One day two young students, Gilbert Prousch and George Passmore, met at Central Saint Martins College of Art in London in 1967. It was love at first sight and they never separated again, whether in art or in life. After over 50 years they still live together, wear identical tweed suits, share the same circle of friends, and last but not least, make art together. Always and only with one another because Gilbert and George are two in one and they consider themselves as one artistic identity.
Life is a Performance
Their formal and composed look might be however a little misguiding, since their lifestyle, especially when they were young, was anything but conventional and conservative. Straight from the beginning of their activity at the university, G&G believed that anything they did, said, thought was art and hence that life they led was worth documenting and preserving on photographs. And since their lifestyle defied the conventions of the late 1960s, so did their art. Their groundbreaking piece was a performance The Singing Sculpture during which they sang and danced on a table to one of the standards by Flanagan and Allen, the Underneath the Arches. It is a song about two tramps who tell about the pleasures of sleeping rough: by selecting it G&G referred to the traditions of vaudeville, but also identified with the marginalized by the rest of society.
Art is to Provoke
With time they moved onto video and photography, the media which did not require their physical presence and could reach more people in no time. The leading thread of their art is a provocation. They question social conventions and dogmas, often very aggressively using swearwords, iconoclastic images, or even bodily fluids. They say that they want their art to “bring out the Bigot from inside the Liberal and conversely, to bring out the Liberal from inside the Bigot” and they criticise other contemporary artists for not asking enough questions if any at all.
We see all the other artists as somehow meaningless they state straightforwardly.
To Include the Other and to Exclude the Familiar
As an openly gay couple, G&G want to put across a message of inclusion and tolerance, and to show how marginalized and still treated as an ‘other’ are those who do not fit the conventional ‘type’. By using a bold bright-colored and sometimes even hallucinogenic aesthetic, they scream straight into the viewer’s face, shocking both visually and conceptually. Their large-scale photographs, usually divided into rectangular sections by sharp outlines, bring to my mind stained glass one finds in churches, which perfectly fits G&G idea of defamiliarizing the traditional imagery and of striving towards a world free from taboos, religion, or political correctness.