There is an uncompromising materiality to Sturm und Drang; its imposing presence abjectly refuses to enter into polite conversation with its surroundings. The sculpture also activates a tension between material and subject, a technique familiar to those who have followed the brothers’ career.
For example, the Chapmans previously reimagined Goya’s violent scenes in their work Disasters of War (2003), but that time the medium was toy soldiers. The effect of both pieces is similar: the weight of human suffering taken on by Goya is poured into materials in which it doesn’t belong. Chapman touched on this when discussing another earlier piece called Hell (2000).“These subjects are adorned with pathos and sublimity. And yet, when you look at them, they collapse under their own weight because they can’t support that magnitude of human investment,” he says. “Art just doesn’t have that function.”
Humanity’s penchant for destruction is perhaps the most recurrent theme within the brothers’ oeuvre, and their work often seeks to make visible destructive forces within art—an endeavor that goes against the classic understanding of art as defined by beauty, permanence, and the eternal.
When asked about their ongoing relationship with Goya’s “Disasters of War,” Chapman says, “When you look at the ‘Disasters of War,’ they have been often seen as this humanist version of the notion of beauty, idealism. But when you look at the castrations, the eviscerations, there’s too much pleasure in those things for them to support that kind of reading, so we keep going back to them. They undermine the very project of modernity, this idea that the work of art, by being beautiful, tells us something positive about the world.”
If you consider art, beauty, nature, and humanity as defined by the drive toward destruction, then perhaps the themes of Ekebergparken and Sturm und Drang find some common ground, although perhaps not in the way the art committee envisaged.