Brits Behaving Badly

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They take their art seriously in Britain. The critic Johann Hari, who writes for the British daily The Independent, has done a no-holds-barred takedown of Jake and Dinos Chapman, aging YBA’s — that’s Young British Artists to you –and early Saatchi collection favorites, who have a major show at Tate Liverpool.

Hari’s point is chiefly that the Chapman brothers, who are famous for their loathing of bourgeoise ethics and the Enlightenment itself, are on a path that leads easily to a squalid and dangerous nihilism. At one point Hari quotes from a 2003 interview that Jake Chapman gave to a small scholarly journal in which he reflected, in a grammatically tortured passage, on the idea that the art made by him and his brother might be seen as a transgressive service to society, a kind of salutary shock. Or as he put it: “a good social service like the children who killed Jamie Bulger.” For Americans who may not recognize the name, Bulger was a three-year old who was led away and murdered by two ten-year olds, a 1993 crime that was for some time a British obsession.

I would ask Jake what he thinks about Columbine, but on second thought I don’t want to know.

The Hari piece inspired a serene, considered reply from Jake, two fisted post modernist and former Kylie Minogue boy toy. “Thoughtcrimes”? Gosh, Jake, didn’t Orwell put that term in bad odor?

Could it be he’s just in a bad mood lately because the Chapman brothers’ retrospective is in faraway Liverpool, but Kylie has a big, fabulous show all her own at the Victoria and Albert? A show, the V&A promises us, that’s been painstakingly curated “…to reflect the many aspects of Kylie’s career.”

What did I tell you? They take their art seriously in Britain.