Decriminalise Sex, Fuck the Planet, Ban Religion… these are some of the slogans, painted on the latest artworks by Gilbert & George, that caused controversy and a public discussion. The slogans, that many find offensive, are scribbled on the artworks currently on display at THE BANNERS exhibition at White Cube gallery in London. The duo is no stranger to controversy, having had to defend their works form critics for more than 40 years. Throughout their career, Gilbert & George depicted bodily fluids, sexual acts and numerous works dealing with race and mortality to both delight and outrage of the art loving crowd worldwide. In accordance with their famous motto Art for all, the new exhibition offers a provocative phrase for all, from Ban Religion and Fellatio For All aimed at more conservative crowd, to artworks whose goal is to shock those liberal, republican art lovers who think that Good Save the Queen is a bigger insult than Fuck Him.
A Performance Turned Into an Art Series
New Gilbert & George exhibition has its roots in the live sculpture performance held by the duo at the annual Serpentine Marathon (a series of 24 hour art talks). Last year, the main topic was extinction and the artists were invited to participate, but instead of making a speech or a presentation, the duo has written slogans Burn that Book and Fuck the Planet and held them over their heads for four minutes. “We need to just leave nature alone. Human beings should only be in the city because it makes them freer and more tolerant than the ones isolated on top of the mountain”, George elaborated the act in an interview for The Guardian. When the White gallery director Jay Jopling, saw the banners at Gilbert & George’s studio, he suggested they should be turned into an art series. Now, almost a year later the series is finished and is as provocative and as confrontational as the duo that created it.
Gilbert and George Say…
THE BANNERS exhibition consists of a series of white rectangles with handwritten slogans, each starting with “Gilbert and George say…” and ending with a provocative phrase. These 10 controversial slogans are created in the editions of three thus creating 30 artworks, each original because every artwork was painted by hand. The artworks are mounted on linen and hung by three eyelets on the top, like banners often are. On one hand, the exhibition represents an exploration of text and typography of everyday things such as newspaper headlines, flyers, posters and sex advertisements. On the other hand, the provocative messages on the images represent a slap in the face to the liberal public and offend or disregard everything they stand for, including environmental issues, religious beliefs or politically correct terms.
THE BANNERS at White Cube Gallery in London
The phrases, of course, are more ambiguous than they might seem at first glance. Burn that Book, the duo claims, represents a need for liberation from organised religion and schools. Fuck Him can be understood as an angry outburst, but also as an up-front romantic proposal. Interpreted in this way, the exhibition suddenly transforms from an act of provocation to a call for liberation. THE BANNERS exhibition represent Gilbert & George’s vision of the future as a secular place, liberated from religion, sexual taboos and political correctness. The artists believe that the power of the political correctness have gone too far and destroyed the human ability to think for themselves thus turning into another form of dictatorship. “People don’t know what to think and they are not able to say anything anymore because they are so liberal they are not allowed – they have lost their moral fiber, the moral strength, lost all their conviction to act.” said Gilbert for The Guardian. New exhibition by Gilbert & George opened on November 25th, 2015 and will last till January 24th, 2016 at White Cube gallery in London.