Gilbert and George

Last week we were at the Fashion and Textiles Museum hosting our workshop for the Creative Hub, during our lunch hour Dilys and I were lucky enough to be able wander through the rain clouds down to the Whitecube Gallery to sneak a peak at the SCAPEGOATING Pictures by Gilbert and George.

And what a lunchtime treat it was. Thinking as we do about London as our Habit(AT) and our environment, the exhibition laid London bare as a city of tradition and contradiction. Huge pieces filled the gallery like stained-glass windows removed from a modern day church for atheists, agnostics and cynics, challenging our preconceptions and our attitudes in a blaze of black, white and red. Gilbert & George capture much detail of the city and the everyday. Clothing, objects, appearance – were all challenged. What sort of city do we live in? Is it tolerant? Conservative? Radical? Dangerous? Political? Mundane? Dull? Frightening?

Laughing gas canisters like bullets or bombs littered nearly every image and the London that was represented was  a London of multipicities – ethnic, religious, culutural, economic, with various values, expectations, boundaries and limits. The artists appear throughout their images as ‘living sculptures’ in their uniform of suited tweed anchoring us again to our present surroundings and a history of fashion, textiles, immigration and economics that start in by stretch beyond the East End.

DW: There is a variety of ways in which we can see the imprint of people on a city, its colours, shapes, textures and contents. Conversely, the imprint of a city on people and nature can be seen through their social actions, health, habits and culture. In a city such as London, this ecosystem of infrastructure and activation is an incredible example of human ingenuity and instinct, for me, it makes it like no other place on earth. So it was with eager anticipation that Anna and I headed down to Bermondsey to see the latest form of Gilbert and George’s observation and perception of the city, described through their incredible visual narrative, itself now part of how this city is globally recognised. As well as an aesthetic force, this work describes the most elemental aspects of being human alongside and indeed as conduits to our political dispositions towards each other in this place.

How we live together, our habits in eating, travelling, dressing and partying are brought into stark relief as cultural interactions, creating the means for a range of interpretations according to the perceptions of the viewer. Taking in the exhibition on a day when we were also working with a range of London-based businesses at our Creative Hub workshop, highlighted the human emotion in Gilbert and George’s work in very clear ways. We have people here with values and skills that are vital, but not always recognised in the distractions of our daily lives.

The exhibition title ‘Scapegoating’ leads me to realise more than ever, that in order for our city to thrive, we need to create and form trust and to take an active part in our city, as our constraints are in our wasted energies spent on blame and defensiveness – rather than using up our precious time on considering whose fault it is or that its somebody else’s job, we’d do better if we could find more mediums for considering and standing up for our own contributions alongside listening to those of others.

Fashion is such a political and emotional medium and we hope that our imprint over the coming months can be inspired by this work as we explore how fashion’s actions and artifacts can contribute to London’s thriving city ecosystem, through our project Habit(AT). We will be carrying out a range of actions ourselves to seek out the concerns of our city’s inhabitants, to see how our attire represents our cultures and how our distinctions and connections can be honoured through fashion’s designing, making and wearing. And on a wider scale, working with Tom Corby from Westminster, Vivek Sheth and Virkein Dhar, I will be exploring and interpreting concerns in city locales of Ahmedabad, New Delhi and London through our AHRC funded project, which will showcase in November at Unbox Festival in India.

So thankyou Mr Gilbert and Mr George, your bodypopping and canister touting has inspired a multitude of ideas.