Saturday, 25 October 2008

how come? (4) - gilbert & george

I was happily driving along the M25 the other morning (don’t laugh) when I heard Evan Davis interviewing Gilbert & George on Radio 4. The interview had that smug ‘aren’t we all really clever’ feel to it that the Today programme does so well. Any possibility of critique or challenge flies out of the window as everyone wallows in their sense of artistic and intellectual superiority.

The heart of the interview was the invitation to Gilbert & George to share their manifesto for the Twenty First Century – they were participating in the Manifesto Marathon at the Serpentine Gallery. What was this great manifesto from these icons of the art world? BAN RELIGION x 3. They repeated this over and over with inane comments along the ‘religion is responsible for all the evil in the world’ lines. Here are a few of their gems:
Religion should be banned because it’s criminal activity.
The rate of suicide and murder is enormous because of religion.
Religious people are wicked people committing crimes all over the world.
We do believe that religions are just lies and that’s it.

It was the stuff of fourth form debating chamber nightmares and I was astounded by the sheer inanity of these claims exposed to the most gentle of questioning from Davis. It made Davis’ questioning of Dragon’s Den participants sound like Torquemada.

Now I am no expert on the work of Gilbert and George but there are two things that stick in my mind. Many of their works are in the style of cathedral like large stain glass windows and these works frequently explore religious themes, images and symbols. So, much of their work in both style and substance is dependent on the very thing they want to ban. The 3 Minute Theologian nails the sheer vacuity of Gilbert and George’s manifesto in his piece Thank God for artists. The piece also explores their claims about freedom and politics, also expressed during the interview. I won’t bother to comment on those statements here, except to say they displayed the same intellectual rigour and depth as their wittering about religion.

One final irony was that the piece began by stating that the Manifesto Marathon was taking place near Speaker’s Corner because that was the place associated with freedom of speech!

How come Gilbert & George want to ban the very thing that they have based their career upon?

No comments: