<< With or Without Me

Gil & Moti

Israeli artists, living and working together since 1994. Since 1998 they have been based in Holland where they introduced their signature “Gil & Moti” and launched their Homegallery as a living and working place for themselves and a project space for the invited artists.



How long has it been your collaboration going on and how did it start?

Gil: We met in the art school in 94. It started like many common love stories and we very soon realized that we shared a lot of ideas and we helped each-other, we were assisting each other, technically and also mentally supported each other. The marriage came after as one of our projects.

Moti: We both were doing very autobiographical work so at the beginning we found interest in each other’s work. We also did works together, shared a studio but at the beginning we kept making separate products with separate signatures. We moved to Holland in ‘98 and then we could invent a new artist, because nobody knew us, and since then we work as one artist – so it’s not really a proper collaboration.

Yes, that is the specific thing in it.

Gil: We can not think about making our own work anymore.

And has that been formed gradually, or was it all natural from the beginning?

Gil: For the first four years we were still in Israel, working closely to each other, as Moti said, sharing a studio, sometimes even participating, i mean, appearing in each other’s work in different ways, visually or textually. And we also exhibited together, but still kept separated signatures. I think it felt rather artificial at a certain point, but we both felt personally that it wouldn’t be so easy to change it while we were in Israel. As we moved to Holland, we felt like, okay, we are actually anonymous here, nobody knows us, so we can start fresh. It started with moving into a gallery, like in a home - that was our first project. At the same time we developed an installation which consisted of two spaces. There already we started speaking about two identities which blur together, becoming one blurry identity. People weren’t wondering about this, because for them it looked rather natural, that we are working closely together. It was rather easy to join our work, we didn’t have to excuse to Israeli colleagues and such, as we had thought we would have. And it became also more interesting. I mean we just started it out of interest and it became more vivid in a way and livelier to work together, developing concepts, installation, exchange like now we do (Dating Gil & Moti, Műcsarnok, Budapest), like one of us starts a drawing, passes it to the other and the other would continue it. It is always a kind of exchange, and at the end we do not remember who did the last layer – which is not actually important, either. So it becomes one. And of course, the clothing came along with the first project with the Homegallery. We felt like, ok, dress in matching clothes and then talk about identity: does clothing really represent individuality, is that we are or is it something conditioned.

It also looks like a brand.

Gil: Yeah. Or one product. Or a costume.

Moti: A uniform.

Brand or uniform, because there are different connotations.

Moti: Both in a way. We buy normal cloths, we do not make them.

I wanted to ask you actually if you always wear matching clothes.

Gil: Always. And we are always together. Of course, we go to the toilet alone…

You know, I’ve been making these interviews with separate persons because I think alone we are just more sincere and express more easily our eventual negative feelings – in your case it is obviously different. Yours is not a work-based collaboration, rather a kind of life-based collaboration. But still, can you imagine collaborating with other people, from outside of your love or friendship, like a professional collaboration in the art field. Is that something you normally do?

Moti: We do collaborations – we live in a Homegallery, so we invite artists to make installations in our home. At the beginning we called it collaboration, because it was like we developed an installation together with the artists, but the more we’re doing it, the more we are setting in certain rules of how to do it … because of us and the audience and the other artists. Sometimes we set kind of a frame concept and we invite artists to be part of it.

Could you mention some rules as examples of what kind of structure you have established?

Gil: What Moti refers to is specifically about Homegallery projects which happen in or around that space. It is a long-term project in itself, where we are actually the initiators. If I understand your question, it will be always different when we collaborate with another person who is not our lover. This brings us to this project (‘Laylah the Creature Beyond Dreams’): for one year we had a lover. He’s not an artist, he’s a designer, but we did creative things together, which will be performed here on the 17 th. But it is something different – and not because he’s not an artist by his profession.

Moti: Yes, he didn’t want either to enter the studio for example…. We had a lot of writings together, but we (Gil and I) brought up the concept and edited it.

And you made aesthetic decisions as well…

Moti: We talked to him about it but he didn’t want to be a part of it.

Gil: I think, when we collaborate – like Moti said before – with another artist, than of course it happens on a more professional basis, as we are not 24 hours long together with them. It has never happened that there was a third artist who would have stuck to us so much. I mean, we (Moti and I) are just simply together, we share the language, a thing that with our collaborators who were not necessarily Israelis so far, couldn’t work. And then there are a lot of things we do not have to talk about because we know one-another, we sense one-another, we often think of the same thing – you know this telepathy, eye-contact, body language things, codes we are familiar with. And with a third person it would be always different, of course. We have done it and it is interesting for us, but at the end of the day we would like to be the two of us. And the rules Moti was talking about are the Homegallery rules, because this is also our home and at the same time it is a project space, and we had to set up rules, because sometimes people do not have the sense where the border is, some people are just not that sensitive.

It seems these are external rules and not about how to proceed in the creation of the artwork.

Gil: There was for instance a Dutch photographer (Ralph Kamena) with whom we collaborated where he flew with us to Tel Aviv to work. He is an artist but he’s specified in photography. He took shots of us but he asked us if we would like to choose where. With him it was like we are the models, he is the photographer, but still we are the artists and together developed the concept, like we are going to shoot these and that scenes at this or that area; but again, he brought his skills as a photographer, we were his models and at the end of the day we made the selection together, signed together, and presented it together. So that was one of the most mutual collaborations we have done so far. The other collaborations that we referred before were more like a concept which we create and we invited artists…

So in those cases (Homegallery projects) you were more like curators.

Gil: Yes, also.

Moti: Not really like that, because our presence was very strong in all of these projects – like our physical appearance, as we live in that space.

Today the borders are quite loose, many curators reveal to be artists…

Moti: Yes, but also the definition of collaboration is very loose. Like if you make a film and someone writes a song to this film – is it collaboration, or something else?

I would call collaboration only that specific case when the two or more persons collaborating are on the same level of hierarchy. In a film, for example, if you are the film-director, than you have bigger say on what the final product will be. And the musician, and all people working in it, are hired – even if you don’t pay them.

Gil: Yes. In this sense, with this photographer, this was the most, say, collaborative project we have done so far.

Have you ever had any problem related to the process of your collaboration? Just to make an example, many people said that sometimes they felt exploited as their ideas either weren’t accepted by the group or community or they were transformed. Or they remembered having felt working more for a project while the others less - and at the end the project was a common product. So, these kinds of things – just examples…

Moti: Hmm... It takes time also to learn. Like when somebody has an idea and the other one does not understand … then we start doing it and we see how it works out.

Is there any distribution of roles or tasks between you? Even if is not explicit… like one of you is more dominating in a situation when you’re developing something, and the other is more tended to compromises or accepting things.

Gil: I think it is natural; it is not like there are specific roles. I would like to go back again to this example of drawing, because it is a classical medium. So it could be that once Moti would start a drawing – I mean you have a picture, you have a plan, a board or a paper – and at the very same time I could start a drawing and we swap; it depends on the mood, the day, on who of us woke up one day with a specific idea, and as Moti said, sometimes I can come up with an idea and he would said: what do you mean? – and there would be this space for me to try it. I think we give enough space to each other, neither tough rules, nor clearly set character of what one needs to do. It can be that in a moment I’m passive but I get intrigued by Moti being very active or energetic, and vice versa.

How would you position that specific kind of collaboration of yours, if on the one pole of the scale we put those kinds of collaborations where people are getting together for a project, for a work, a kind of human work when people come together, like in a company – and on the other pole we put the individual artistic creation? That was a very complicated question…

Gil: I didn’t get it either...

In art there is a huge wave of collaboration. On the one hand it has a political motivation – many of these groups are activists groups. They’re getting together for a critical proposal. That can be social, political, but also can be a critique of the traditional artist model, the individual, heroic artist whose work is fuelled by his genius – and that works very differently if there are more people working on the same thing. I just wanted to know what your perception of yourselves in this question is. What you do is obviously not individual art, but still…

Moti: All individual art is collaborative in a way; all of the great masters were kind of companies. Still today, they often have a whole studio working for them, with assistants, specialists to prepare the decisions, and then marketing and production. So I do not know whether this genius-thing just came out of a myth? I think it is clear to everybody that it doesn’t exist.

I wouldn’t say so, because in the media you very often see this kind of artist-image…

Gil: Maybe it’s the image, something that we created, but it is not what is behind the screen.
I mean in our company we are two of us, and we’d like to remain so, but it can happen also in our company that we will hire a friend or someone to assists us. Of course, we work with a video-editor, or a musician, a performer. Also our little company sometimes requires hiring people to work with. But if you look at many successful artists, there is a giant support behind them, which concerns money, PR-work, assistance – like the one that is shown in the Boijmans … Olafur Eliason. It was described in the opening speech by the curator how his studio looks like. You know there is one person who is doing all the time internet research, browse the internet all day long, others are developing the engineering staff, there is someone who cooks lunch, etc…

One has the impression that today even individual artist are more like companies.

Gil: Exactly, so the signature is by Olafur Eliason, or (Atelier) Van Lieshout, for instance, but if you really look at them you can clearly see that there are whole studios behind them to support. And it is also about production. And we are very productive, too, but in another way. I mean, no-one else could stay here and do the same work as we do now (at the Museum), for us, because that is the concept.

That is still the individual part…

Gil: Yes, exactly. We can not be at the same time in Warsaw, because we are here and we have to be present – so it’s not like we could hire two persons to do it. Other so called individual artist could sometime do it, to have someone to install the work or perform for them. So, in a way we do represent the heroic artist, even if we do it together. But we are also very critical with this, with the question of individuality, and very much critical with social and political movements within our work.

Towards what are you critical?

Moti: No, I am not (laughing).

Gil: Many things, specifically with this work. It is not about our own therapy and pleasure to draw these drawings although I very much enjoy it. But the idea is to talk about the communication between enemies, to try to establish friendships, contacts between Israelis – we as individual Israelis – and Arab men. It speaks for itself.

Just to turn back to what you have mentioned before, to this therapy-connotation of a group. Is it a good therapy to work together with other people?

Gil: I mean, with Moti, for me it is.

You can maybe generalize a bit…

Gil: It is not always easy. But again, to work with Moti for me, it is very easy and I don’t know how it would be otherwise. We found some sort of peace in working together. I no longer want to work on my own. But sometimes when we collaborate, for example with this photographer, who is a good friend – it was not always easy. Then, with other artists we invite to collaborate on certain projects, sometimes it is.

That could be the case when you could speak a little bit about the negative aspects – as it is obvious that you won’t tell any negative things about your own collaboration…

Gil: We are for 24 hours together; if we wouldn’t live peacefully with each other, it would not work. It’s such a small place where we live, we have to compress ourselves. If we did not like each-other, it would not work. So it is not like we are trying to hide anything. But of course it can be difficult; we have sometimes different expectations, different working methods and different energies.

Moti: The definition of collaboration, like we said before… when we invite people to work, we are pretty much like directors. Like even when we curate a show, and invite artists it is very clear that we make the rules, and we ask them if they want to participate in it. It is very interesting to do it, both sides learn a lot, but we set the basic rules.

Gil: Of course, we can give some freedom, we love freedom – but within a structure, which is set by us.

In the other interviews that I made mostly this… what I could perceive at least was the problem, was that there was a kind of uncertainty about giving up one’s individual career and individual creativity, for ever. And there was always this kind of fear of really giving up ourselves lurking. In your case it seems it is solved, this kind of crisis or problem.

Gil: Before working together mutually it was more difficult and that has to do with our relationship, because we started as lovers, and love is not easy, you know. And to develop the relationship as partners – I mean, outside the studio – it was rather difficult to maintain friendship. But since we collaborate mutually it became even easier to manage our private life. So for us actually it helped that we started finally working together.

Are you suggesting that working together would be a stronger basis for collaboration?

Gil: I think it has enriched our friendship, or love. Of course, love is love, you know, what is it, at the end? I think we have got a lot more. We gained much trust, balance, and peace. I always come back to the word peace, but it’s true. Of course, there could be difficult and unhappy moments, but we have also learned to cope with them, and let them down or leave them. We do not push anything. And it works rather smoothly. Both in private and working life, which are not separated.

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