Exhibition review: Jake and Dinos Chapman: Come and See, Serpentine Sackler Gallery, November 29 2013 - February 9 2014
Were you to really Come and See this show, knowing nothing of the controversial artists behind it, it is guaranteed you would be thrilled, appalled and well impressed. But those Chapman Brothers have a reputation that precedes them. It must be difficult trying to outdo themselves over and over again.
© 2013 Hugo Glendinning
And surely this work has reached a limit of sorts. There are scenes in the Sackler Gallery which could haunt you for years. Just hope their vitrines full of tiny model Nazis and tiny model corpses is the closest you will ever come to witnessing a mass grave. It has been said that the atrocities of the Nazis could, or should, never be represented, but these works get the job done and with childlike glee.
Then there are the Klansmen, robed mannequins of which there are some two dozen already at the Serpentine show. They stroke chins, they beckon you on, and they take seats in the screening room. But they also wear Birkenstocks and rainbow coloured socks: a new age touch. If you like this show, or even if you like art in general, then so do these weird hippy fascists. We are one with them.
Nowhere do you feel more implicated than in the cinema installation titled Kino Klub. Seen from behind in the half light, the hooded figures appear real. The wooden seats, with prayer book racks, have been appropriated from a church. And the 35mm projector is just for artworld show. Yes, all of the above is funny, but as jokes go it is close to home.
© 2013 Hugo Glendinning
The film itself is almost beneath description. It is a biopic in which both Chapmans appear played by Welsh actor Rhys Ifans. There is a birth, in which Jake and Dinos emerge from a model vagina. There is a hilarious segment which sends up the pretensions of their art school in Hastings. Plus, there is an obligatory sexual experience with a prostitute which culminates with a money shot to the sound of a children’s choir singing Morning is Broken. You can almost hear the KKK chuckle.
Along with all of this, there is an archive of mischievous drawings over the pages of a book of arcane theory and/or pharmacology. There is more mannequin fun with an amalgam of young girls, one of whom has an arsehole for a head. And there is a tapestry, which appears based on a puzzle from a McDonald's Happy Meal. In some ways this bright, colourful, inoffensive piece is the most caustic in the show: a spot the difference so easy it treats the viewer and his or her child as imbeciles.
The frequent appearances of Ronald McDonald and his cast of uninspired characters is a gratifying theme: an attack on capitalism rather than an attack on everything we hold dear. This is where to come if you want to see a mass grave bursting forth from a burger joint. And for tribal carvings of Ronald et al, step right up. Despite their recent carving, these wooden sculptures already have a dark primitive energy.
If you hate McDonald's, or at least what they stand for, then the Chapmans, as the enemy of your enemy, could be your friend, because they know this stuff is toxic. In the entrance or exit is a vitrine with a pair of inbuilt gloved sleeves, as used by Hollywood scientists. The detritus within, splattered in paint, include a skull sticking out a very long tongue. This is death, getting in your face. Which is no less than you would expect from these artists. It is their strength and their weakness.
- Open 10am-6pm (closed Monday). Admission free. Follow the gallery on Twitter @SerpentineUK.
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