Wait, what did I just watch? The Stinking Dawn of Gelitin at O'Flaherty's

@ChelseaGallerista gets the cover of her book signed by Gelitin members Wolfgang Gantner and Ali Janka. 

I've just sat through 90 minutes of simulated poop-wrestling, ass-painting, golden showering and anal laser-pointing loosely choreographed to a pounding, cacophonous "dada-thrash" soundtrack.  Fortunately, it was all on film, with no audience participation or plastic ponchos required ... yet.  

I have just subjected myself to the US premier of "Stinking Dawn" (2019), a pre-Covid film by Austrian cult art troupe Gelitin and conceptual artist Liam Gillick. The venue? The brand new east village location of O'Flaherty's, an equally cultish gallery helmed by artist Jamian Juliano-Villani, the thrillingly plainspoken, chain-smoking painter of whatever the hell she wants (check out this interview). Recent shows by O'Flaherty's include sculptures by the late, great Ashley Bicketron and Turner Prize nominee Anthea Hamilton

The screening was just one of many events the group is performing until March 5, 2023 (which may require plastic poncho, I'm taking one just in case, and my umbrella). 

The crowd is plied with free beer in preparation for the show

The film is a homage to "To Live and Think Like Pigs" by Gilles Châtelet

Lots of irony is just part of the fun

Lots of genitalia too... I am keeping this picture small

If you've never heard of Gelitin, its name recognition is not helped by Google bringing up Betty Crocker recipes for tuna aspic (it was spelled "Gelatin" pre-2008). However, check out their resume - a jaw-dropping rollcall of blue-chip collaborations with the world's hottest artists, galleries and museums that dates back to 1996. It's as if everyone and anyone wants to be a Gelitin X <insert collaborator name here>. 

Sign in O'Flaherty's window

@ChelseaGallerista with Florian Reither 

@ChelseaGalleristaith with Tobias Urban

The 4 artists in grime are Wolfgang Gantner, Florian Reither, Ali Janka and Tobias Urban, all 50-somethings at the time of writing. Wikipedia tells me Gelitin's "sensational art events" are in the tradition of "relational aesthetics," in which the artist is a viewed as "catalyst for creation in society, rather than the artist being placed at the center." (Props to French art critic Nicolas Bourriaud for that thesis). 

While loitering with intent before the doors opened I naively asked Wolfgang if he liked Beuys. After a startled pause when he thought I said "boys," I might as well have been asking him if he liked Picasso -  Beuys was, of course, a pioneer of performance art nutdom. However, a flip through the new Gelitin coffee table book showcasing the group's projects from 2008 onwards proves they've taken things way beyond JB lounging around in a felt papoose while being circled by a coyote... more on that in a moment. 

Back to the film: the online blurb offers the following synopsis: 

The film examines the limits of human tolerance in the face of oppression, political crisis and excessive self-delusion. Based on the shooting script by Gillick, Gelatin plays the main characters – four privileged young people who grew up at a time of crisis and move through various stages of development and selfenlightenment towards a final of collapse, conspiracy and broken dreams.

I was not able to correlate much of the above with any of what I saw, but Ali gave this Gelitin-neophyte a bit of a break: 

"It's actually quite difficult to paint with your ass," he said, by way of explaining a cave scene where a chain-gang of crouching artists daub zen-like symbols on sheets of paper using a brush inserted in their anuses. "Wouldn't the world be a more peaceful place if everyone had a butt plug to relax them?" Indeed...

Oh, oh, I think that's another testicle... 

A lot of styrofoam makes up the sets

The torso people (this and below)

In another scene, laser pointers are inserted into the same orifices and used like lightsabres in a night club. I'll leave it to art history majors to unpack these Freudian and po-mo posturings... other memorable scenes include a phalanx of surreal Mad Hatter-like "faces" which are actually painted torsos with nipples for eyes and belly buttons for mouths; a sweatshop where workers are ordered to make sexy underwear from randomly cut scraps of fabric and pins, people prancing around in stuffed horse costumes and a lot of mud, faux excrement and styrofoam. Oh, and that terrific hardfloor trance style soundtrack, the kind of music only Germanic countries know how to make. 

Despite the mayhem there's apparently a teutonic rigor (and I am sure, a ton of weed) underpinning all the whimsical "Jack Handy-style Deep Thoughts" fun and play. Ali told me the film is based on the book about the evils of the market, "To Live and Think Like Pigs" by late philosopher/mathematician Gilles Châtelet. Another intellectual rabbit hole to dive into... 

O'Flaherty's is the brainchild of Gallerist Jamian Juliano-Villani, who is thus well qualified to sign the cover of the book. Dang, I forgot to ask her to stub her cigarette out on the cover... 

With comic artist Jack Waters and O'Flaherty's principals Jamian Juliano-Villani and Ruby Zarsky

I did purchase the tome: a lavish, hardbound "atlas" that showcases Gelitin projects since 2008. It's all very camp, creative and burlesque with some quite logical ideas that remind me of MSCHF projects, though the latter tend to be more product-based (ie stuff you can buy if you're quick enough). 

Some examples: the foursome marooned on an apartment-size rock of an island for a month with supplies and 4 wedding dresses; a urinal that fills a big transparent cushion with pee like to become a nice, warm, communal ottoman; a giant concrete nostril embedded near the Danube that fills when it floods; twisted portraits of the Mona Lisa in plasticine that remind me of Genevieve Figgis in a fist fight with Bacon; a Japanese garden where the rocks are the squirming butts, elbows, knees of live participants...

And this, from Wiki, takes the cake: 

One of Gelitin's best known art projects began in March 2000, when the group allegedly removed one of the windows on the 91st floor of the former World Trade Center complex and temporarily installed a narrow balcony, while a helicopter flew around the scene, taking photographs to be later documented in their book The B-Thing. The book was published in 2001 and had even by that time taken on an air of urban legend, with new copies selling for $500 on Amazon.com as of 2016.
That book is now $8000 (yes you read right) on the internet.

As far as straight art-to-hang-on-wall goes, there are some quite intricate plasticine portraits and landscapes with real wallpower - plasticine appears to be Gelitin's favorite medium - that reflect the multi-layered action in the performances. Looking at the upper-echelon galleries involved - Green Naftali, Perrotin, I am sure they are quite unaffordable. 

I managed to get all four Gelitin gentiles to sign the cover of my book with a couple of Sharpies I bought over the road. Now there's an idea: my book is now a piece of art for display vs merely ephemera. Naturally, they drew a lot of testicles and penises...

Gelitin is the kind of fertile idea tank we advertising industry folks love to admire and envy: we come up with a lot of similar mashups, but usually have to shelve them with a laugh because we gotta please the client and sell stuff. Gelitin and their ilk only have to capture the imagination of people brave enough to show their stuff - stuff that saves lives by giving perverse art lovers like me a reason to live.  

Scroll down for showtimes - and see you in the back row! 

A lot of bodies - and body parts -  went into making this film. 

O'Flaherty's are destined to become know for their canopy


Gelitin performances at O'Flaherty's
2/16/2023 - 3/5/2023

Opening Performance: Thursday, February 16th, 6pm to 8pm

Afterparty: 9pm - 2am At 113 Ludlow

Additional Performances:
5pm to 7.30pm, Saturday, February 18
6.30pm to 7.30pm, Wednesday, February 22
5pm to 7.30pm, Saturday, February 25
6.30pm to 7.30pm, Wednesday, March 1
5pm to 7.30pm, Saturday, March 4

PLUS - the US premiere of Stinking Dawn, a full-length feature film by Liam Gillick and Gelatin.

5pm to 6.30pm, Sunday, February 19
6pm to 7.30pm, Friday, February 24
5pm to 6.30pm, Sunday, February 26
6pm to 7.30pm, Friday, March 3
5pm to 6.30pm, Sunday, March 5

With special thanks to the Austrian Cultural Forum New York, the Federal Ministry Republic of Austria: Arts, Culture, Civil Service and Sport, PERROTIN, MASSIMODECARLO and Robert Ramsauer.



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