Melanie McDonagh

Gilbert and George have lost their bottom over the burka

Gilbert and George have lost their bottom over the burka
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Let’s brood, shall we, on the following report in the Evening Standard about an exciting new departure by the winsome duo, Gilbert and George, on the back of their new exhibition, called ‘Scapegoating Pictures’ for London which opens tomorrow at the Bermondsey White Cube Gallery:

‘The artists Gilbert and George feature women in burkas in their new exhibition reflecting the changing face of the East End, their home for decades. 

The veiled figures feature in giant photomontages demonstrating the artists’ long-standing hostility to all religions which they believe “terrorise” people. 

They appear alongside images of the artists themselves and a string of typically foul-mouthed slogans urging “molest a mullah” and “f*** a vicar” as well as “jerk off a judge”. 

George Passmore, 72, said: “We’ve always been wrongly accused of choosing the soft target of Christianity and not including women in our pictures — happy now?” 

The show, Scapegoating Pictures, is the latest demonstration of the artists’ career-long desire to shock.’

Don’t know about you but I, personally, am a little tired of being shocked by Gilbert and George; that particular button has been pressed rather too often — it’s not connecting any more. But I should like to take issue with their notion that they’ve now engaged in equal-opportunity blasphemy. I think it was at their retrospective show at Tate Modern a few years ago that I saw quite what their amusing views on Judeo-Christianity amount to. In Spit Law (1997), there were images of the two of them baring their bottoms, flanking a text about homosexuality from the Old Testament – Leviticus, I suppose.

Now, it may be terrifically amusing for them to depict women in burkas irreverently. But to poke fun at the full veil is not, frankly, of a piece with baring their bums at the Bible. If they really want to show as much contempt for Islam as for Christianity, the truly radical and ground-breaking thing to do would be to take a similar text from the Koran and show their bottoms to it. The result, I fancy, would gratify their desire for controversy, and then some.

Can’t quite see it myself, though. Can you?