FELIX GMELIN INTERVIEW
By Ronald Jones and Robert Stasinski
During last summer's Venice Biennale, Felix Gmelin's two videos with people running with red flags around an empty city, "Farbtest, Die Rote Fahne II", became one of the most talked about works. The work is both a tribute to his father as much as it discusses how revolution has turned into fashion today, something he continues in his new work "Flatbed, The Blue Curtain", exclusivly online for NU-E.
Ronald Jones: I happen to be reading Carol Loebsâ€™ book on Lucinda Joyce, James Joyceâ€™s daughter, who grew up in a household filled with artists and creative people. Felix, your father was a filmmaker and theorist, your mother an internationally known violinist. What was it like to grow up in that kind of home?
Felix Gmelin: My father, in my childhood, always spoke to me as an adult, so in that sense I never had a childhood. But I guess Mrs. Joyce, if she is still alive, is spending all of her time taking care of her fatherâ€™s biography and bibliography. What a nightmare. What I do is misuse my inheritance, Iâ€™m happy I don't have to administer it.
RJ: Still, you, like Lucinda knew yours was a creative family from your earliest memories?
FG: Yes, sure. There was never this Ivan Turgenjev kind of story where the father says: Well, I canâ€™t be sure whether youâ€™re a genius or not, so I think you should become an accountant my son. Then you will get a job, even if you are mediocre. There was never that kind of a question.
RJ: So you grew up in the assumption that you could have a successful life in the arts?
FG: Some artist friends of mine have had a hard time finding out there is a profession called artist or even finding a novel for the first time. Some of them are pretty aggressive about having grown up in an environment that didnâ€™t give them this information. In that sense it was easy for me to get going.
RJ: You were encouraged to be an artist in every sense?
FG: I wanted to be a successful accountant, but I wasnâ€™t very good at it.
RJ: So how did your fatherâ€™s films come to your attention?
FG: Well, I always knew there where films, and knew he had been filming from what my mother told me. But I only had a vague idea about what he was doing when I was a kid.
NOTHING BECOMES A MAN MORE THAN A WOMAN'S FACE
By Felix Gmelin; Interview by Annika Hansson
AH (Annika Hansson): Felix, I thought we could take a moment to talk about how you use the computer as a tool in your exhibition, â€śNothing Becomes a Man More than a Womanâ€™s Faceâ€ť Â¬ and about the concept of beauty. So the title of the exhibition comes from a newspaper article, and the Swedish title comes from a nursery rhyme that every child knows?
FG (Felix Gmelin): Yes, in my school the nursery rhyme was also rather a racist game; hereâ€™s how it went: you say â€śMamma is Chinese,â€ť and pull up the corners of your eyes. Then, â€śPapa is Japanese,â€ť and pull the corners of your eyes downward. Last, pull your eyelids in opposite directions, and say â€śpoor little child.â€ť I hope children have forgotten it by now. I used it as a title because it refers to ugliness and beauty, the central theme of the exhibition. The English title was a suggestion from Ronald Jones, who wrote the Swedish catalog text. The source was a newspaper article published in the New York Times on 1 September 1998, with the headline â€śNothing Becomes a Man More than a Woman's Face.â€ť It was about the mysteries and contradictions inherent to the scientific study of beauty. My own literature only had unimaginative headlines, like â€śVerfĂĽrung nach MaĂź,â€ť â€śDer falsche KĂ¶rperâ€ť or â€śSchĂ¶nheit, was ist das?â€ť
Newspaper headlines sometimes possess a form of confrontational poetry that is perfect for my exhibitions. Good headlines are aimed at the very core of our collective awareness, yet their origins remain concealed. Their purpose is to entice us to read on, to rouse our curiosity. I spend a lot of time thinking about the titles of exhibitions and artworks. And I learn from those who create headlines. Sometimes I use the headlines just as they are, as â€śobjets trouvĂ©s.â€ť Like in the exhibitions â€śPainting Modernism Blackâ€ť or â€śEin kleiner Beitrag zur Sauberkeit,â€ť both headlines from The Guardian and Bildzeitung.