Who Makes Whom the Minority? The Artist Duo Gil & Moti at the Kunstmuseum Bochum
Hans Günter Golinski, director of Kunstmuseum Bochum.

Published in: Gil & Moti: Totally Devoted to You, monograph, 2011, Hatje Kanz Publishers.

In 2003, the Kunstmusem Bochum organised the exhibition Das Recht des Bildes. Jüdische Perspektiven in der modernen Kunst (The Right of the Image. Jewish Perspectives in Modern Art); it was in investigating our theme that we learned of the artist duo Gil & Moti and their work. They impressed me immediately with their gentle radicalism. We decided to present The Gil & Moti Wedding Project together with ironic paintings that show the artists in a derisive, indeed almost disparaging appropriation of famous figures – lifelike wax replicas of them, that is. While the meeting of Gil & Moti with Marilyn Monroe in a painted illusion was comical, there was something shocking for us Germans about their portrayal of themselves with Anne Frank. If we hadn’t done so already, we wondered at this point about the artists’ cultural background and were relieved to find that in no way was an anti-Semitic statement being made; rather a kind of self-irony that could be called macabre was at work.
Gil & Moti’s Bochum installation stirred great interest in the context of the exhibition. Alongside very moving artworks by various artists who concerned themselves with the holocaust, Gil & Moti added a different dimension to dealing with the horror – their ironic humour served to ease the tension while not making light of the terror. In Germany in particular, the encounter of Jews and non-Jews regained here a lost naturalness characterised by a sober levity. Since our first cooperation I have observed the couple’s evolution as artists with both professional and personal in- terest, and at one point I gladly accepted an invitation to travel to Tel Aviv, originally for a German-Israeli project which then grew into an international joint project involving five art institutions in five European countries, something quite unusual in its scope.
Since 1994, Gil & Moti have been living and working as a self-aestheticising artist couple, choosing the art and life form of artist duo, a form that has come to be not so unusual. They have not focused so much on subjects intrinsic to art as have historical artist couples such as Jean Arp and Sophie Taeuber-Arp or Robert and Sonia Delaunay. Still more uncompromising than Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Gilbert & George or Pierre and Gilles, they traverse in their art the borders between private, indeed intimate, and public life, between individual and society. With remarkable steadiness, they have continued along this singular artistic road for more than sixteen years, breaking taboos both in the ideas and the form of their work. Gil & Moti address very complex, diverse and occasionally explosive political and societal themes with an apparently naïve approach that incorporates varied artistic media such as oil and wa- tercolour paintings, prints, videos, installations, texts and – lastly and most importantly – interactive performances. The concept of artistic naïveté in particular introduces new elements to real problem areas. In this, the way in which they cut across borders and work to remove stigma plays, both ideationally and formally, an important role; art genres and media intermix within conceptual installations; societal phenomena, ostensibly disconnected from one another, are moved into as yet unseen political contexts.
Ever at the centre of focus is the self-actualisation of the individual, the self-determined being amidst collective constraints and prospects. Beginning with their Israeli back- ground and the artistic and societal experiences that emerged from it, Gil & Moti develop an aesthetic language of strategies and symbols which takes up and makes visible both historical and current events, a language that is inter- nationally – indeed almost universally – comprehensible. The two men have merged their appearances through matching outfits; they act as mirror images of one another, as alter egos, so as to call into question both the claim to artistic singularity and individual style as well as to human uniqueness. In their projects, they reference existing networks in social systems, which are initially subjected to a critical analysis so as to then, within these structures, explore pos- sibilities of exerting influence and giving rise to creative change. Next to the historical consideration of the fate of the Jews, what is often central here in Gil & Moti’s artistic work is the reflection upon the political reality of their homeland and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As public projects, they offer their services (cleaning, babysitting, stacking shelves in stores) to people of Arab descent who live in Copenhagen and Rotterdam, throw neighbourhood parties in their private exhibition space in Rotterdam and develop interactive projects with children and youth of different cultural, religious and political backgrounds in Haifa, Israel. Through encounters, dialogue and common action, they work to break the ice between established cultural activity and marginalised, highly diverse social worlds. In all of these sometimes very sensitive encounters, they live their gayness plainly and openly, which is often shocking, embarrassing, or smiled upon. In the Arab and Islamic world in particular, but for Jews as well as Christians (for all their apparent liberality), homosexuals represent a taboo minority group. The artist duo uses this stigmatisation symbolically and metaphorically in both their art and their life. The intimate becomes the political and vice versa. Although they use Internet sex forums for communication, whose porno-like imagery they appropriate artistically, they are always successful in differentiating between sex and love.
The topic of minorities is an essential motif in Gil & Moti’s work: the forms of minorities which, within different societies, are pushed to the periphery. As Israelis, Jews, immigrants, gays and above all artists, Gil & Moti reference and embody historical and present-day minority groups. Through com- parison, the minority status of individual groups of people is relativised and the question arises as to who ultimately makes whom the minority. At the same time, the artists open up the view of the self-determined minority – they give the courage for alterity.
In the Bochum exhibition, this aspect is made a focal point through interactive elements. If the images, films and in- stallations of the common exhibition address or provoke adults above all, a direct connection to children and youth is also made. Physically and spiritually close to the Jewish community, encounters are arranged between the artists and school children and youth groups. Such encounters occur at the Kunstmuseum, in the synagogue’s community centre and elsewhere, and they enable communication about personal conceptions of life and aspirations. As the region is very strongly shaped by immigrants and the classes and groups are therefore multicultural, the discussion is lively and full of controversy – although more so in images than in words. Gil & Moti, their behaviour and aesthetic methods of ostensible naïveté, invite a closeness to youth who are in the process of finding their place in society and who yearn for outsiders, often finding them only in the commercial idols of pop culture. Perhaps the dreams and desires of youth are echoed by the painted, drawn, filmed or performed images – ideals that exist or emerge beyond societal majorities and their dominating ideas; it is in this way that they have the potential to become the dreams of adults as well.

Selected Essays
Mariette Dölle- Gil & Moti: Future Line Tours
Catrin Lundqvist- When Personal Becomes Political
William Easton- Gil & Moti in the Kitchen
Elisabeth Delin Hansen- The Triple Heart
Mariette Dölle- Social Dynamics as Agents for Artistic Practice
Tali Tamir- (Israeli) Artists at Your Service, or In Praise of Exile
Maaike Bleeker- Let’s Fall in Love: Staging a Political Marriage
Selected Reviews