Esto Es Peor

Essay for Jake and Dinos Chapman’s book Fucking Hell, accompanying the show If Hitler Had Been a Hippy How Happy Would We Be, White Cube, 2008.

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––fRom–now=on–theRes–just–hell–being–ReheAteD––1
[…] The molding machines are noisy and hot. The air is filled with a strong chemical smell. I have to repeat the same motions, over and over […]2

The commandeering of increasingly vast budgets for the development and promotion of toy lines sufficiently intense to compel juvenile consumption machines3 to ‘catch em all’ exerts unprecedented economic pressure on the side of production. From every province of the Middle Kingdom flows of deterritorialised labour are sucked into the circuits of virtual lilliputian realms, to minister to the molding, assembly and decoration of their exquisitely imagineered and highly speciated plastic fauna. Passing through the remains of razed farmsteads now irrigated with rivulets of toxic effluent, the biggest movement of people in human history4 streams towards the dark satanic happy-mills pushing through the blasted earth of the Pearl River Delta. Young female workers, for years at a time, make the barbed-wired high-security industrial compounds their rudimentary home. Anxious, exhausted, haunted by guolaosi (overwork-death)5 and tales of the many young people returned home from the factories with disfigurements and strange illnesses,6 they troop daily between the new workshops of the world and their annexed bunker-dormitories, where tiny part-objects swim in the feverish half-light of their unquiet dreams: The bionic arm of a robot soldier clutching a diminutive AK47; the dismembered torso of a powder-pink infant; the bobtail of a happy red bunny; a hamburger with a mask and a cheesy grimace … Shards of simulacra from an imaginary whose remote-controlled reproductive organs they have become.

The air in the spraying and colouring department was filled with paint dust and smelled sourly of chemicals – acetone, ethylene, trichloride, benzene – and hurt her throat […] she had to paint one every 7.2 seconds – 4,000 a day […] the air was fuzzy with fibrous dust and the smell of burning plastic.7

Severed from family and culture, economically immobilised, plagued by toxic allergies, headaches and blurred vision,8 circumscribed by a battery of disciplinary injunctions, they sweat fear and resignation as they anticipate another day decorating the assault vehicles of imaginary armies under the minutely–attentive gaze of their uniformed supervisors. Passing beneath the gates of the manufacturing compound, they cast an uncomprehending but rueful glance at the emblem that arches overhead: A candy–coloured rainbow topped by two bulbous, maniacally-grinning cartoon slapheads: CHAPSBRO™ – Making the World Smile.

We are not necessarily in the realm of the childs toy, but that of a demographic ostensibly responsive to different criteria. When, in 1997, Hornby’s Great British trainset empire, which had blossomed thanks to postwar distaste for the finely-engineered and formerly hegemonic German brands,9 evacuated their Margate factory (now slated for redevelopment as a ‘heritage centre’) to shift production to China, they reinvested the cost–savings in more quality and detail and […] more product for their now 70 percent adult customer base.10 We have to […] give them a product that is clearly acceptable as an adult purchase and doesn’t trivialize the interest. So the dimensional accuracy and the decoration and so on has to be absolutely spot on – they’re very discerning.11 Fucking Hell is precisely a collectable for the discerning, a Franklinstein for the Minted; But also an H0–gauge branch-line for Bataille’s locomotive whose wheels and pistons give parodic expression to the perpetual, frenzied motion of a world defined by two primary motions of rotation and sexual movement12 (the terrestrial orb as a fucking hell).

There have been countless conflicts in which large swathes of urban cityscapes have been reduced to hardcore. Representing them in model form has always been a challenge. Using Exactoscale brick papers, it shouldn’t be too difficult to make quite a number of damaged buildings.13

The eagerness with which, before the ashes of 2000’s oven-ready Hell had cooled, work began on this new model dwarfing its predecessor in scale, ambition, and sheer futility, only attests to the inevitability with which every serious hobbyist’s quest for every conceivable detail … super-detail … superb realism … intricate detailing … Intricately detailed beyond … wildest dreams14 continually menaces ‘real life’ with its cancerous little empires. There is an old saying in the hobby that a model railway layout is never finished … there is no end to what you can do … Newcomers to the hobby soon find out that layouts and models, even in the relatively small 00 gauge, take up more space than they imagined.15 After only 30 man-years of labour on the part of their long-suffering assistants, it goes without saying that announcement of the ‘completion’ of CHAPSBRO™’s latest work is somewhat arbitrary. Nazis vs mutants – The whole subject is infinitely interesting, with endless ramifications and applications.16

Already in works such as the compendious All of Our Ideas For The Next Twenty Years (1997) CHAPSBRO™ souped up the combinatorial engine of cryptozoological inanity evidenced in the sketches of Bosch,17 as he extrapolates the tragic anatomies, rudely-fashioned prosthetics and ambulatory contrivances of quadriplegic tinkers into enough new lines of slavering hellspawn to furnish the covers of Slayer albums for years to come. CHAPSBRO™’s demons, assembled from a contemporary imagination well-stocked by two centuries of ever more refined atrocity, are deployed in their garden of delights with little allegorical ceremony. Pace the enigmatic symbolism of Bosch’s hellscapes, this universe of pain has nothing to tell us; It aims at an infinite intensification of the plague-logic recorded by CHAPSBRO™ spar Goya: Rightly or wrongly – the same; one can’t tell why – nor in this case; I saw it – and this too; they don’t like it – neither do they – nor do these … Ironic, amplificative or conjunctive, the impassive iterations cross over physical, social and partisan lines, and from horror into horrified laughter, indicating that behind Goya’s edifying pageant of atrocities lurks a Sadean fascination with the senseless fury of which it affords a glimpse.

Breaking through negation as a ‘partial process’ compromised by its submission to military directive or natural law and binding the violent act to some projected refecundation, Sade’s ultra–violent appropriation of the Kantian theory of Ideas has the cold light of reason tease the libertine with a ‘primary nature’ of the purest violence, tantalisingly unattainable through mere local infractions unless, possibly, through a concerted ‘apathetic repetition’ that would ‘reverberate’ to infinity.18 Fucking Hell represents ‘a further effort’ towards the perpetration of such a ‘perfect crime’ in miniature, a listless vision of eternal return as the perpetual motion of total war gone loco, counteracting indefinitely any congelation on the ‘political’ plane. This is worse.

It is also a crime against art, the relentless pursuit of the hobbyist’s petty mania on an industrial scale continuing a campaign against the hygienic narrative of modern art, by toying with the venerable notion of the readymade. Dismembering, reconfiguring and painstakingly painting tens of thousands of miniature bodies, CHAPSBRO™’s production-line for ‘extreme rectification’ elevates a parodically zombified form of what Duchamp denounced as the olfactory masturbation of the stupid painter19 into an artisanal Apocalypse Now (I love the smell of Humbrol in the morning). Where the campaign against the ‘retinal’ subordinated eye to decisive mind, here a simultaneous scopophilia20 and phobia of ocularity21 employs every signifier of intensity to assemble a crawling-all-over nullity. Gluesniffing noses are no longer pressed up against the glass of the shop window looking for proof of existence of the world outside art22 in the shape of ‘real’ (authentically functional) objects – a shovel, a bicycle wheel, a bottlerack – to give a hand up in the world. For there is only outside=inside, selections made from a virtual multitude pullulating in a bacterial dance of zygotic acceleration upon an inorganic and disorganised […] labyrinthine skin,23 a moebian rollercoaster, a delirious modulation of miscegenated phyla opposing itself to the closed theatre of the representative [white] cube24 and its ‘critical’ debates. Duchamp’s infra-thin passage from virgin to bride,25 consummated by the institutionally-sealed name of the artist, gives way to an ultra-thick, labour-intensive combinatorial explosion, seeking only to make things worse, to bring them down in the world. An accelerated and interminable product development cycle detached from all economic imperatives auto–bricolages new, abominable conjunctions, materialising ‘dyslexic disruptions’ and gruesome bad jokes. The name comes only at the end: No longer misreadable as heralding a portentous portrait of the underworld, it is outburst not moral orientation, expletive rather than nominative. Here too, it is ‘the viewer who finishes the work’, with an exclamation: Fucking Hell!

A crime against interpretation: This shit doesn’t make sense, it’s impossible to read. Between the two of us, art in the third person is of no significance. It already involves a crowd (What a mistake to have ever said ‘the’ Chapmans). CHAPSBRO™ (multiple-it) is decomposed of viciously deformed matters, distributed according to a scatter-logic that is radial26 or at least lattice rather than linear,27 relayed more by compulsion than by inspiration28 in the manner of an exquisitely-accelerated corpsing between terms whose duplicity affords the product an automatic illegitimacy.29 Its use of the gallery as a control environment30 for experiments in heteromorality nourishes the suspicion that some invidious contrivance, some unnatural assemblage is at work. Well known for working over subjects which disagree with it, it is too clever by half, refuses to shed symptoms, neither exhibiting nor soliciting shame or guilt. In general, a problematic charge whose account of its parentage is contaminated by horror flicks and incontinental theorising.

CHAPSBRO™’s assemblage of readymade virtual part-objects offers up absolutely no ‘raw facts’ for psychoanalytical grilling. And since both constitute self-legitimating integral productions of their own reflexively-processed delirium, unverifiable through any external referent,31 the artwork cannot be ‘judged’ by psychoanalysis, whose principles it has in any case long since absorbed and variously rectified. Terminating their interminable reciprocal deconstruction32 entails foregoing any therapeutic ‘working through’ in favour of a point-by-point heuristic parallelism operating through loose couplings between singular points of the two heterogeneous series. CHAPSBRO™ clearly aligns itself in such ‘couplings’ with (1) librarian Bataille’s expulsion for shit–stirring the surrealists by refusing to anticipate any revelation/revolution (id has nothing to tell us) and collapsing Breton’s puerile oneiroscape into the horrors of base materialism (Big Boss’s attempted ‘cure’: you-think-you’ve-escaped-but-thinking-belongs-to-Kuntrol) (2) Schizoanalysis33 of an heterogeneous unconscious that is no longer subjective, but machinic, libidinal, social, transhistorical, and in the process of being catastrophically decoded by Kapital. No less than Koons’ (1999–2000) Easyfun-Ethereal assemblages of Hair with Cheese (themselves channelling Ernst’s inconscience-fictional collages prophesying that les images s’abaisseront jusqu’au sol),34 CHAPSBRO™’s marauding mutant hordes generously assemble and offer up for guilt-free enjoyment aspects of the bourgeois imaginary usually simultaneously satisfied and disavowed. Where Koons unwraps kitsch from its prophylactic wrapper of irony, CHAPSBRO™ offer a playground of ultra-violence without didactic value, modelled on subcultural products (horror film, death metal, fantasy wargames) distinguished mostly by their zero cultural cachet, tastelessness and relish for violence. But despite CHAPSBRO™’s conviction that the kind of images that adorn the covers of schoolboys’ exercise books and metal albums also inhabit the Lurid Dreams of my Bank Manager (1999), they offer no redemption, no solution but only an intensification of the problem. No utopian reconciliation with our disavowed dreams (Koons unashamedly Cheerios™-venerating future aristocracy). For CHAPSBRO™’s invitation, not content with ushering in banality, more problematically exposes and espouses the cohabitation of banality with our precious moral touchstones.

A crime against morality: CHAPSBRO™-Goya’s first merger, 1993’s diminutive Disasters of War, along with its death-size counterpart Great Deeds Against the Dead, indicated this path, one which diverges significantly from Insult to Injury’s (2003) masked intensifications. In the 1993 Disasters Goya is belittled and inertialised, the obscene imagery broken out of its reverential art-historical frame and reduced to a miniature technicolor diorama. The orgiastic representation lavished on these minutely-detailed setpieces ‘suggests’ nothing, determination down to the last millimetre creating a brittle carapace of intensity wrapped around a rotted-out core. The commander and wounded crewman are […] beautifully sculptured […] note the extra tears added to the trousers by the author.35 As moral force is asphyxiated under the weight of detail, prurience is at once exposed and frustrated, leaving you asking what it was that you wanted more of, and reaching for shock to comfort yourself.

The macroform of Fucking Hell perfectly encapsulates the dynamic: The swastika, which runs through the cultural unconscious like writing through a stick of seaside rock, a shorthand emblem for the holocaust – itself a token that permits rapid concord,36 a cipher for the compact that binds us in moral solidarity, standing for the common knowledge that we have all ‘learnt our lessons’ (as if mass death were a morality play).37 It engenders an anticipation of something agreeably salutary, a further prop for the cult of self-satisfied memorialisation. But no – there is nothing, or too much, to see. We have such sights to show you.38 Rather than using the rubrics of historical singularity and incomparability to block perception,39 Fucking Hell overloads it with an excessive yet vacuous slaughter. Something vaguer, diffuse and portentous, would have been more welcome. But rather than monumental mausolea and palaces of remembrance, CHAPSBRO™’s mourning is modelled on that of the child survivors of year zero drone violence who, after the fall of Khmer, turned the notorious Tuol Sleng prison into a hot tourist spot, bricolaging gaudy souvenirs out of collected human skulls, cheerful reminders of genocidal absurdity more apt than any number of starchitected, tastefully-conceptual holocaust edutainment centres.

Supplying enough to whet the appetite for a good compassion-workout in other people’s misery (but, as it continues to ask, how much would not be enough?), CHAPSBRO™ refuses to follow through either with elevating conceptual gestures that would serve as conduits for token exchange of ‘deeply–felt compassion’, or deliciously suggestive chiaroscuro that would allow us to indulge our fantasies. (You could try photocopying the catalogue photos again and again until, lost in inky blackness, you could almost believe the bodies were real … You get a bit of what you wanted). But no matter how neurotically inert the presentation, or how unreal the landscape upon which we are invited to exercise the imagination, its reception, so it seems, only repeatedly attests to the überbrands’ power to hair-trigger the moral reflexes. Ultimately CHAPSBRO™’s invitation is one we cannot take up: As concord crashes and burns, our autopilot turns kamikaze, the promise of liberation is converted into a convulsion, moral identity exposed as problematic tension by the ensuing laughter. Geology of morals: The molten core beneath the physiologically-encrusted character-armour of civilized consensus boils up in seismic waves, ejaculating lava that immediately cools into uncomfortable scabs that we can’t help scratching and scratching and scratching until they bleed again.

VAN DRIESSEN: y’know, this could be a really positive experience for you guys. There’s a wonderful and exciting world out there waiting out there when you discover that we don’t need TV to entertain us
BUTTHEAD: huhuhurrr … he said ‘anus’
BEAVIS: he, heheheh … entertain us, anus.
VAN DRIESSEN: have you guys heard a word I said?
BUTTHEAD: uuuhhh … yeah: anus.
Beavis and Butthead do America.40
PROFESSOR: Name two pronouns
STUDENT: Who, me?
PROFESSOR: According to the market, you are right.
– Economist’s joke

A crime against critique: As Picarseholé’s 1937 strip Dreams and Lies vied with the Spanish civil war reprise of Goya‘s Disasters, Turing was busy tinkering with his little machines, infinite ticker-tape nightmares whose ‘states of mind’ are recorded by a ‘computer’ = ‘person working in a desultory manner’, a tireless idiot juggling zeros and ones, the warp and weft that in its fateful collision with the abstract general equivalent would accelerate the Locke-in of a ‘second nature’ for which too much is never enough, the unhooking of markets from utility. There Will Be Blood, count on it. 010101 recarpets the tungsten-carbide stomach,41 making for a surface more conducive to slipups and bad jokes than to a firm footing.

Dare you to enjoy the jokes, refuse to learn your lessons or grow up … Adhering to the letter of the masochistic contract whereby the artist repeatedly nails its pinhead audience by assaulting them with more and more shit, on the understanding that they will have been improved and edified by licking it up, CHAPSBRO™ leaves us to fabricate our own legitimations (or to consume them readymade from the Tate’s white labels). But it leaves open another choice: Refuse the supposedly predestined process through which disgust […] shame and the claims of aesthetic and moral ideals42 ensure the economic subordination of the infantile to organic adult destiny, as reproductive-historical end-pleasure transcends the enjoyment of what is now retroduced as fore-pleasure, an incentive bonus43 orienting us towards the demands of perpetuity. If the reasonable demands of everyday neurosis, endemic depression and culturally-sanctioned habitual child-abuse must necessarily cast perversion retrospectively as a peculiarly archaic44 throwback to a primaeval period45 or prehistoric epoch46 (see CHAPSBRO™ playset Hell Sixty-Five Million Years BC [2004-5]), conversely every good pervert must betray history and finality, fail critique, and relapse, playing with his toys in debasement of Geist, continually bringing things down whilst refusing to help with the foundations. Just as two-faced kunt Karl found his better half – old bearded prosecutor Marx – unable to finish his case against Kapitalism, unable to achieve the critical coupling with excitable little-girl Marx, unable to put to death the polymorphous perversity of capital in order to give birth to child-socialism:47 He pursued the prosecution interminably, endlessly playing with himself and toying with the defendant.

Finally, to resist or ‘critique’ the absurd theatre of the art-world itself would be just more risible vanity. No need to do a critique of metaphysics (or of political economy, which is the same thing), since critique presupposes and ceaselessly creates this very same theatricality; rather be inside and forget it, that’s the position of the death drive.48 No question of ‘testing the limits’ or sneaking near enough the engine of redemption to piss in its fuel tank. If there is only outside=inside, then it is a question neither of averting nor assuring recuperation. Nor of entryism, since the institution is a perfect host body, with a tungsten-carbide stomach, always hungry, never afflicted by indigestion. Legitimation by the progressively–minded trustees of culture=neurosis is only ever a matter of time, and the shock–absorbing metabolic memory–core always has time on its side. Sad forebodings of what is to come: Fucking Hell will Frieze over. As collectable, it conforms to the criteria it systematically exposes as neurotic dissimulations of the cruel, dismembering virtuality of childs play, prehistoric delirium of hyperkapital. Desperately clinging to any excuse to carry on playing the game whilst protesting that it’s all educashunal, the lobsters squeal to the broth: Tell us what to think next. And CHAPSBRO™, on new orders from the organic body, organized with survival as its goal against what excites it to death,49 retools the factory of the unconscious to churn out a million high-quality 1:87 scale fully-posable action-packed varieties of feculent hellspawn.

  1. Nick Land, ‘ziigothiC–=≡X≡CoDA≡=–(CooKing–lobsters–with–jAKe–AnD-Dinos)’, in Chapmanworld (ICA, London 1996); reprinted in Fanged Noumena (Falmouth: Urbanomic, 2011)
  2. ‘Toys of Misery: A Report on the Toy Industry of China’, National Labor Committee, Jan. 2002. At <http://www.nlcnet.org>
  3. E. Clark, The Real Toy Story: Inside the Ruthless Battle for Britain’s Youngest Consumers (Random House/Black Swan, London 2007), p.211
  4. Ibid., p.253
  5. bid., p.211
  6. Ibid., p.258
  7. Ibid., p.267, p.270.
  8. Ibid., p.258.
  9. C. Ellis, The Hornby Book of Model Railways (Navigator Guides, Melton Constable 2007), p.13
  10. E. Clark, The Real Toy Story, p.284; ‘Model Executive Puts Hornby Back On Track’, The Guardian, 21 December 2007
  11. Clark, Op. cit., p.176
  12. G. Bataille, ‘The Solar Anus’, Visions of Excess, trans. A. Stoekl (University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis 1985), p.6
  13. P. Allen, ‘Hitler, Stalin and Brickpaper’, Wargames Illustrated, 246, April 2008.
  14. Ellis, op. cit., p.23, p.49, p.91, p.110
  15. Ibid., p.vii
  16. Ibid., p.11.
  17. See C. de Tolnay, Hieronymous Bosch, trans M. Bullock and H. Mins (Methuen, London 1966): pp. 314-16
  18. See P. Klossowski, Sade My Neighbour, trans. A. Lingis (Northwestern University Press, Evanston, Ill. 1991); G. Deleuze, Masochism: Coldness and Cruelty, trans. J. McNeil (Zone, New York 1989), Ch. 2
  19. See T. de Duve, Pictorial Nominalism, trans. D. Polan (University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis 1991)
  20. We Are Artists (1991): ‘We are sore-eyed scopophiliac oxymorons’.
  21. J. Chapman & S. Baker, ‘Jake Chapman on Georges Bataille: an Interview with Simon Baker’, Papers of Surrealism, Winter 2003
  22. M. Duchamp, à l’infinitif / in the infinitive, trans. J. Matisse, R. Hamilton, E. Bonk. (the typosophic society, 1999), p.5.
  23. J.F. Lyotard, Libidinal Economy, trans. I.H.Grant (Athlone, London 1993), p. 4
  24. Ibid., Interpolation mine.
  25. See T. de Duve, Op. cit, Ch. 2
  26. L. Head & D. Barrett (ed.), New Art Up-Close 3: Jake and Dinos Chapman (Royal Jelly Factory, London 2007), p.7.
  27. Chapman and Baker, Op. cit.
  28. Jake Chapman, ‘I’d Like to have Stepped on Goya’s Toes’, Tate etc. Issue 8, Autumn 2006.
  29. Jake and Dinos Chapman, M. Lippiatt interview.
  30. Chapman and Baker, Op. cit.
  31. de Duve, Op. cit., p.7.
  32. de Duve, Op. cit., p.37.
  33. See G. Deleuze, F. Guattari, Anti-Oedipus:Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen R. Lane (University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis 1983).
  34. La femme 100 têtes, 1929. On CHAPSBRO™ and Ernst, see P. Osborne ‘From Whole to Parts and Back Again: The Chapman Brothers’ Surrealism, Reworked and Improved’, C. Townsend (ed.), The Art of Jake & Dinos Chapman, Thames and Hudson, forthcoming.
  35. N. Petroni, ‘Last Stand at Stalingrad’, Model Military International, Issue 24, April 2008
  36. W. Sofsky, The Order of Terror: The Concentration Camp, trans. W. Templer (Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ 1996), p.6
  37. Ibid., p5/
  38. Hellraiser, New World Pictures 1987, Dir. Clive Barker
  39. Sofsky, Op. cit., p.9
  40. Paramount Pictures, Dir. Mike Judge, 1996
  41. ‘Modern society is a stomach carpeted with tungsten-carbide a very expensive stomach where discoürses and figures are used up turn to dust come to reinforce the barrier they claimed to erode […] the stomach turns your words and your images into commodities an identity critique even hate are incorporated’ J.F. Lyotard, Dérive à partir de marx et freud (Union Générale d’Éditions, Paris 1973), p.31.
  42. S. Freud, ‘Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality’, J. Strachey (trans. J. Strachey, ed. A. Richards) On Sexuality (Penguin, London 1977), p.93.
  43. Ibid., p.118.
  44. Ibid.
  45. Ibid., p.88.
  46. Ibid., p.91.
  47. Lyotard, Op.cit., pp.97-8.
  48. Ibid., p.3.
  49. Ibid., p.2.