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Gilbert and George back down under -

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TICKY FULLERTON, PRESENTER: Two of the most famous living British artists are back in Australia
after almost 40 years since their last perplexing appearance. Gilbert and George are a team in work
and in life and view every living moment as art. Karen Barlow reports.

KAREN BARLOW, REPORTER: Gilbert and George simply don't exist as individuals - it's all or nothing.

GEORGE: I think we're quite amused people in general. Wouldn't you say Gilbert?

GILBERT: Yes, I think George is the most sharpest comedian of all time.

KAREN BARLOW: And there's no noticeable downtime for these walking artworks. If there is, we'll
never see it.

Do they ever turn off? I mean, is there any moment where they're not art?

JOHN KALDOR, PATRON AND FRIEND: No. No. Ever since I've known them, they are art.

JOHN MCDONALD, SMH ART CRITIC: They're people who have been playing a role for so long that it's
really no longer a role. The mask has become welded to their faces.

KAREN BARLOW: Gilbert and George pose as respectable middle-class gentlemen in prim suits. They
like to be called conservative anarchists, especially now they're in their 60s.

GILBERT: We are creating - we are self-sufficient. We don't care about other people. We made a
world for ourselves, and that's it.

GEORGE: We don't like to have opinions or thoughts about matters that we cannot affect. We don't
want to be exhausted by thinking about things we can have no effect on. That's why we believe that
culture is in advance of politics in a free-voting society.

KAREN BARLOW: They rose to prominence in the 1960s and early '70s and in 1973 came to Australia to
perform their signature piece, The Singing Sculpture. For hours they stood on a table painted in
gold miming the Depression-era song 'Underneath the Arches'.

JOURNALIST: Do you find you get bored at all with the song?

GEORGE: Not at all. We like it very much. More and more. Love it, really. We'd recommend it to
anyone.

JOHN MCDONALD: It's a song sung by happy tramps who are saying how wonderful it is to be free from
care and to be sleeping on the streets. Now, perhaps it's a song that has relevance today too with
the financial crisis.

KAREN BARLOW: Over the decades, Gilbert and George have pushed the boundaries of taste, taking on
racism, homosexuality and bodily excretions.

GEORGE: We believe that we are always fascinated by things that are discriminated against, things
that are frowned upon. And we think those things should be rescued. It must be horrible to be
discriminated against.

KAREN BARLOW: At the moment they're tackling religion, claiming it causes more harm than good.

GILBERT: All the Christian, the Catholics, the Protestant, they cannot accept gays. It's just
extraordinary. They cannot accept women bishops. It's just extraordinary, because everybody else
accepts it. But they, because they read the Bible, which is a medieval book, what you call fairy
book, we call it. They cannot stand up. And they should be taken to court because they do a lot of
damage to a lot of people.

KAREN BARLOW: The unpleasant and confronting have been quite lucrative for Gilbert and George.
Their works are on the must-have lists of all the world's major galleries, and like these ones here
at the Art Gallery of NSW, can sell for more than a million dollars.

What's not for sale is Gilbert and George themselves, even though they've set their lives up as
walking artworks.

Art critic John McDonald says they may think they're beyond criticism.

JOHN MCDONALD: Well, Gilbert and George are doing what a lot of artists have said they were doing
for many years: they're saying, "My life is art. Everything I do is art." This is a very convenient
thing inasmuch as it means that you don't really make any bad art because you don't have a good or
bad life, it's just the thing that you do.

KAREN BARLOW: Gilbert and George are back in Australia at the invitation of the man who brought
them out almost 40 years ago.

JOHN KALDOR: They're coming here as friends and coming here as an inspiration. They were an
inspiration to me in '73 when they came and they're very much an inspiration for me for the future.

KAREN BARLOW: Gilbert and George, who married last year, are staying in Sydney this weekend before
travelling to Melbourne.

Karen Barlow, Lateline.