Yinka Shonibare MBE’s The Last Supper Exploded is based on a sculpture of the same name first on view at the artist’s solo show Pop! at Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, 2013. The exhibition’s main themes explored corruption, excess and debauchery in contemporary society, with particular reference to the most recent on-going economic crisis. In The Last Supper Exploded, Shonibare investigates the worship of luxury goods and the reckless behaviour of in particular the financial industry by paying art historical homage to one of humanity’s best known artworks: Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper.
For the sculptural work, Shonibare MBE replaced the central figure of Christ with the Greek god of wine, Bacchus - a creature half-man, half-goat and symbolic of excess, frivolity, sexuality and animal instinct. Bacchus is surrounded by twelve beheaded disciples depicted in ludicrous and obscene positions, all wearing Shonibare’s trademark wax batik fabric in the form of tailored outfits - reminding the viewer of the artist’s on-going exploration of modern and colonial themes and their overlap; the removal of heads frequently featured in Shonibare’s practice is used to dissuade associations of race. Upon the table ranges a lavish display of exorbitance ranging from food to silverware, completing the image of a “Dionysiac climax of a pan-historical hedonistic party”.
In Shonibare’s digital version of The Last Supper Exploded for Sedition, the artist animates his sculptures and raises the work’s visual impact to a further level of the grotesque. The figure of Christ - or Bacchus - is removed from the setting, the disciples rendered in almost naive computer anime but dressed in batik patterned clothes. The animation is accompanied by Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik*, with the music suddenly “sliced” by the sound of a cutting knife and liquid splashing: blood gushes from the open necks of the decapitated figures and splatters onto the walls and camera lens. The deliberately over-the-top scene evokes amusement rather than repulsion - the viewer is curious to explore this bizarre, excessive dinner party until it is impossible to see the scene depicted.
Yinka Shonibare MBE lives and works in London.
Music credits: Bruno Walter, conductor. Mozart: Serenade: Eine kleine Nachtmusik, K. 525. Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Victor 78rpm Set M-364 Recorded December 17, 1936.