Jake and Dinos Chapman have always been perceived as an inseparable sibling duo but as they open their latest show today on their familiar Shoreditch stomping-ground they’ve made like a banana and split. With double the debauchery, twice the salaciousness and a bucket-load of charged messages the exhibition offers a glimpse into the distinct mindsets of creative Britain’s most unabashed brothers.
On meeting Jake Chapman at 11am at the White Cube, Mason’s Yard, it seems little wonder he wants to fast-forward to the opening night’s festivities at White Cube Hoxton, considering the morning’s draining circus of film crews, paps and interviews. Everyone’s here to see the new exhibition from Jake and brother Dinos, who decided to work apart for the past year, but are now co-presenting their latest show with its familiar, but still controversial use of swastikas, penises and child mannequins.
Downstairs at Mason’s Yard, there’s a shock of black SS skeletons variously eyeing up artworks, the victims of loose-bowelled birds and in various states of copulation (more on this later). They’re exceedingly camp, eerily present and a clear comment on critics and gallery-goers, who won’t be flattered by the comparison. As if the soldiers don’t hit nerves enough, round the corner in the lift lobby, a Ku Klux Klan figure with hippy knitwear and sandals under his white robe has a massive tented stiffy as he looks at the comedy-monstrous scenes of an old oil painting that the brothers have delicately defaced.
Over at White Cube Hoxton, child mannequins with beaks, trunks and snouts (a development from the phallic noses of previous works) gather around a painting as if on a sweet school-trip, but their black uniforms, again recalling the SS, show their school credo “They Teach Us Nothing” written around the Nazi symbol. Upstairs, kitsch models of Jesus, Mary and little angels are made bloody and demonic. The eternal symbols of good and bad are brought out and messed with. It’s provocative, disturbing and at times funny. i-D online spoke to Jake and Dinos to get more of a picture and fill in the gaps.
You said you were worried that this show would be a catastrophe. Do you think it has been?
J: Yeah, a disaster. It’s alright. It’s kind of more of the same, isn’t it? Same shit, different toilet.
Did you think it’d be a catastrophe, Dinos?
D: No, I’m much more optimistic than Jake. I knew it was going to be a catastrophe. It’s always a catastrophe.
You’ve said that when you work together you dispute things and fight over ideas. Did you miss that this time round?
J: Not really, I was fighting myself. Have a debate, then masturbate.
D: The thing is, we’ve been working together for so long, it’s a bit like when you cut a chicken’s head off and it still runs around. We’ve got our ideas that still rattle around in our heads. It’s not as if you think, “All that stuff I’ve been doing with Jake, I don’t want to do any of that. There’s all this other stuff I really want to do!” It’s a nice fantasy, but actually the reality is that you are more involved in it than you imagine.
How come you continue to use the swastika in your work?
J: Well, it’s become part of our palette.
D: It’s a symbol that everyone understands.
J: They’re the transcendent baddies aren‘t they? They’re bad for all time, like Jesus is good for all time.
Tell us about the defecating pigeon…
D: It’ll be shitting as long as the show’s on.
So the floor’s going to be covered?
D: Yeah, there’ll be a lot of it. In fact, I haven’t really thought how much shit there will be, but there will be a lot. The Nazi that’s being shat on will be covered.
Jake or Dinos Chapman, White Cube Mason’s Yard and Hoxton Square, London open until 17 September 2011.