THE BANNERS comprise of ten works of which there are three unique copies each. In these works, various phrases such as ‘DECRIMINALISE SEX’, ‘BAN RELIGION’, ‘GOD SAVE THE QUEEN’ or ‘FUCK THE TEACHERS’ are hand-written in black ink on white paper, above which is written in red, ‘Gilbert & George say:-‘, in the artist’s familiar signature. THE BANNERS are, as Michael Bracewell has written in his catalogue essay for the exhibition, ‘materially and rhetorically [...] direct, tough, immediate.’ Landscape in format and uniform in scale – their size dictated by the largest sheet of watercolour paper available – they are mounted on linen and hung, like banners, from three brass eyelets across the top of the work.
While THE BANNERS continue Gilbert & George’s exploration of urban text and typography, such as newspaper headlines, posters, flyers, street signage and sex advertisements, they also relate more specifically to a recent ‘living sculpture’, created for the ‘Extinction Marathon’ held in 2014 at the Serpentine Gallery, London. For this event, Gilbert & George stood silently in front of an audience for just over four minutes, each respectively holding a BANNER that read ‘BURN THAT BOOK’ and ‘FUCK THE PLANET’.
Appearing to answer prejudice with prejudice, THE BANNERS attempt to neutralise bigotry by presenting it back through an accessible, instant language that extends beyond the reach of the usual audience for contemporary art. In so doing, THE BANNERS define, as Michael Bracewell has noted ‘a moral vision that is at once libertarian, atheistic, monarchist and existential. All are proactive. They each propose the disruption of modern conventions or sophistry as a means of encouraging individuals to think for themselves.’