Gilbert & George @ Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo
Emoji summary: 🚫👥💀
i’m super aware my reviews have been getting longer n longer, n like, i know why - the bigger our audience gets the more i feel the need to plug every single hole in an argument bc the kickback is so much to deal with when its u lot versus the two of us. but the white pube turned 4 whole years old the weekend i’m publishing this and i wanna be vibing our own (recent) nostalgia and messier times. that energy includes delivering u art thoughts in some fast food shorter reviews. so as a bit of an exercise, and because honestly i have felt sorry for our readers having to put up with these *lengths,* i’m gonna keep my exhibition reviews under 1000 words for a while, write quick n loose n see what happens. Ok. Zarina was actually gonna write this one, of the Gilbert and George show we saw in Oslo, but decided not to give it the time of day; her centre is artists of colour, so these 2 can move along. but i’m all for taking white artists down a few notches, it is my favourite responsibility. i go about thinking i am the great leveller. n gilbo and georgie, it’s your turn to take the stand.
we were in norway for Oslo Art Weekend on the invitation of the U.F.O. guide which is like Birmingham Art Map but better. the ministry of foreign affairs was paying so that’s mad lol. it was a whirlwind 5 days in the fanciest hotel i will ever stay in - there was a real Edvard Munch painting in the lobby for example, wtf. On the last day, we took a sunny walk to Astrup Fearnley which is a museum in an ugly white building at the end of the harbour, and houses some mega rich people’s collection which includes damien hirst cows and butterflies, some Jeff Koons bullshit, and a pretty nondescript painting by Olav Christopher Jenssen exceptionally titled ‘Lack of Memory/Golliwog’ - jus squeeze that racism in where you can i guess. As Press™️, we’d been treated so niceeee and looked after so welllll that walking into a Gilbert and George show to close the week felt like a punch to the stomach but also a good transitional moment before we boarded our planes back to brexit land. The exhibition is a salon hang packed with GIANT images metres long and high in the artist’s typical style: high saturation pop-art-ish, lots of symmetry, union jacks as backgrounds, black grids, fascist agrit-propaganda aesthetics, and blocky text styled after british tabloid press saying things like BATTER A BIGOT, MENSTRUATE IN THE MOSQUE, NATIONALISTS MAKE ME SICK, MOSQUE BOMB HOAXER FACES JAIL, CLASS, CLASS, CLASS, TOFFS OUT. The artists are in most of the images; stood either side of 2 women wearing hijab bordered by used up balloon gas canisters; showing us their dicks, and bent over showing us their bum holes. Lots of images where they look like they have eyeliner and beards by different means: the ends of a menorah covers the bottom half of their faces. super racialised. We felt stressed walking round, and before leaving I put the free tote bag the curator had given me back in the shop because ew.
We ended up back in Oslo the following weekend (RIP the environment, i’m sorry) where we were on a panel talk about the limitations of artistic freedom n I commented that the Gilbert and George show was the worst exhibition I had seen in years. well, I got literally heckled multiple times and told that 1. i didn’t understand it ! their work is ironic ! and 2. as gay men their representation is important !!! For me, it comes down to this. If you see their art as ironic, it’s clear you have a certain amount of privilege / and certain lack of empathy / to be able to access that experience because a lot of other people are going to walk in there and feel humiliated by what Gilbert and George have made. I wonder like, maybe the artists are getting away with it more easily here because they’re exhibiting internationally; our friend Håkon Lillegraven said to us the next day, ‘Norwegians have an ironic distance to everything except their own privilege’ - a mic drop if i ever saw one. N I’m sorry but I don’t think any gay man in his right mind wants representation in two loud Margaret Thatcher-loving tories who caricature class, religion and violence for their own aesthetic whimsy, and do it so performatively that they come off like pensioner edgelords of the art world. Na I do not think they have the right to represent anyone else, not in aNy way, but it’s bad enough we have to see their wrinkle dicks on top of that; 2 old rich white men demanding we look at them is not how I want to spend a Sunday afternoon visiting an art gallery. like how can any of this shit be classed as Political Art when the artists are just making it about themselves again and again. their lives are so un-radical now that they composite themselves next to radicality for clout, and reach towards the Political Art genre for credibility and relevance. i think any potential for irony here is decimated by white vanity. Maybe they popped off once upon a time but they need to catch the fuck up: this is the type of imagery and positioning of white men as above-law god figures that comes off like porn and thinspiration for mass shooters and right wing politics. it is Othering, enabling, and white supremacist, and tbh I think that’s exactly what they want it to be. it’s actually a scandal they are still getting shows and selling and i think everyone involved w this one should be ashamed!!!!