M1: We are very excited we’re having this exhibition at Tate Modern because it’s the first time a living artist has occupied the whole of the fourth floor, and it’s very exciting that it’s the first time British artists have exhibited at Tate Modern.
M2: The first thing that we did was to make a model, to make a model of the whole space. And then to try to fit in a certain amount of pictures that we have. Because all together we did more than 1,000 pictures and we tried to take them down to roughly 200, and that is not easy because we wanted to make it like a big journey. Starting from the beginning and ending now.
M1: Each of our pictures is a kind of visual love letter from us to the viewer, and that it’s the space between the viewer and the picture that makes art, the thoughts and feelings that go through the person when examining the subjects in the picture. So we want to make pictures that are, as we always said from the earliest stage, art for all. So that we can address people, wherever they come from, whatever their educational background, whatever their nationality or whatever their religion, we still feel we can form a friendship with that viewer. Because we’re only dealing with the universal subjects anyway: death, hope, life, fear, sex, money, race, religion. Those are all things that are relevant to everybody wherever they live.
M2: But when we started to make what you call the first pictures we were more like babies in the woods, very frightened little boys. And that’s how the exhibition started at the beginning with pastoral pictures that we did in ‘71 and ‘72. And then it was very simple because we managed to make money, so we got drunk, so we started to do the drinking pictures!
M1: It was so extraordinary because we showed the first charcoal on paper sculpture in a German commercial gallery and the dealer asked how much it would be. And we had no idea that you sold art in that way, we were very naive. So we just said the most outlandish sum of money we could think of, believing that nobody would buy it anyway. So we said very grandly £1,000! Which is an idiotic amount of money, and then he sold it immediately. So that changed our life entirely. We started to enter the urban reality of London; we were no longer frightened; we were no longer scared. We were able to go into all the aspects of bad behaviour, discovering friendships and nightlife and that’s why we have pictures likes Bad Thoughts and Dead Boards, Human Bondage, leading all the way up to the Dirty Words Pictures.
M2: Dirty Words with Dusty Corners, Red Morning. We feel always our art is some way of confronting the viewer with our own kind of morality, because morality is man-made. Religion is man-made. We don’t believe the religion is the dogma passed down from the sky; it’s all man-made. And so we have to sort out for ourselves how we want to live our life. Art has always been part of trying to find out what is good and what is bad, because what is good and what is bad changes every single day.
M1: And we think it’s very good that we as artists can deal with it, if politicians can deal with it, schools, universities, church leaders are dealing with it, we as artists can come to that subject in a different way, in a more humanistic way we think. We’re not laying down the law, we’re exploring it together with the viewer.
M2: We are not sending them to heaven and we are not sending them to hell.
M1: Send them to the bar instead!