Gilbert and George

Posted on June 24, 2009
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How can you not like Gilbert and George and their whacky world? Here’s an interview with the boys on the eve of a new show. (from The Guardian)

“They claim they have always worked like this, making apparently ­unanalysable but deeply felt things. This wasn’t what they were taught at St Martin’s in the late 1960s. “Colour was a bad thing,” recalls George. “Meaning was a bad thing. Thoughts were a bad thing. Feelings were a bad thing. Sex was a bad thing. Love was a bad thing. To say, as we did, that our art was about sex, money, race and religion, was deemed absurd. The opposition formed us. The official line was that art was about form and shape and no content.” Their ­career began with ­performance pieces such as the 1969 Singing ­Sculpture, in which they wore face paint, stood on a table, and sang along to ­Flanagan and Allen’s Underneath the Arches, sometimes for a whole day.

Their most celebrated early work is a photograph called ­Gilbert the Shit and George the Cunt, depicting two smartly dressed young artists. “It was a pre-emptive strike,” says George. “They could call us what they liked, but not before we did.”

“Even today the very educated ­papers still try to abuse us,” says ­Gilbert. “Our art is capable of bringing out the bigot inside the liberal, and the liberal inside the bigot. A taxi driver who thinks that all modern art is ­rubbish will say to us, ‘It’s good what you do, guys.’”

Do the educated papers really abuse them? ­Gilbert says: “The other day the Sunday Times said, ‘Gilbert and George called themselves “living sculptures”, ­although anyone with eyes in their head could see that they were actually two fruity gays in suits.’” He is quoting from ­Sunday Times critic Waldemar ­Januszczak’s review of a show by their St Martin’s contemporary Richard Long.

“They would never say, ‘He says he’s a painter, but really he’s just a ­boring straight’,” says George. They added that Germaine Greer wrote about them in the Guardian two years ago, under the headline: “There is only one way Gilbert and George can complete the work – by dying, in ­unison.” “She wanted us to commit ­suicide,” says Gilbert. “Nice lady.”

“We think compliments are the most important things in life, next to a smile,” says George. “We realise how painful insults are.”


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