Wednesday, 22 September 2010
I quite like being frightened in some ways. Not terror probably. Just enough of the frighteners to remind me that nothing's for certain, nothing's really known. I reckon it's good for me. I'm starting to think certainty is an illusion and an unhealthy one at that. In a funny way I like to be reminded how thin is the line between life and death, between things being predictable and comfortable and things being in a state of total chaos. And that however uncomfortable we might be with that there's nothing we can do about it. No amount of extortionate insurance policies or anti-aging creams will protect us from life. Or death. Remembering that teaches me a bit of respect I think, and a bit of compassion somehow.
I was driving up the M6 with my Dad last week-end when he told me the story of a mini-bus carrying a football team back home after an away match one winter's evening. A couple of the players needed to pee so the mini-bus pulled over on the hard shoulder. They got out and hopped over the railing onto what they thought was the grass verge. But the mini-bus had stopped on the Thelwell viaduct. Three healthy young blokes vaulted over the railings to a 100 foot drop into the freezing cold waters of the River Mersey and were carried away to their deaths.
The other month my triathlete friend asked me to write a children's story for her to illustrate for her daughter.
"Oh yippee skip," I said, "as long as it can be something really grisly and gory."
"Well" she said, "I'd been thinking more along the lines of Slinkey Malinki, but I knew I could count on you to come up with something off the beaten track."
I was just about to embark upon my don't-give-up-the-day-job new career as the Bridget Jones era's answer to the Brothers Grimm when, to my vague disgruntlement, I stumbled upon the latest offering of those other infamously gruesome siblings, the ultimate Generation X frontmen, The Chapman Brothers. But disgruntlement turned to reverence in the face of such awesomely stylish fear-mongering.
Innocent cartoonic line drawings superimposed over monstrous etchings of those bizarre bum faced children that the brothers are so keen on; or a schmaltzy stylized deer with an explosion of eyes and teeth and bits of brain where its head should be; or an irritatingly cutesy little red riding hood character offering a buttercup to a blue bird in a tree, unawares of the gigantic spider creeping up behind her on its hairy black legs, with its one overgrown eye on her and saliva dribbling from its fangs. Eiks, eiks, eiks. I had started to become vaguely tired of the Fuck Face thing after one particularly repetitive Frieze season a few years back, but I now find myself welcoming the Chapman Circus back into town with cries of wonderment.
I went to a talk they gave in 2000, I can't even remember where it was now, but it was attended largely by students and art historians as I remember. The brothers were giving the talk what I suppose one might call a Deleuzian twist. Not so much a twist as a knife through the heart as it turned out. I didn't understand a word they said of course, but I did at least have some vague idea what they were getting at. Others were a little less accommodating and the pair got boo-ed off the podium. It seemed to fit quite well in the context of their relationship with the absurd and it was rather funny. I know, my sense of humour isn't the most adult. Then again that's probably why I like the Chapmans. I like their irreverence and their anarchic anti-rationalism. The silliness of it all. Reason these days seems to be this preposterous holy grain we bow down before without even a second thought. But I'm afraid, just because something appears to make sense does not make it true or even useful particularly, in fact probably quite the opposite. Something can appear to be the most reasonable thing in the world if its case is put forward by someone intelligent and articulate, but that doesn’t stop it being utter bollocks. Blind faith in reason, it seems to me, is extremely limiting. No, I'm with the Chapmans on this one.
Almost as good as the Children's Art Commission for Whitechapel is this video shot at the Chapmans studio in East London by their Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Kylie. Ludicrous. But oddly enough, it does give a fresh perspective. Suddenly you almost are that dog. http://www.guardian.co.uk
But the last line has to go to the brothers themselves. One can't really paraphrase their genius. "I don't think artists can do anything. An artist can only add shit to shit. Dinos once said, 'Our art is potty-training for adults.' He got that about right."