04/09/05 - 05/22/05
Felix Gmelin (born 1962 in Heidelberg), lives and works in Stockholm
Portikus presents the first larger exhibition by Felix Gmelin in Germany. Gmelin, who has shown extensively in other parts of Europe and the US, employs painting and video as a means to investigate political imagery and language, utopia and dogmatism, while comparing contemporary political "activism" with that of times past. His method of questioning the aestheticization of politics through historical comparison was first widely seen by art audiences in his video installation at the 2003 Venice Biennale, where his "Farbtest, Die Rote Fahne II", became one of the most talked about works. The work is a tribute to his father, who appears in one of the films, as much as it discusses how revolutionary gestures have turned into fashion today, something he continues in his new work.
The show at Portikus, titled "Revolution II", includes "Farbtest, Die Rote Fahne II", and three other recent works. "Two Films Exchanging Soundtracks," 2003, switches the didactic voice-overs of two pre-existing films with utterly opposing discourses. The first, Michael Makrisch's "Traktat", 1967, is a liberal film that suggests that spiritual liberation through drug use is the only path to utopia. The second, Cecilia Lindqvist's "Revolutionens barn" / "The Children of the Revolution", 1974, is a documentary film explaining that discipline is the only path to the same goal. The resulting union, while comic is also off-putting.
In "Flatbed, The Blue Curtain," 2003, five painters are shown copying Picasso's Guernica in negative, the effect of which reminds of the images seen on airport security monitors. Recently peace demonstrators painted replicas of this famous painting all over the world to protest against president Bush and his war against Iraq. Gmelin has re-staged these action painters in a video almost four hours long. "Free Form," 2004, finally, consists of 16 DVD-copies of an aged video from the 1970s. We see a group of students play flutes without harmony, tempo or outside direction. The sixteen films are shown parallel with a random time delay, standing on a shelf system like in a department store. Through this repetition the individual chaos disappears both in sound and image and something new appears: a form of repetitive harmony and structure.
Although by no means nostalgic, Gmelin consistently revisits the past, most often the 1960s and 1970s. What he looks for are not obsolete forms, but political and aesthetic tools for the future. In his film-related installations from recent years, the starting point is close to home. The found footage belonged to his father, the German filmmaker and educator.
A catalogue will be presented on the opening published together with Malmö Konstmuseum.
The exhibition is supported by Moderna Museet and IASPIS, Stockholm.