WITH GILBERT AND GEORGE, a film by JULIAN COLE (2008, Madman DVD)

 |   |  2 min read

WITH GILBERT AND GEORGE, a film by JULIAN COLE (2008, Madman DVD)

Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about the artists Gilbert and George revealed in this insightful and candid documentary is -- aside from their alarming normalcy -- that they don't have a kitchen in their tidy but chock-full home.

No kitchen means no smells, no time wasted on cooking or cleaning up, more space. So they eat locally around Spitalfields in East London and their sole efforts in making anything for themselves -- aside from art -- involves Nescafe instant coffee or tea bags.

At first this absence of such a necessary domestic space as a kitchen seems odd, and then it all makes sense.

Gilbert and George are serious, disciplined and work constantly. They live with few distractions but, although they seem poised and often silent, they certainly don't lack passion. They speak of sex with more frankness than most (they refuse to use the word gay because it has been normalised and they aren't normal, they say) and their art has often addressed subjects which others rarely approached: the derelicts on the streets, neo-nazi elements, racism, immigrants . . .

georgeThese are the concerns of their neighbours and so inevitably have become their concerns too, their presence impacts on their creativity.

Far from being emotionally detached as they often seem, they are engaged in internal and mutual dialogue about many matters. And they are astute observers of those in the art world and critics who have made what they consider silly and hurtful comments.

They note that if they use young men in their work their subjects have been labelled as "rent boys" and if they use children they have been labelled as paedophiles. Just silly, hurtful and untrue.

The so-called "odd couple" have proven that art need not come from just one person and they observe that two is the most common relationship on the planet. What is peculiar to others, they note dispassionately, is that two men together creates a problem for some. But that is just "an old fashioned idea".

IMG_0174When Gilbert and George speak this way it is others who seem out of step.

From their famous Singing Sculpture in '70 through their works inspired by bouts of drinking (which is part of the art culture but rarely makes it onto canvas) and their discoveries of techniques and working methods, this documentary traces the life and work of two people who have become one extraordinary art project.

We see them in Russia and as the first living atists accorded an exhibition in China (it was in the run-up to the bid for the Olympics so even though the Beijing political administration didn't understand their work they knew having it would look good to the West).

And we see them move through their piss and shit work into exceptionally beautiful pieces using their own body fluids. And even though these seem confrontational to manym G&G strive for beauty and form, and don't wish to put anyone off seeing them.

"We're not interested in arguments," says George Passmore. "It's only when people agree that you can move forward."

And when they put it like that, it seems the most normal thing in the world.

Strangely normal.

Very strange, very normal.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Film articles index

IN SEARCH OF SHAKESPEARE (DVD): He doth bestride the world . . .

IN SEARCH OF SHAKESPEARE (DVD): He doth bestride the world . . .

My favourite story is the one about the guy whose wife tells him to murder his boss and grab the top job. He does, but then he’s got to kill a few others to keep it. Along the way, as the... > Read more

BEST OF ELSEWHERE DVDs 2008 Kraftwerk and the Electronic Revolution (DVD)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE DVDs 2008 Kraftwerk and the Electronic Revolution (DVD)

Not only does this excellent overview of the German electronic scene come in at a whopping and thorough three hours, but it also has good timing: it is released just as Kraftwerk make a rare return... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

The The: I'm a Long Gone Daddy (1994)

The The: I'm a Long Gone Daddy (1994)

Any number of country artists have lined up to pay tribute to the great Hank Williams whose career was cut short in 1952 at age 29 when he was found dead in the back of his car through a... > Read more

THE BARGAIN BUY: The Sony "Original Album Classics" series: It's only rock'n'roll

THE BARGAIN BUY: The Sony "Original Album Classics" series: It's only rock'n'roll

We've pitched these Sony Original Album Classics previously so let's turn to spotlight on the loud, stadium-rock collections in this series. You want widescreen stadium rock which was big on... > Read more