A Dream of Gil&Moti’s World

Published in the exhibition catalogue of Turku Biennale 2015 The Unexpected Guest. The quotations from Rumi are taken from the collection of poems compiled and translated into Finnish by Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila, Rakkaus on musta leijona (Love is a Black Lion) (Basam Books 2002). The English translations are also by Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila.
I dream of stepping into Gil & Moti’s world.
I want to share my life with another person, someone who would understand me, heart and soul. Someone whose strength and skills would never be exhausted; someone who would not ask me to be anything other than I am, but at the same time would help me to develop, would challenge me. The person would not be more enlightened than me, but not inferior to me either. In fact, I don’t just want one such person – I want everyone to be like that. Everyone would do their best to understand one another, and above all, themselves. Everyone would be like me, and at the same time completely different, but in the best possible way. I want everyone to be incredibly awake all the time.
Even in their sleep. Two curly heads, eyes open, mouths smiling. They open the door and burst out laughing.
The artist duo Gil & Moti is a disturbing double being: a person with two souls, a fantasy of myself experienced in another, a critique of the cultural interpretation of love, a two-dimensional projection surface, a carnevalisation of identity, an antipolar magnet. The agenda of goodness and tolerance characteristic of their individual works, to a degree that is almost irritating, continually falls into an unreal light against the bewildering incandescence of the complete work pulsating in the background, Gil & Moti. Gil. Moti. It’s difficult to write their names separately. Who is Gil without Moti? I don’t even know if I want to know. If I were to meet them in the flesh, the twin fantasy created by their relationship as a work of art would probably disintegrate immediately. To merge with another, completely, in art, in life, in love. What more could I want. At the same time the thought fills me with unbridled fear. Is that what they have? Is that what they want to teach us? Could someone really walk in my shoes? The idea itself is mind-blowing, the experience as such even more so. Every day? Every moment? For the whole of my life? What if there were a person in my life who is never an unexpected visitor?
As I step into the entrance hall, my left foot in front, the heads begin to talk in one voice, which is the voice of Rumi, the 13th century Sufi mystic:
“The religion of Lovers
forbids delay, to be
away from the Beloved,
even for a while.”

In the work In Your Shoes these two – no strangers to each other, in their symbiotic existence with no longing – reach out beyond religious boundaries, through prayer. Prayer is the most intimate intersection point of safety and the unexpected, inner peace and the unknown. What does it mean to step into an alien shrine? Can an art museum bear the weight of religious conviction, allow it to enter without exoticism or irony? Perhaps it is possible through the combination of otherness and hospitality proposed by Gil & Moti. I’m afraid that the interpretation of their work will cave in, become a slave to politic discourse, intellectual analysis or superficial humour. Despite this they have the possibility, in their own mosque dedicated to art, to let us give ourselves up to mystic love, to be taken to the place where Rumi met Shams-i Tabriz, his great love, friend and teacher. To the place where the teacher, the student, the colleague, the beloved and the lover, the acquaintance and the stranger no longer serve, either as words or as roles, to describe the nature of an encounter. Only there can the act of stepping into another’s shoes be a real possibility.
In the entrance hall to the mosque sits a French philosopher, Alain Badiou, who tells us that love means building a world from the perspective not of one but of two, not of identity but of difference. I take off my shoes, from both feet. The left foot finds its place beside the right, bewildered, but accepting. The socks look identical.
Gil & Moti tell us that people they cooperate with in Copenhagen, believers at a local mosque, used to repeat like a mantra: “Love for All, Hatred for None”. It is difficult to think of a more radical maxim for life. It reaches right through human existence, from the humdrumness of everyday life to an encounter with another, and from the compartmentalisation of society to the inconceivable figure of God. When I bare my feet before the infinite, I surrender, I am more vulnerable than ever. When I protect them with your shoes, I put myself into your care. Nevertheless, I can never know what it is to be you. I can never know what it is to be a Jew. I can never know what it is to be Moti. I can never even know what it was to be me ten years ago. Prayer seems like a gesture of acceptance in relation to the unreachable, the other. No matter, if I won’t reach. I’m still here, for you. For me. For us.
Shams-i Tabriz dances in:
” Two forms,
two likenesses,
yet a single soul
— you and I.”

A stranger’s shoes wait for me, sighing over the empty space within them, hungry, satisfied, friends with each other.