The Archive: Jake and Dinos Chapman – The Rape of Creativity (2003)

Jake and Dinos Chapman – The Rape of Creativity took place at Modern Art Oxford between 12 April and 8 June 2003.

The Rape of Creativity introduced audiences to a number of works by the Chapman Brothers, many of which were shown for the first time in the UK. The catalogue of the exhibition included a leaflet titled JAKE AND DINOS CHAPMAN: INSTRUCTIONS FOR USE, a five-page spread dripping with sarcasm and playing on the ‘shock tactics’ critical to the viewing condition of the brothers’ work:

Health warning: The contents of this exhibition may cause shock, vomiting, confusion, panic, euphoria and anxiety. If you suffer from high blood pressure, a nervous disorder or palpitations you should consult your doctor before viewing this exhibition.

Born in Cheltenham in the 1960’s and graduating from the Royal Academy in 1990, Jake and Dinos Chapman formed a collaborative group that would revisit themes of ‘cultural authenticity’ throughout their career by blurring the boundaries of insult and self-conscious repatriation.

This theme was bared across the inner walls of the Piper Gallery, featuring a series of 83 etchings hand-coloured by the artists and produced by purchasing and subsequently re-working original plates from Francesco Goya’s Disasters of War series printed in 1937. The artists have frequently referenced the work of Goya referring to him as their ‘mentor’, but in Insult to Injury (2003), the use of the artist’s original prints took this ‘reference’ one step further. Begging the question; ‘Can this reworking be classified as an act of vandalism or preservation?”, the ‘etchings’ featured the generous addition of ghoulish masks, grinning cartoons, gas masks and swastika symbols over the faces of Goya’s subjects.

Situated alongside this series of etchings, a number of colourful drawings showcased the brothers’ meticulous draughtmanship, one of the ways in which the duo open up a dialogue with art history. These crumpled sheets of paper made up of seemingly ‘unrelated’ signs of commodity culture, political markers, and fairy tale caricatures came to life in the form of an installation in the Upper Gallery.

The main spectacle of the exhibition, from which the title of the exhibition took its name, The Rape of Creativity, slowly revealed the darker side of the Chapman Brothers’ humour as visitors peered into the inside of a metal caravan through the van’s lace curtains.

The Upper Gallery, transformed into a landscape of detritus, pornographic material, discarded waste, an overhead McDonald’s sign, where objects of familiar origin were stripped of their initial context and somehow transformed, like the image of a dog with a sheep’s head biting on a bloody hand.

Written by Ariana Evelyn Kalliga, a student in History of Art at the University of Oxford.

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