Fries with a dis­tinctly bad taste

In the first of a new se­ries ex­am­in­ing art with Jewish sub­ject mat­ter, Ju­lia Weiner looks at the grue­some work of the Chap­man brothers

The Jewish Chronicle - - ARTS & BOOKS -

Tor­ture, vi­o­lence and death sub­ject have pro­vided artists with pow­er­ful sub­jects for cen­turies, with paint­ings of Chris­tian saints and mar­tyrs un­der­go­ing ev­ery imag­in­able form of tor­ture fill­ing Catholic churches around the world.

Even with this his­tory, how­ever, the work of brothers Jake and Di­nos Chap­man is par­tic­u­larly un­set­tling and chal­leng­ing. Over the past 15 years, they have re­peat­edly ex­plored themes of war and vi­o­lence and the hu­man ca­pac­ity for bar­bar­ity.

Per­haps their best-known work on this theme was Hell (1999-2000), which took over two years to com­plete.

Us­ing thou­sands of tiny mod­els, the Chap­mans cre­ated a night­mare vi­sion of mur­der and mu­ti­la­tion in which fig­ures dressed in Nazi uni­forms ap­peared to be ex­ter­mi­nated in their own camps.

The work was di­vided into nine dif­fer­ent tableaux, grouped so that they formed the shape of a swastika.

Many found it in poor taste, lit­er­ally be­lit­tling the hor­rors of the Ho- lo­caust, but oth­ers sug­gested that the Chap­mans were show­ing how in­ured to mass mur­der we have be­come.

Hell, which be­longed to Charles Saatchi, was de­stroyed in a ware­house fire in 2004. Al­though the Chap­mans are re­build­ing it, ap­par­ently even big­ger, it is not ready for their cur­rent ex­hi­bi­tion Bad Art for Bad Peo­ple at Tate Liver­pool. How­ever, a num­ber of smaller re­lated works are on show.

An­other theme that the Chap­mans ex­plore is how Amer­i­can con­sumerism, rep­re­sented by McDon­ald’s, is per­vad­ing our cul­ture. Their Ar­beit McFries shows a mas­sacre tak­ing place in front of a fast-food store which bears an Auschwitz-like chim­ney. The Chap­mans are hardly noted for their good taste, but this ti­tle is par­tic­u­larly crass, even by their stan­dards.

How­ever, in a week when The JC re­vealed that al­most a third of younger peo­ple in this coun­try were not sure if the Holo­caust hap­pened, two fash­ion­able young artists bring­ing images of Auschwitz into a world they can recog­nise may be no bad thing. Jake and Di­nos Chap­man: Bad Art for Bad Peo­ple con­tin­ues at Tate Liver­pool un­til March 4, 2007

Above: the Chap­man Brothers’ Ar­beit McFries. Be­low: de­tail from the same art­work, which shows a scene of car­nage at the en­trance of a McDon­ald’s restau­rant

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