They’re alive! Gilbert & George talk and sing at Bozar. ‘We never argue. And if we did, we wouldn’t tell you’


Iconic figures? You bet. It was rather strange to see thát many people turn up for an interview with Gilbert & George, yesterday evening, at Bozar (Brussels). Young and old, anxiously trying to get hold of those last tickets, as if some famous rock star was going to appear. A completely packed theatre listened to the often funny stories of the British artists, who even sang a little tune at the end.  ‘Do you think our early work was rather dark and melancholic? Well, that was because we were drinking a lot in those days, and we probably overdid it a little bit.’ Read on, for more quotes and highlights.

From Thursday onwards, Brussels’ gallery Baronian Francey is showing some of Gilbert & George’s recent Jack Freak Pictures (until October 31), so that’s why the two gentlemen are in town. At Bozar they were interviewed by writer Michael Bracewell. It turned out to be an enjoyable evening, both informative and funny, with two artists not taking themselves too seriously.

On their early days: ‘Starting to work together was not a conscious decision. Something just came over us. And like a cloud we drifted away from those other students at art school. We wanted to make art with content. That was taboo. We wanted to make figurative art. That was taboo. We wanted to make art about life, death and love. That was taboo too. We were alone. We didn’t fit in. The art world considered normal people to be inferior and unintelligent. We wanted to make art for everyone. That was not thought very well of.’ 

Their biggest invention: ‘We were poor and didn’t have a studio. So we decided to become art ourselves. That was our biggest invention. We borrowed a list with addresses from an art gallery, and we started writing all those people letters to tell them we were still alive. There was an important show for which we were sure we were going to be selected, but we didn’t. So we turned up as a living sculpture at the opening. It was a big success. We got invited to Düsseldorf by one of the most important galleries.’

On those first, dark pictures: ‘We got paid a lot for our first works of art. We discovered drinking and that didn’t go very well. We started to drink a lot and we probably overdid it a little bit on those feelings of being outsiders and being desperate.’

Can art be prophetic? ‘Art has to incorporate past, present and future. We like to think that our pictures are like our tomorrows.’

On holidays and little boys: ‘We are working all the time. There is nothing else we can do. We have tried to go on holiday, but after two days in Malaga or Lisbon we wanted to go home. Creating new pictures is a great privilege. Nobody can interfere. And the next privilege is to show them in all these cities around the world where people turn up to come and see them. And all of a sudden we are at openings, surrounded by teenagers licking us all over.’

On discovering red: ‘People often ask us why we started using red early on in our career, after having worked in black and white. Well, it was simple: we discovered colour. Every artist starts out with a box of crayons. We didn’t have that. So it took us four years to find red.’

On inspiration: ‘We go deadheaded to our studio. Without any ideas. We just have what is inside us: love, fear, hope… and we try to trust that. We don’t want to have ideas. But we are collecting images all the time.’

On the Jack Freak Pictures: ‘We were amazed that we came up with more than 150 new pictures. Usually an artist doesn’t know what to do next after a career retrospective. We had a positive trauma. It’s rather amazing if you take into account that we only have 1 (!) assistant. And he’s only allowed to scan. We do all the rest. That’s something we are really proud of.’

On religion:Was Jesus heterosexual? was one of the subtitles of one of our paintings. A lot of religious people were really angry, whereas the only thing they had to do was say yes. That many people are dying because of the condom-policy of the church. Religion is a subject we have to explore. It would be silly not to.’

On arguing: ‘We don’t argue. And even if we did, we wouldn’t tell you. Doing this together is an enormous strength. It removes all self-doubt. They can never defeat us. That’s why the world is divided in two’s.’

On wearing the same clothes: ‘We don’t dress the same. We dress similarly. That’s a big difference.’

On walking and routine: ‘Yes, we are always eating at the same restaurant, at 8 o’clock sharp. We never read the menu. Why should we? We don’t want to waste our brain reading menus. And why should we cook ourselves? We prefere to use our brain in more interesting ways. Before we eat, we go for a walk. George walks for one hour and a half. I just do 45 minutes, because I have flat feet. It’s important to go out and see the world, the trees, the cars and the birds.’

On changing the world: ‘Can art change the world? Yes, we believe it can. There’s so many galleries these days and newspapers are writing about art all the time. Art makes you see the world in an other way. Only culture changes people. Vicars won’t.’

PS: Bozar will be showing the complete Jack Freak Pictures-series (153 pictures) next year (October 2010-January 2011).

 (photo credit: Gilbert & George ‘Rosarium’ (2008), courtesy Baronian Francey)


One Response to “They’re alive! Gilbert & George talk and sing at Bozar. ‘We never argue. And if we did, we wouldn’t tell you’”

  1. […] Check my interview on beauty with them here, or the highlights of an interview at Bozar, last year, here. (‘Jack Freak Pictures’, through January 23, Bozar; info here; images courtesy […]

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