Suggested words

A Face Full of Swearing: The Museum Collective’s Trip to a Gilbert and George Exhibition

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In advance of our upcoming Gilbert & George exhibition at Brighton Museum, a member of our Museum Collective writes about their use of swearing in their art. Please note that this post contains language that some might consider offensive.

I’m Charlie and I’m part of the Museum Collective at Brighton Museum. We’re working on a project for the upcoming Gilbert and George exhibition, and back in January we took a trip to London to see some of their work in the White Cube Gallery.

The exhibition we visited was called ‘The Beard Pictures and Their Fuckosophy’ and involved some very large pieces of work featuring the artists with beards made up of all kinds of things, as well as a list of over 5,000 phrases containing the f-word printed on the walls.

One of the reasons we had gone to see the work in person was to get a sense of the scale of Gilbert and George’s work since that can be hard to get across in pictures of it. Some of the work is almost billboard size, and it’s not until you are stood in front of them that you can start to take in every detail. All of the Beard Pictures feature their faces and in some of them, it felt as though they were staring back at you.

My favourite part of the exhibition was the Fuckosophy. This list was displayed floor to ceiling on several of the walls of the gallery. There were far too many to read in the time that we were there, but it was fascinating to see which ones drew your eye. For a word that is considered to be taboo, there certainly are a lot of phrases that it’s used in. It made me think about how some words can cause such offence, and what is it about those particular words that we’re so offended by.  I don’t have the answers to these questions, but the more I research into Gilbert and George’s work, the more I think about them.

Charlie meets Gilbert and George

Right at the end of our visit, we were discussing which phrases were our favourites, when two people came through the door that everyone’s eyes immediately turned to. At first we joked that two gentleman had come dressed up as the artists because they were such big fans, but as they got closer, we came to the realisation that they were in fact the real deal. We were at a Gilbert and George exhibition with Gilbert and George! What a moment that was. One of the braver members of the Collective, An, even went and struck up a conversation with them. They were lovely and took some pictures with us and other visitors in the gallery.

As we got on the train back to Brighton, I think it’s fair to say we were all in a state of disbelief. It really was the perfect end to a wonderful day.