The libidinal pleasure of gazing at torture
Johann Hari has some thoughts on the Chapman brothers.
In 2003, the Chapmans bought some of Goya’s original prints – and vandalised them. Where Goya drew with documentary clarity the agonised victims of war, the Chapmans painted the jeering faces of clowns and puppies over them. “Goya’s the artist who represents the kind of expressionistic struggle of the Enlightenment with the ancien regime,” Jake Chapman explained, “so it’s kind of nice to kick its underbelly.” Goya famously said “the sleep of reason produces monsters”. The Chapmans say the opposite: it is when reason is wide awake that it produces monsters…The Chapmans trashing Goya is a pure expression of postmodernist philosophy. They vandalise and ridicule the fruits of reason – and what do they offer in its place?
Oh, you know, the usual stuff, Bataille, the Marquis de Sade, torture, ‘transgression.’
Jake Chapman echoes his hero. He talks about the “libidinal pleasure” that comes from seeing a real picture of a real person being tortured, because of the “transgression of the ethics that that image is supposed to trigger or incite”. A few years ago he was asked in the Papers of Surrealism: “Does Battaille’s formulation of the conception of transgression relate to the way that work like your own is sometimes suggested as being part of a necessary force?” He replied: “Yes – a good social service like the children who killed Jamie Bulger.”
Wo – dude, that’s hip. Or something.