Campbell Works Gallery

Cute creatures with a great white’s pearly-whites, an amputee teddy, a bulimic fairy princess, and Little Red Riding Hood the terrorist bomber: are the Chapman Brothers’ exquisite etchings anything more than the banal pranks of adolescent boyhood, like putting frogs down girls’ dresses and pulling the wings off flies?

The Chapman brothers have always traded on subversion, whether it be children with anuses for mouths or, as it is here, dark interventions with children’s join-the-dots colouring books, but the question is what is being subverted, and into what? Whilst it may seem at first glance a cynical attack on innocence, symbolised by childhood, in fact the aggression and cynicism has already happened.

Manikins of children are not children; they are idealised versions of children, objectified for the purposes of consumption, perfectly smooth, forever smiling, with no orifices so that nothing gets in and nothing gets out, including tears and laughter. These children are non-desiring: they have no otherness.

And the same can be said of My Giant Colouring Book, because My Giant Colouring Book is not really mine, it belongs to mummy and daddy, and I belong to mummy and daddy, and these dots I have to join have already been joined, so that the inscription I trace is not my inscription, not my language, not my desire.

Unlike little boys, whose impotent attacks are a paranoid attempt to annihilate otherness, when Jake and Dinos Chapman amputate teddy’s paws without anaesthetic, blow up the Big Bad Wolf or give children back their sexual organs, they reinscribe the possibility of otherness into a location where it has already been annihilated, by the banal rationality of the bourgeois West.