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New York Arts Magazine- Rodrigo Tisi

Mister Motley, The Netherlands , 17 December 2016

Truth is Stranger than Fiction
Juul van Stokkom

English translation: Heleen Schröder

‘Sharing’ is crucial in the life of Gil & Moti. The two men do this in a quite remarkable way, that influences their personal lifestyle considerably: they live together inseparably, always wear the same clothes, pay from the same wallet and own only one mobile phone and set of keys. Since forming the artists’ duo Gil & Moti in 1998, they have been investigating individuality and questioning forms and norms of identity. As a married gay couple originally from Israel, the duo explores themes such as nationality and identity; subjects that have made them into the people they are today.
Why have the men chosen to always live together? Via email, the duo tells me about their meeting and how the idea of ‘sharing’ came into being.
‘We met as art students in Jerusalem in 1994. It was love at first sight, and we moved in together very soon. Because we worked on the same sociopolitical themes, we were able to support and help each other intellectually. At that time we still made separate work. After graduating we decided to apply for a master’s together, which brought us to Rotterdam in 1998. In the Netherlands we experienced a kind of relief, an immense sense of freedom. It gave us the chance at a new start and to develop personally; we wanted to examine our own identity. That was the year when we decided not to exist separately any more and to start working together inseparably as a duo: Gil & Moti. We started wearing the same clothes, not only to look like each other but rather to function as a unit. ‘Sharing’ is the basis for a continual conceptual experiment at the visual, mental, and corporeal level. Our personal processes also have meaning for others and provide inspiration. For example, people are prompted to think about how they relate to each other and society.’
While sending a return email to Gil & Moti, I wonder who of the two will receive it on the laptop at the other end. Is it Gil or Moti? It should be impossible to share even the keys on the keyboard? At the same time I realise that this question is of no importance.

Their own bodies and their own life forms the work of the artists’ duo. Their projects often start with personal impressions, but soon lead to contemporary socially relevant themes like discrimination, minorities, being different and cultural conflicts. The projects result in performances, documentations, film, photo sessions etc.
For the video-photo installation Available for You, the couple approaches various local Islamic communities in Copenhagen, Stockholm, Paris and Rotterdam. The Jewish men go to work for Arabic immigrants. In the project In Your Shoes, Gil & Moti seek contact with Muslims to better understand their personal lives; the mosque, their home,  their faith. What happens when a Jewish gay couple meets a Muslim? Conversations erupt about belief, love, sexuality and art.
For the project The Dutch Volunteers the duo made a remarkable decision: they relinquished their Israeli nationality and acquired Dutch citizenship. Gil & Moti applied to volunteer in both Israeli and Palestinian parts of the West Bank. The change in nationality provided the opportunity to really visit both places. With an Israeli passport it would have been illegal to enter Palestinian territory. Gil & Moti helped to (re-)build houses in both Israel and Palestine and came into contact with locals and families. Life in both places and personal contact with the inhabitants provided an insight into what daily life is like in this war zone. The duo captured it in photos and videos – they recorded the meetings and conversations. The result was an installation with video, photography and sculptures in the exhibition The Dutch Volunteers in the photo museum in Rotterdam.
Two videos projected onto wall-height screens show conversations with several people from the Jewish and Palestinian communities. The video of the Palestinian inhabitants is shown on the back of the screen with the video about Israeli citizens. The physical separation of the two videos symbolises the way the two communities live next to each other – a radical divide made concrete by a wall. The videos give an honest account of the way the inhabitants live and how they think about what is going on. The pure conversations brings the current (war) situation on the West Bank very close to an outside observer – in contrast to the fragments one sees on the news. ‘Truth is Stranger than Fiction’ is the perfect title for this installation, and perhaps also for the duo themselves.
Gil & Moti film their own lives and the people they meet. They hold the view that artists should play an important role in the development of society. ‘Art can be a real eye opener and provokes new ways of thinking and acting.’

‘By continually being together, we always receive the same impressions of the same moment. We develop a shared understanding of the world around us, an identical conception and the same action. Almost like twin brothers in a symbiosis. We can’t imagine not living and working together in this way any more. We have learnt to make decisions quickly, and to avoid arguments, otherwise it would not be possible to be together 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We never say ‘no’ to the other’s idea. In everything we do, we switch roles in a natural way. For example when we paint we literally use the same canvas. And we paint in alternating layers, taking turns, so that we are no longer able to tell who did what. It is not by Gil or by Moti; it is by Gil & Moti.