Maria Vassileva

on art and baby-rearing

on art and baby-rearing
title: on art and baby-rearing
year: 2005
publisher: Institute of Contemporary Art - Sofia
ISBN/ISSN: 3-86588-192-0
language: english
author(s): Maria Vassileva
source: Gelatin, 2005, Sofia: Institute of Contemporary Art, ISBN: 3-86588-192-0
supported by: The project takes place in the framework of relations. relations is a project initiated by the German Federal Cultural Foundation

The expectations about the arrival of Gelatin in Sofia were different but they all shared an enthusiasm or at least a certain tension. Some have seen their works,
some have found themselves at their performances and others have heard or read about them. Even we, the organizers, were facing a wall of unknown quantities.
Gelatin are certainly not the ideal correspondents, they call back only if it is absolutely necessary, and are not the people who would provide a preliminary project. So we were joking, amid anxieties and concerns, that we would see what would happen after they destroy the gallery that is not ours anyway.

Shortly before their appearance in Sofia we found out that they had decided to travel from Vienna to Sofia (a distance of 1020 km) by three Puch DS 50 scooters and a Vespa. Although the average age of our team cannot be described as teenage, nobody could recall when the moment of fame and glory of these vehicles was, so we had to resort to the Internet. What we saw did not give us any confidence. On the contrary, it reinforced our apprehensions as to whether Gelatin would arrive in Bulgaria at all, how many would make it here and in what state. We were lucky that we did not know the whole story then. Collected from all kinds of places and in most different conditions, these cool vehicles were peers of their current users (Ali Janka, b. 1970, Wolfgang Gantner, b. 1970, Tobias Urban, b. 1966, Florian Reither, b. 1970). One of them was even boasting that the safety chain was more expensive that the scooter itself...

The journey took about a week and immediately Gelatin’s website started reflecting it in the form of 130 photos united in “an album of 5 pages”. Here is my summary of what has been published: photos of animals that have been run over – 13 items (for some reason they seemed much more before I counted them); photos of living animals – 3 items; a picture of socialism or the period of transition: derelict old cars, a panel block of flats, a filthy toilet, a cheap motel room, a village fair, a well (one item of each category), run-down bus stops on the outskirts of cities – 3 items; nature (landscapes and still lifes) – 14 items; photos of Gelatin – 66 items (individual, on the scooters, group photos). Those who doubt the numbers can check them out:

(“please come and watch us riding 4 mopeds to
sofia in bulgaria.
its shaking
its slow
its beautiful
and right now we are already in beograd

Before coming to Sofia Gelatin gave us a few more hooks. When we asked them for some sort of information so that we can write the press release, they sent the following coded message:
“a few things to be mentioned in the text:
four bed-headed, unshaven troopers
puch ds 50 motorbikes
by word of mouth over a thousand people came to see
their show
obscene idealism
a return to the real
gagosian gallery november 2004
venice biennale 2001
world trade center balcony 2000
dancing and food
this is a trip is a journey inward, a return to quadrophenia
and the influence of roger daltrey in general
we will arrive in sophia with our kundalini energy fully

due to the constant vibration of the root chakra during
the voyage
we have available a tiny wagon-side car suitable for
more information on:”

Apart from the formailities, the letter mentioned that Wolfgang was nervous and happy with the journey like a teenager who is in love, that Tobias was trying to put
together again the 60 parts of the scooter, Ali was buying road maps and Florian was in charge of the side-wagon. And that “The scooters are very noisy and beautiful.”

After somehow finding their way from Vienna to Sofia via Hungary, Romania and Serbia (on top of that they chose small roads and not highways), they managed to get lost in the Vratza part of the Balkan mountain range. A rescue operation was carried out immediately which successfully identified their location somewhere around Svoge and Gelatin were finally escorted to the Bulgarian capital.

This seems to be an appropriate point to say a few words about the aim of their visit. Gelatin were invited within the framework of the Visual Seminar project, and, to be more precise, of its Visitors Module. They had to present their work, to spend some time in Bulgaria, collect impressions, and then do a project for the gallery ATA Center / ICA – Sofia.

As soon as they arrived in the gallery we asked them if the black wall that had been used for the previous exhibition would have to be removed. It took them only an instant to say that it would not and asked us to buy, among other things, body paint, fluorescent sprays and markers, white latex paint, special UV lamps for the fluorescent effect of the paints. Shortly before it was time to start the lecture, they asked us to direct the guests not to the gallery but to the little park on the other side of the street.

Now I have to provide something like an analysis because I cannot help admiring the way Gelatin responded to the particular situation. To begin with, almost none of us had noticed that in fact there is a little park close to the gallery, not to mention coming up with the idea to use it. Secondly, artists usually want the space to be changed specially for them and to look very different from the way it looked before while Gelatin simply work with what is available. Thirdly, everything is done with incredible ease and absent-mindedness, fitting it with a number of other things (such as sleeping in at the hotel, going to the swimming pool and the dodgems, visiting regular and gay bars, love affairs with partners who arrived specially for the purpose, taking care for the scooters, etc.). Gelatin work without having to speak to one other or at least the language of their dialogues is invisible for the audience. Everything is superbly synchronized (according to historical sources, they have been together since 1978) and with an incredible sense for the particular situation which is used both in its totality and in the smallest detail that it offers.

For the performance in the little park – the opening of their presentation in Sofia – all the painting and sanitary instruments and materials available in the gallery were used. The members of Gelatin appeared before their audience naked but with brushes instead of beards and their genitals were covered with items from their own inventory: an old biker’s glove, a pair of worn-out trainers, a teddy bear, a wig. Everyone was wearing helmets which were also used for support during the complex gymnastic exercises that followed. With the accompaniment of music by The Beatles, they started painting their bodies in various colours and taking painful postures turning themselves in living sculptures and following the choreography of a friend of theirs. I forgot to say that they made a grand appearance – on their scooters, of course – at the centre of the little park inasmuch as this is possible for a naked person to do, and departed in the same fashion.

It now seems appropriate to describe with words (an impossible task) how the vehicles were transformed, which turned out to be the major artistic effect. By
means of plastic materials and objects that had been found, the vehicles were given an almost human appearance. They had their own faces and caused lively delight around with their funny expressions. Anything could be found on them – a panda toy, an ashtray with an artificial cigarette, a bouquet of dried roses and a
vase of carnations that were just as dry, wild flowers, plastic spades from a children’s set for playing in the sand, all kinds of fluffy beasts, an exuberance of colourful Chinese feather dusters, thin stripes, flags, etc. In a word, our fears of a barbaric invasion proved groundless. Gelatin turned out to be supporters of an idiosyncratic hippie romanticism (it was no accident that one of the destinations of the trips in Bulgaria was the Kamen Bryag area – the most popular hippie community settlement on the Black Sea coast). Their relaxed and informal behaviour and the motto “let things happen naturally” are also part of this culture. It is quite incredible that the artistic product of this chaos is a complete and coherent whole, and this makes us wonder how one is compatible with the other.

In the gallery Gelatin told the audience about their adventures during the journey from Vienna to Sofia, and showed other projects while drawing on the walls with
the impressive timing of a synchronised swimming team. After several days of detours in the city, one afternoon they appeared in the ATA Center and under our stunned eyes they created the exhibition by using the remains of the lecture. It was odd to see how everyone was doing their own thing but the final product was one of unity. There was a bike and a biker made of the wooden ladder of the gallery, the spare tires, and a teddy bear with a helmet; a video – “Grand Marquis” – showing their journey from Los Angeles to Mexico City; many funny pictures and texts. One of the cast iron radiators was also put in use and transformed into a sky scraper, and the favourite bashed bucket, found somewhere on the road, was officially hung almost in the middle of the space. Of course, they did not miss recreating an animal run over by a car which was so convincing that viewers asked where it had been brought from. They called their work “Gelatin’s wet garbage” as a memory of the constantly damp stuff which was carefully transported from country to country in the small side-wagon but which could not be protected from the vicissitudes of nature.

Gelatin love travelling. Is travelling turning into art or is it a search for art? What at a first glance seems to be the anarchic nature of their behaviour does not exclude institutions but rather it seems to try to create or regenerate a link between them and reality (remember the animals that are run over on the roads and that similar object in the gallery). In the ATA Center / ICA – Sofia Gelatin brought the dust and dirt of their whole journey, the dry bouquets from different lands, all kinds of junk objects that have been found, witnesses of contemporary civilization. And having shaken off the absorbed impressions, they managed to create an image of daily life which is a provocative compilation, an image that spreads between Mexico City and New York, between Los Angeles and Vienna, between Munich and Sofia. Nowadays when more and more things claim to be art (advertising, design, lifestyle) and when museums have difficulties with overcoming anachronism, it is obviously very difficult to find that dynamic model which would be both meaningful and attractive. For Gelatin the contact with the audience is very important and this is why their works often have the features of performance. In general, with them one has the natural feeling that art is not the cherry to the pie. It was no accident that Florian was anxious to go back to the young baby saying that raising a child is much more interesting than anything else.

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Vector. ICA-Sofia: Motives, Analyses, Critique is a project by the Institute of Contemporary Art - Sofia.
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