on the internet - are peeping Johns. Because we want it to be a provocation. We are the criminals, since we are attracted by the result of a convulsion, and we are fully aware of its obscenity.
"the offense of the demolition of man" simply details the terror of pure pleasure.
The verb "details" hides the fact that by signing the work as a work of art, you go beyond description or provocation - you actually create a (positive, not only critical) object.
Our work makes hallucination palatable for non-narcotic users. We associate psychosis, particularly Freud's melancholic clinical, pathological version, with Kant's aesthetic sublime.
As a philosophy graduate I can assure you they didn't need to add Kant here - it could have been explained in much simpler terms. This sounds fishy - and it will come to no surprize that the Chapman brothers were for some time assistants to Gilbert & George, the self-assumed con (genial) artists.
If you're still not sure what to think of it, here is an artfacts version:
The Chapmans’ sculptures of mutated children are possible by-products of gene tampering, nuclear spills, or cloning experiments gone horribly awry. Whatever the evil, it’s not the children’s’ fault: they’re placid, angelic creatures who seem to take no notice that they have 4 legs, or 12 heads, or genitals for a face. If they’re disturbing, that’s the viewer’s hang-up. The children themselves seem to relish their strange beauty, know that they’re one-of-a-kinds: each one having been made by hand in the artists’ studio.

And if you think artists can only get away with all this because they are famous, here is a recent discovery of mine: Johnny Beinart's work.

If you still think all this is sick, here is an answer, brought to you by the Chapman brothers:
While Humanists hate toilets they love to be disgusted. This elevation is flattering but dubious. The excremental cannot be re-fertilized to procure use-value. Repression is only an accessory to pleasure.


~ said...

This is oddly fascinating.

Have you ever heard of Istvan Kantor? Something about the nature of this post reminded me of him.

Hans said...

All of the Chapman- Stuff I found allways the biggest rubbish. I found it great that they didnt get the Turnerprize. How could they even become nominated ?

This stuff will be soon forgotten.


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