WHATEVER HAPPENED TO GELITIN
by Angela Christlieb
Artist Liam Gillick hasn’t seen them. Director John Waters has no idea where they are. Filmmaker Tony Conrad has his theories, but he’s not talking. But whoever you ask, the fact remains, the four members of the Austrian artist group, Gelitin (Wolfgang Gantner, Ali Janka, Florian Reither, and Tobias Urban) have disappeared! So Salvatore Viviano, artist, art dealer, and occasional collaborator in Gelitin performances, sets off on a cinematic search for the funniest boy group in the world. With an imposing microphone in hand, he questions artists, gallerists and curators about the group’s possible whereabouts. His imaginary quest provides the narrative framework for Angela Christlieb’s tour de force film, which both portrays, and itself, mirrors, the energy of Gelitin’s anarchic operations. The quartet rose to fame with border-crossing and visually powerful performances, sculptures, installations, and photos. They roll gleefully in the mud, incite audiences to acts of art destruction, attach stuffed animals to their testicles for a „fashion shoot“; dance naked with spinning tassels attached to their buns, or discusses who of the four’s excrement created which letters in the „Kackabet“—letters made from feces. At one point, art dealer Christian Meyer analyzes, „Our world is always trying to rationalize things, an approach that Gelitin deliberately refuses.“ Christlieb constructs her film out of a wealth of archival material, rhythmically assembled, and interwoven with stories and observations from various interviews. Art dealer Leo Koenig says that Gelitin’s art just makes him want to strip of his clothes, while artist Tom Sachs admits, „I wish my life were 10 percent more Gelitin!“ After watching this film, maybe you will too!
Hong Kong – Int. Film Festival
Chicago Underground Film Festival
Lausanne – LUFF Underground Film Festival
Lausanne – Film&Music Festival
Köln – Stranger Than Fiction
Innsbruck – Diametrale Filmfestival
INTERNATIONAL DISTRIBUTION: sixpackfilm
The artist Liam Gillick hasn’t seen them. Director John Waters doesn’t know where they’ve gone either. Filmmaker Tony Conrad may have his theories, but he doesn’t reveal them. The four members of the Austrian artist group Gelitin (Wolfgang Gantner, Ali Janka, Florian Reither, Tobias Urban) have disappeared. Salvatore Viviano, an artist, gallerist, and occasional participant in Gelitin’s performances, embarks on a search for the funniest boy group in the world, questioning artists, gallerists, museum people, always with an imposing microphone in hand, about their whereabouts. This (fictional) investigation forms the narrative framework in this film by Angela Christlieb, which races through Gelitin’s anarchic antics at full speed. The quartet became known for their boundary-pushing and visually striking performances, sculptures, installations, and photographic works. They joyfully roll around in the mud, invite the audience to destroy art, stage fashion photography with stuffed animals attached to their genitals, spin their hips naked with tassels on their buttocks, or discuss which „shit alphabet“ letter comes from which of the four. „Our world tries to rationalize things,“ analyzes gallerist Christian Meyer at one point, „Gelitin consciously refuses this approach.“
Christlieb’s work is not only fueled by densely edited archival footage, rhythmized and intensified by the musical layer, but also by the narratives and observations of the interviewees. For example, when gallerist Leo Koenig admits that Gelitin’s art sometimes makes him feel like undressing or when artist Tom Sachs confesses, „I wish my life was 10 percent more Gelitin!“ A desire that many will likely share after watching this film. (Nina Schedlmayer)
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