Additive Collaboration – Investigating the Process of Gilbert and George

7 02 2008

‘We don’t think we’re two artists. We think we are an artist’ (Sylvester. 1999).


Bloody Life No 16 (1975) Photo courtesy Gilbert & George/Aperture Foundation


With this collaboration, there is a complete dissolution of one’s individual identity. They have agreed that no one can disagree with the other. Their process is additive. One person puts an image, the other adds another. They have made it into a rule never to say no.

“One of our first rules for ourselves was “Never discuss.”’ (Sylvester.1999:p13).


Fates 2005 Laser print on paper 4260 x 7600 mm

Here, choice is obviously constricted. One is not allowed to say no. Though for them, this process works in pushing each other’s creativity, there is also a lack of freedom. Individuality is sacrificed for the sake of the whole. In our practice we are challenging this idea. By creating two pieces of work with distinct voices, that interact, we are questioning the need to ‘homogenize’ oneself within a collaboration. In fact, there is only one piece that reveals the artistic styles of Gilbert and George. Two drawings that are entitled Gilbert by George and George by Gilbert. They both admit that this is the piece they hate the most.


Cabbage Worship (1982)

They reveal in their interviews that they use the photo-montage as a way to hide their individual drawing skills, saying that it is because they want the idea to be the most important thing, and not who made what.
By removing any obvious signs of the handmade, they effectively thwarted the possibility of the viewer being able to differentiate one person’s input from the other’s, with potentially divisive consequences (Gibert and George. Major Exhibition. Tate Gallery, ed.)
This can be contested as a way of hiding one’s strengths and weaknesses, and in that way, one’s differences. How can any bit of hiding be the truth? This is the very thing that our collaboration challenges. Though we agree that the discourse within collaborations makes a unique experience and process that would not be the same without the presence of the other, we do not agree that making one’s individual mark (which is inevitable) brings the audience closer to the truth.




One response

12 11 2008
Haleema & Gemma

I really like most of your work.
I would have never thought that two old men would do some really nice modern paintings like this.
Buh amazing work guys (or should we say men) keep it up 😉

Peace =D x

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