Technique and condition

The following entry is based on an interview with the artist, Jake Chapman held on 28 July, 1995.

The work is an assemblage of parts simulating a closed circuit in which liquid soap is circulated through plastic tubes from one part to the others; the flow of soap originates from a plastic brain to a pink plastic penis, and then to another plastic brain, to finally return to the starting point and repeat the cycle again. This so-called soap machine, once working, is now in a purposely non-functional state. The mechanical movement was initiated by an electric powered pump. The mechanism or soap machine is mounted on a Dexion metal framework, and the whole assemblage is encased in a perspex box. Six bottles of milk in various stages of decomposition are displayed on the perspex base underneath the machine.

The artist Jake Chapman explained that they worked in an empirical way, using various objects or parts they had in their studio and trying to make them work. The brains have been cast in latex from a model, the plastic penis bought, the hammer is from their studio, the paper cup from McDonald's, and the soap that circulated in the circuit purchased from Boots' the Chemist. Every object or part used had a specific function.

The artist pointed out that 'everything is sort of invisibly connected ... all things are drilled through the underside' and fixed mainly with screws. Some of the elements are supported and fixed to small blocks of wood. These are mounted and fixed to a piece of fibreboard, itself supported and fixed diagonally to a plywood base. This base is supported by a metal framework. The perspex cover sits over the perspex base on which are displayed, unfixed, the milk bottles. As specified by the artist, the paper cup containing coffee residues should stand upright, loose, anywhere on the exterior plywood. The perspex box is a later addition and is to be considered as part of the work. Almost all the surface of the fibreboard panel is covered with a greyish textured layer of soap resulting from when the machine was functioning. The overall surface is purposely covered with dust that has developed with time.

Overall the work is in a fair structural condition. The different plastics are already degrading and will continue to do so with age, and there is some corrosion on certain metal components. The milk contained in the bottles was sour, decomposing and represented a bacterial hazard. Jake Chapman agreed to dispose of the decomposing milk in the bottles and to have them replaced with a simulated liquid made from safe materials, as the bottles of milk are 'not the finite elements' of the work. The artist also agreed to dispose of the bottles and to have them replaced with other similar glass milk bottles. The brown stain on the base is from the residue of one of the milk bottles.

Chapman indicated that the natural degradation of the sculpture and its different elements was intentional and part of the work. Although, he further added that because the viewer will try to understand the mechanics of the work, it is therefore important in the future to have the brains and the penis in a recognisable state. The artist is willing to make replicas of the brains from their mould if they should become unrecognisable with time.

Michelle Leplage
July 1998