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Daniel Day-Lewis spoke with poet, Eileen Myles in this 2002 interview. Photography by Terry Richardson.
 

Read Bjork's2001 interview with Juergen Teller from the index archives.



Kathleen Hanna discusses writing and making music in this interview from 2000 with Laurie Weeks.


Isabella Rossellini spoke with Peter Halley in this 1999 interview.


Check out our interview with Crispin Glover by Richard Kern from 2000.
Alexander McQueen's 2003 interview with Bjork.
 
  JERRY HALL
STEPHANIE SEYMORE
MARC JACOBS
  ASIA ARGENTO
DENNIS HOPPER
ABEL FERRARA
BRIAN WILSON
WILL OLDHAM
DJ SPOOKY

GELATIN,2000

WITH MEREDITH DANLUCK
PHOTOGRAPHED BY MATT DUCKLO


One Sunday morning last March four Austrian artists, collectively known as Gelatin, removed the window from their studio on the 91st floor of the World Trade Center. They affixed a handmade balcony to the empty frame and took turns standing outside — 1300 feet above the sidewalk — with only slats of wood for support. 
The work of Gelatin is at the same time a bout arousing wonder and having fun. Florian, Wolfgang, Tobias, and Ali make pieces that must be experienced physically. Quintessential audience participation works by Gelatin include the Weltwunder, an environment that required people to swim underwater through a mysterious passage, and Suck and Blow, in which art gallery crowds were momentarily enclosed in a room-sized garbage bag. Gelatin converted New York’s PS1 into a veritable playground during the summer of ‘98, including a 30-foot tower made of discarded office furniture. Anyone was welcome to scale the rickety, though completely safe, structure.
Gelatin is based in Vienna, but they travel all over the world to make and exhibit their art: Hanover, New York, London, Australia, Los Angeles and more. Meredith Danluck talked with the boys one-by-one, because we know what sort of things can happen when they’re all together.



TOBIAS

MEREDITH: What was the first project that Gelatin did together?

TOBIAS: It was Four Days of Beautiful Life, in 1994 or ‘95. We were not really working together then — Florian and Wolfgang invited Ollie and me to do something in a show they’d set up. I built a huge bed. 20 to 40 people could sleep on it at once. 

MEREDITH: So was it like a four-day party?

TOBIAS: I don't like the word “party” very much because people associate things with it that I don't. It was four days of doing everything you wanted. We were listening to good music, playing soccer, watching movies, drinking, eating, sleeping, having sex.

MEREDITH: Hence the giant bed. Were people really having sex on it?

TOBIAS: I had sex there.  It was just high enough that if you were on the floor, you couldn't see what was happening on the bed.

MEREDITH: No voyeurs allowed. I saw the Gelatin show at PS1 in 1997[?], but I didn’t climb the 30-foot tower of office furniture.

TOBIAS: It was really shaking up there. I was happy when it was down again. [BOTH LAUGH]

MEREDITH: You also built a room out of refrigerators, and it was air-conditioned.  That was a real pleasure during the summer.

TOBIAS: And we had a sauna and a fucking chamber — which not many people used, but we did find some condoms when we took it down. We used the space as a studio basically, an outside studio. We also had a swimming pool with us.

MEREDITH: A lot of your projects are more about creating an atmosphere for the audience rather than something to just look at.

TOBIAS: Our work is very much about sensation. Like the human elevator that we did in Los Angeles. We had 13 really strong men in this tower, and they’d lift you and pass you on to the next one, and so on. It was a three-story journey and then they placed you on the roof. It was really amazing —  people were screaming when they got to the top. We did document it, but when it’s better when someone tells you how it felt or what it triggered in them. Once people see an image, they sometimes think they have seen the whole show, which is especially not true in our case.

MEREDITH: The World Trade Center project caused quite a stir here in New York, but I think some people have the story completely wrong. First of all, was Gelatin there as part of a studio program?

TOBIAS: The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. They give you the space, then get really anxious that you do something with it. I think they have the Port Authority breathing down their neck.

MEREDITH: So what exactly happened with the balcony?

TOBIAS: We pissed in our pants. We stayed awake in the space the whole night before. Florian was so paranoid. There was a hotel room we rented for some friends of ours in the Hilton across the street, so we could see them from the window. One floor down from their room. a light was on all night. And Flo thought it was the police or someone from a magazine or a newspaper. He had his video camera with a 150x zoom lens. And you couldn’t see anything in that room, but he was always seeing someone with a camera or someone pointing at us.

MEREDITH: What was it like standing out there?

TOBIAS: Beautiful. We didn't have any safety concerns. 

MEREDITH: But you were wearing a harness, right?

TOBIAS: I wasn't wearing a harness. I constructed the balcony, so I wouldn’t wear one. I’ve stood on much less safe things. And you can die if you fall down 10 meters, so what's the difference?

MEREDITH: Was it hard to get the window out? 

TOBIAS: We trained for days before.  We took it out and put it back, a couple times. It was all practiced, except for stepping out onto the balcony. When the window was out, the air pressure totally changed in the room — it was sucking out of the window. And to breathe fresh air up there and not air conditioning was really nice. It was dawn when we went out. The sun was coming up and we were facing east. We had the window out, but then there was an emergency car on the street with it’s lights on, so we thought: should we do it or shouldn't we do it? But we really wanted to stand on the balcony, and that was stronger than our fears of security or cops.

MEREDITH: How did the whole idea come about?

TOBIAS: Have you ever been up inside the World Trade Center?

MEREDITH: Uh huh.

TOBIAS: Didn't you want a balcony?

 

WOLFGANG

WOLFGANG:  Nobody really thought about making the balcony before we stepped into the studio. It was my first time being in the World Trade Center — the windows are so small and you can't see out very well. So we thought ... a balcony.  And we just laughed about it, I think I even told a neighbor artist there: "You know what?  We’re doing a balcony, and we start moving the glass tomorrow."   And she was like: "Really?"  She was so frightened.  It was a joke then. But the next morning, we were totally sure that's what we wanted to do. The planning took four weeks. The first time we brought the window inside was totally freaky.  It was secured with a rope, but just imagine if it fell! What would happen if it broke or something?

MEREDITH: Was that the only worry? That the window might fall?

WOLFGANG: That, and Ollie really wants to stay in New York — his boyfriend is there. So there was the fear of getting kicked out of the country or something. And if they caught us, they could cancel the whole program.

MEREDITH:  So the big night comes. Was it in March?

WOLFGANG: I think maybe the second or third Sunday in March. We arrived in the evening and stayed the night up there. We tried to sleep, but we were so ... like my heart was shaking and I couldn’t eat. We drank a little beer.  Florian totally freaked out because he thought the police were watching us from the opposite building or something. I finally got a little sleep on some cardboard that was there.

MEREDITH:  So each of you had a couple of minutes on the balcony?

WOLFGANG:  Everybody went out twice. Then we really had to make ourselves stop. We thought: “It's perfect, let’s stay out there and have breakfast or something.” Three weeks of preparing and all these nightmares and beautiful dreams, and then it lasts only 10 minutes. It was like climaxing. Right after it, we smashed the balcony. Then we took the elevator down. We were so happy that there was nobody waiting there with handcuffs and a shotgun. We went over to the party at the hotel. People were cheering. I went to bed there and I was waiting, but no girl came in.

MEREDITH: All that work and no girls. Whatever happened to the balcony?

WOLFGANG: We made it into a bench. It was at the exhibition for the studio program — people were sitting on it and they had no idea.

MEREDITH: I saw an animated picture of the Hug Box project on the Gelatin website. It actually looked kind of violent. There’s this person being completely smashed between two mattresses.

WOLFGANG: The whole thing worked with water power, so it was super slow. There were tanks on each side of the mattresses. The water would get dumped from one tank to another — when one went down, the other one was lifted and that made the mattresses open or close. There was no electricity or motor involved, only water power. It took like ten minutes to close. Which is ok, but then it took ten minutes to open again. We didn’t want people trapped in the hug box for ten minutes, so we built a security release. We could open it whenever we wanted.

MEREDITH: Did anybody get upset?

WOLFGANG: There was only one person. So we had to use the security release once. But the Hug Box was really nice. You’d step into it, and your heart started to beat a little bit stronger.

MEREDITH: Seeing this giant mattress bearing down on you?

WOLFGANG: Yeah, you’d watch it getting closer and closer. And once it got really close, you had to breathe through this pipe. It sounds more scary than it really was. People really loved it. It was a totally nice atmosphere, because there was this pressure all over your body. And it was dark inside, and very silent. You didn’t really have to stand because the mattresses held you.

MEREDITH: The only thing that doesn’t sound nice is breathing through that tube. That sounds gross!

WOLFGANG: The tube didn’t go right into your mouth or anything.  Women really loved the hug box — much more than men. Maybe on women there’s more to press or something. I don’t know why, but it was more erotic for them. They told us.

MEREDITH: Where was the Hug Box set up?

WOLFGANG: It was 2 years ago at the Liverpool Biennial. I think it was the first one. It was very fun to go to Liverpool and work together with the 3 other boys.

MEREDITH: Why, because you felt like the Beatles?

WOLFGANG: Exactly. [laughs]

 

Ali

MEREDITH:  Can you tell me about the piece Gelatin did where the four of you dressed up as chickens?

ALI:  We were invited to the Vienna Festival, a big theater and dance festival. They wanted us to do a project that would go on for two days and two evenings, and we’d been thinking at the time about how Flo is like a chicken.  He's a hetero-faggot, and when he gets hysteric, he really looks like a chicken.

MEREDITH:  Because he's so tall and skinny and kind of has a beak for a nose.

ALI:  So we thought it would be nice if people could stand there and shoot eggs at him. We said: “Oh, we're going to do chicken costumes and people can throw eggs at us.”  We worked together with two friends of ours from Amsterdam to make the outfits. Then we built a really hardcore landscape into the space.  We put real earth and horse shit and old farm sheds in there, and we painted clouds on the walls and put grass everywhere. But then we decided: “Okay, let's forget about the eggs. Let's all just be chickens.” We were so embarrassed before we did it because we felt it was going to be ridiculous. The piece took place both days - like six hours without a break, just playing chicken life.  We had a computer to control the lights, so once an hour it became day and then it got dark again. At noon we’d have ham fed to us by this huge farm girl. And after the feeding, her head would explode. The costumes were amazing — they were round and wobbly and pink and we could move our little wings, but our heads were sticking out.

MEREDITH: How did the nude photos that you guys take of each other come about?

ALI:  It first started when we had this interview for Honcho Magazine. At the photo shoot, they said “You should have hard-ons. It will be really great.”  So we tried that and somehow it was really fun. 

MEREDITH:  Somehow.  [LAUGHS]

ALI: It was difficult timing-wise with the hard-ons. Then Tobias and me were in Los Angeles for half a year, and we missed Flo and Wolfgang a lot. We went to the desert in California and when you drive through there, you just get out sometimes and masturbate in front of the landscape.  So we took some pictures and sent them to Flo and Wolfgang. And then they sent us pictures back, and so on - back and forth. Basically we were working on sculpture using our hard-ons and the landscapes.

MEREDITH:  Making art with the same 3 people all the time must get hectic.

ALI: It's a very organic process - somehow how it works. For our last TV interview we were thinking about each of our character traits. I would be the [flagmatic?] one. Tobias is the autistic, and Wolfgang is the alcoholic. And Flo is the control freak. 

MEREDITH:  The Veltvunder project that you guys did at the Hanover Expo was incredible. There was this hole in the ground surrounded by grass, and if you jumped in, it was full of water — and you swam under to another, hidden room. It was one of the greatest art experiences I’ve had.

ALI:  We wanted to produce something that could be experienced with your body and your skin. There were really 2 ways of doing the Veltvunder. Either you could go in and feel the swimming and the pressure and come out on the other side, or you could create it in your mind when you decide not to go in. And those were the perfect circumstances for that project because the Expo is like Disney World — people run around like cattle to the different pavilions. Our main idea was to create a space that only a tiny percentage of the people would see.

MEREDITH:  One really had to make the decision go inside. It was a little bit scary to swim 10 feet down and then 5 feet across.

ALI:  It wasn’t really scary because you could try and if you didn’t make it — no problem. We didn't want to be part of the whole event culture there, to have people renting out bathing suits or towels. It was just: if you want to go in, then go in. But it also worked for the people who didn’t do it. What they created in their minds might be more beautiful than actually experiencing it. You could have just stood there and watched people disappearing through this hole.

MEREDITH: But I'm not familiar with any other artists who require release forms to see their work.  I think that’s kind of a unique thing to Gelatin.

ALI: It’s never our intention to do something that's dangerous or where people could get hurt. That’s the last thing we want. Our work is not about anxiety at all.  It's really about releasing tension — making you happy.

 

FLORIAN

MEREDITH: OK, so who does what in Gelatin?

FLORIAN: Everybody has his special skills. Like I don’t understand any electronics, so mostly Ollie and Wolfgang take care of that stuff. I do truck driving — I have the license. And if we need concrete, I make that. I do videos as well. We’re working on a video now that Wolfgang and I are editing. One of us will operate the machine and the other will talk, or listen, or watch.

MEREDITH: What’s your total dream project? There must be a whole bunch of ideas that Gelatin can’t do because of some limitation or another.

FLORIAN:  We want to make this rabbit, a very big knitted rabbit. Gigantic. Hopefully it could cover all of downtown Manhattan.

MEREDITH: What was Suck and Blow?

FLORIAN: We had this big space at Spencer Brownstone’s gallery, but no budget and not a lot of time. What we wanted to make was a collapsing space, where you’d walk in and the room would lower onto you. We had two big fans that alternated between sucking the air out of the gallery space and blowing air into it. Then we had made a gigantic plastic bag — it was a lot of garbage bags that were plastic-welded together. They were the graphite colored, shiny kind. You were meant to crawl into the huge bag through this little opening at one end, and there was a mattress on the floor inside. When the fans pumped air into the gallery, it squeezed the air out of the bag. The ceiling would close on the people inside, and the entrance tunnel would shut like a sphincter. So the people would get trapped for a bit. It wasn’t dangerous or anything — it only went down to a height that made it so you had to sit or lie on the floor. Then it inflated again. The fans would go in reverse, sucking air out of the space, and it would expand. The process of sucking and blowing took place every 15 minutes.

MEREDITH: It must have looked incredible.

FLORIAN: With the material we used and the way we lit it, it looked like metal. The secretary at the gallery said that when the fan would switch off, it was like the room was melting.  You’d sit in there and get totally disoriented. Not in a bad way — it was a very soft and soothing environment. It took about 10 minutes for the ceiling and walls to totally collapse.

MEREDITH: Did it make any noise as it closed?

FLORIAN: It made a crackly sound from the plastic. The whole thing worked on a timer, but we also gave the secretary a manual override. She’d sit at this table in the window and she could hit the override button and like trap people in the sphincter as they were crawling in. [laughs] It was very fun for her. A lot of the time there were 30 or 40 people in there, just lying on the floor.  They’d say, “I’m here for the 5th time! I come every day for an hour to relax.”  Everybody just wanted to hang out in it.  

MEREDITH: Let’s talk briefly about the World Trade Center. How was it for you?

FLORIAN: It was amazingly erotic. We were like waiting and waiting for this moment. The windows are set back and the front of the building isn’t flat. So you have to lean out to look to the side. We were sticking out from the very surface of the building, like two feet.

MEREDITH:  Wow.  

FLORIAN:  Looking up was the most terrifying. Looking down we had done before, when we were taking out the glass we stuck our heads out and looked. But when you stand outside, and you turn around and look up the building and it's only 15 floors to the top ... that was when I was shocked. I was frightened, like ... [exhales sharply] It's so high, I couldn’t tell if it was the 91st or the 63rd floor.

MEREDITH:  Coming from Vienna, is Gelatin influenced at all by the Actionists?

FLORIAN:  We're actually more influenced by the cheap porn industry. Things that influence us don't come from the art world. They usually come more from normal life.

MEREDITH:  So do you see your art as being entertainment?

FLORIAN:  Is entertainment bad?  I don't have a problem with it. When I go to a gallery show and I like it, I'm absolutely entertained. The best thing that can happen is that people have a very strong feeling from our work, a feeling they can recall. When it's really deposited into their memory, then it's very good work. Like the Veltvunder thing, the next time you go swimming in a pool you remember it.  And you think: “Shit, it would be amazing to stay and breathe, to not go back up.”

© index magazinegelatin1
Percutaneous Delights, P.S.1 New York, 2000
Image Courtesy of Gelatin
© index magazinetobias
Tobias by Matt Ducklo, 2000

© index magazinegelatin0
Fresh Meat, New York, 1998.
Vacuum-packed into plastic sheeting, breathing through snorkels.
© index magazine
Wolfgang by Matt Ducklo, 2000
© index magazinebox
Pollo Feliz- Gelatin as Chickens a the Vienna Festival, 1999
Photo by Brun O. Stubenrauch
© index magazinebox
Ali by Matt Ducklo, 2000
 
 

 

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