Friday, November 27, 2015

A Marriage of Two Minds

“Underneath the arches,
We dream our Dreams away,
Underneath the arches,
On cobble stones we lay.”
Flanagan and Allen

Gilbert Prousch and George Passmore are Italian and British respectively but are best known as the British artist Gilbert & George. A relationship about which they say “It’s not a collaboration…  We are two people, but one artist.” 

They met at London’s St Martins school of Art whilst studying sculpture in 1967. In a world dominated by Pop, Minimal, and Conceptual art they decided to become “living sculptures.” Performing the Flanagan and Allen 1940’s music hall standard Underneath the Arches was their way of breaking out of the confines of the art elite to make “art for all.”

Since then Gilbert & George have made art across a variety of mediums which they regard as sculptures which include Postal Sculptures, Magazine Sculptures, Charcoal on Paper Sculptures, Drinking Sculptures, and Video Sculptures.

Their current sculptures are digitally manipulated photographs fitted into a predetermined grid that they call “The Pictures” and if not featuring themselves visually are concerned with their reaction to the world they live in.

As they told Whitewall Magazine’s Slava Mogutin “We believe these are pictures not by picture-makers but “living sculptures.” We are the center of our art, so what we leave behind is all us speaking to the viewer, you see always us part of being here. It was not a performance but a kind of sculpture, a living sculpture, and for us this is a very good form to speak. If the young people go to college and learn how to make pictures, they should learn how to make these ones. They’re letters, visual letters… We always say we make a kind of moralogue: good people, bad people, what should be changed, sexuality, unhappiness, drunkenness, religion, politics—all included, all what’s inside human beings, not the abstract art that doesn’t offend anybody. We believe that people who see our exhibitions become slightly different from those who don’t see, unavoidably. When we started out, it was all about concept art—minimalist, no emotions, not too much color, no sex… It was totally alien to what we were doing, we did always the opposite: too much color, too much sex, too much drunkenness. So it is very human art, more down to earth, like human beings are, not someone who is superior… 30 years ago when we did pictures with Christ or sex or nakedness, the art world thought we were fucking crazy. That’s been sorted out. Today these are the biggest issues in the world. Every newspaper talks about gay marriage nonstop.” 

With the political content of their work their marriage in 2008 was viewed in some quarters as a symbolic act.

But, about which they said “Quite pragmatic. Practical. We didn’t want to pretend straight marriage. If one of us fell under a bus tomorrow, it would be a disaster because by law the estate would go to some distant relative, we would lose control… not that anyone is dying. We have a foundation and by law everything would go back to my family, so that’s why it was very important. When that happened a lot of journalists from France were very interested. A lady journalist asked, ‘What do you think about the gay marriage?’ And I said, ‘Why, are you thinking of marrying a poof?’ There was a very good piece in The Independent about that recently. The Independent would love to attack the bishops, but they’re limited by law. But if somebody else attacks them, then it’s ok. So we said two or three things about gay marriage. Maybe more gay people would like to be married in the church just as a revenge on these bigots. But, rather, why would you want to get married in church by a bunch of pedophiles? We have a very good quote on that from Russia. There was a lady working at one of the commercial galleries and she asked one of the organizers if homosexuality was legal in Russia. And he said, ‘Yes, in prison!’ Our motto is: sex is sex, we don’t want to know what it is. George always says when you ask for the meat in a restaurant you don’t ask for a boy or girl meat!

And as Gilbert said in a 2012 artnet video interview “We are campaigning artists, we are going out there like missionaries, no, preaching morality.”

Gilbert & Georges current exhibition The Banners is on show at London’s White Cube Gallery until the 24th of January next year and their first Australian retrospective exhibition will be on show at Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art from the 28th of November until the 28th of March 2016.

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