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Date and time
Tuesday, May 13, 2014

DHC/ART Education has created a pedagogical tool, Jake and Dinos Chapman: Movements, a four-part series that explores key concepts present in the exhibition Come and See: reification, grotesque/carnival, Baroque and collaboration. This week, we are presenting the last part of this series: the collaboration.

Artist and assistant, technical teams, interdisciplinary collectives, and participatory art projects: artistic collaborations take a myriad of forms, and have so for centuries. Motivation for such collaborations includes the practical, conceptual, and the ideological. In the social sphere, the latter often implies a quest for new ways of working and/or the articulation of previously unheard voices. In this context, progressive management of power and relational dynamics “leads potentially to personal transformation and subversive political agency.” (1)

The Chapmans, however, reject a humanist reading of either their process or their work. Rather, their approach seems more in keeping with the critical-yet-playful spirit of Dada gestures. It also recalls the darkness, mutations, and distortions of the Surrealists. Through the act of creating an exquisite corpse, for example, “to fold was to hide and to reveal at once—to hide the body of work that the next participant might automatically wish for, and to reveal, in the few lines pressing over the fold, the possibilities of a ludic experience that becomes simultaneously both singular and collective.” (2) Chapman collaborations are numerous and distinct, including: one another, studio assistants, technicians, curators, fashion houses, Goya, and unnamed 19th century portrait painters.

Their own collaboration dates back two decades, and appears from the outside to reflect both a sense of humour and an engagement with the comforts and contradictions that are inherent to their partnership. Their relationship to their assistants is transparent in the tradition of the old masters, but seemingly less mentoring in spirit. Jake states: “I think it’s incredibly patronising to get involved in supervising their artistic development. Those philanthropic, paternal gestures are completely alien to us.” (3) The series One Day You’ll No Longer Be Loved (described at various points as iconoclast, ‘reworked and improved’, and a posthumous collaboration) comprises anonymous 19th century portraits over which the artists have skilfully and meticulously painted over the subjects to create grotesque, scarred and decaying versions of former selves. In Insult to Injury, the Chapman brothers add another layer to Goya’s Disasters of War. While the original series is understood as an indictment of war, the Chapmans treat the prints with humour, if not enjoyment – sentiments that mirror the elaborate detail with which Goya depicted such painful atrocities. (4)

The Chapmans reject the “reductive” notion that a work of art “is in itself the belief of one person.” This, according to Will Self, allows them to engage with “ethically raw subject matter” – “after all, if your work is some other person’s, in what sense are you responsible for the outrage it causes?.” (5) How do you respond to this reflection?

What is the relationship between creative input, ownership, and authorship?

Is collaboration as simple as a practice that involves multiple contributors or does it require dialogue in a more literal sense, involving a back and forth exchange between participants in real time, as equal and consenting partners? Is any and all art making collaborative on some level? How do you define collaboration or collaborative art practices?

About Movements: 

Movements is a tool designed by DHC/ART Education to encourage in-depth explorations of key concepts evoked by the works presented in the exhibition Come and See. By highlighting these points of conceptual departure through the document Movements, the DHC/ART educators intend to inspire dialogue about the exhibition and to encourage visitors to elaborate on the proposed themes with their personal interpretations and reflections. Over time, these travelling concepts are subsequently enriched as they inform new contributions to our evolving conversations about art.

Movements also serves as a reminder that an aesthetic experience engages the body - its senses and its movements - as much as the intellect. The body’s physical, emotional, and perceptive gestures are intimately linked as we move through the exhibition space and our senses are awakened. The rhythm of our trajectories and changing perspectives also mobilize our vision; images take shape as our memory and imagination are touched by the emerging aesthetic landscape. Movements is thus an invitation for the visitor to become immersed - mind and body - into DHC/ART exhibitions, thereby developing a rich and dynamic understanding of the works.

[1] NEUMARK, Devora and Johanne CHAGNON (2011). “The Unsettling Powers of Collective Creativity”. Affirming collaboration: community and humanist activist art in Quebec and elsewhere. Montreal and Calgary: Brush Education.
[2] KOCHHAR-LINDGREN, Kanta, Davis SCHNEIDERMAN and Tom DENLINGER (2009). “The Algorhythms of the Exquisite Corpse”. The Exquisite Corpse: Chance and Collaboration in Surrealism’s Parlor Game. Licoln: University of Nebraska Press.
[3] JEFFRIES, Stuart (2013). “The Chapman Brothers on life as artists’ assistants: ‘We did our daily penance’”. The Guardian. Online. http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/mar/23/artists-assistants-chapman-brothers. Consulted March 15, 2014.
[4] For an in-depth discussion about the Chapmans’ work in relation to Goya and the concept of collaboration, consult BAKER, Simon (2005).
Jake & Dinos Chapman: Like a dog returns to its vomit. London: Jay Jopling/White Cube.
[5] SELF, Will (2014). “The Sixth Reich”. Jake and Dinos Chapman: The End of Fun. London: White Cube.

Photo: Jake and Dinos Chapman. The Sum of All Evil (North). Detail. 2012-2013. Courtesy of White Cube.

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