Friday, January 29, 2010

Gallery Hopping: Gelitin, Blind Sculpture

Last night I left my zone of comfort to see Austrian art collective Gelitin's big show at Greene Naftali in cooperation with the Austrian Cultural Forum. It did not disappoint. I don't know quite how to describe the performance art piece except to say: wow.

Blind Sculpture, the title of the exhibition -- if one can even call it that -- is described as "a Happening by Gelitin, with a little help of their friends." It was actually a very exciting artistic experience. High above the crisp Chelsea night, Green Naftali was transformed from an exhibit into sheer exhibitionism, an intriguing experience.

Gelitin, they want you to know, was spelled “gelatin” until 2005. Okay. They are famous in the art world as the art collective who, on the rainy night of November 16, 2005, presented "Tantamounter" at Leo Koenig. ArtNet described it thusly:

"There was plenty of jostling for space among the damp, exuberant masses, since the four-person Viennese art collective had erected a (supposedly soundproof) plywood wall that blocked off most of the gallery, leaving only a narrow area for the crowd to press into.

Behind the barrier, the team was hard at work as the human cogs of their “gigantic, complex and very clever machine,” alongside Miami photographer Naomi Fischer and the group’s German therapist, with whom they would man the contraption non-stop through the 23rd. Gelitin had fitted its workshop with a full kitchen and spent five days prior to the opening hauling in flea market junk and all kinds of other supplies to stock the Tantamounter.

It functions as a kind of art-Xerox. On the outside, where the visitors gather, there’s a counter-height wooden box, jutting into the space from the wall. You open a wooden hatch on top of the box, throw in an item that you want duplicated, and press a copy button. A light bulb comes on, indicating the “machine” is “copying.”

A few minutes later, at another part of the contraption -- a large wooden cabinet by the wall at one end of the space -- you get a signal, and out comes your original, along with a Gelitin-designed duplicate, hashed together from their stockpile of junk.

That was my preamble to last night's opening reception. I had no fucking idea what to expect and was quite surprised. The audience was a combustible mix of socialite types, downtown hipsters, seasoned gallery hoppers and, as always, people interested in the free booze. Some of the most interesting conversations -- and snippets of conversation -- happened at the open bar.

Last night's opening reception is a performance art piece -- haunting live piano music, cross dressing men, a stunning Asian woman in a kimono, hastily constructed wooden bleachers, a dog, drinking on stage -- about the process of building a sculpture -- the social (drinking, joking) and the technical (assistants handing materials to the collective) aspects of art are on display. The audience is watching art being made by the collective, adding a vivid dimension, the becoming, to the final work in the process of Being. "The following 10 days they will be working on the sculpture in the afternoons, early evenings, the visitors can watch the happening of the sculpture," says the press release. The happening. The principals -- Wolfgang Gantner, Ali Janka, Florian Reither, and Tobias Urban -- change. There will be additions during the 10 day art happening. Some participants (they are called "Gelitin's assistants") coming in over the next week or so are artists, some are celebrity artists, like Casey Spooner of Fischerspooner, Olaf Breuning, K8 Hardy, XXXMacarena, Andrew W.K will participate. And they do it blindfolded.

If it sounds like I am making this shit up I suggest you see some of these happenings. They are live this afternoon from 3pm to 7, on Saturday from 3PM to 8, then next week Tuesday through Saturday from 3-7pm. Fer reals, you need to see this.

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