The world’s longest-running festival of international contemporary art, the Venice Biennale, opens to the public today. This year, the grandees of the British Council have decreed that the nation be represented by that well known artistic double-act, Gilbert and George. So today’s picture is a photograph recording a performance of one of the works with which they first made a name for themselves – The Singing Sculpture.


 Born Gilbert Proesch (b.1943) and George Passmore (b.1942), the pair submerged their individual personalities into the Siamese-twin-like persona of Gilbert and George shortly after meeting at St Martin’s School of Art in London in 1967.  “On leaving college and being without a penny,” George later recalled, “we were just there. Just two physical presences, Gilbert and George.” So it was, Gilbert added, that “We put on metallic make-up and became sculptures. Two bronze sculptures.”

The Singing Sculpture
marked their debut as a self-styled living work of art. It was presented for the first time in London, in 1969, at a venue in

Cable Street
, and took the form of a long and deliberately repetitive performance. Hands and faces bronzed, and wearing the tight-fitting flannel suits that would be their uniform for the next three decades and more, they stood atop a cheap table enacting what resembled a song-and-dance routine carried out by robots. Balanced on a wooden box in front of them, a cheap tape recorder played back the sound of a tinny 78 rpm recording of Flanagan and Allen’s music-hall staple, “Underneath the Arches”: “The Ritz we never sigh for, / The Savoy they can keep, / There’s only one place that we know, / And that is where we sleep, / Underneath the arches, / We dream our dreams away.” To the strains of...

To read the full article please either login or register .