Four Austrians have been making appearances under the label “Gelatin” for the past five years. They have been engaged by music clubs and invited to participate in theater festivals; they have made commissioned “percent for art” pieces and staged their multiworks in art exhibitions. Depending on the occasion, this group of artists offers everything from short, spectacular appearances (like the nightclub performance in which they hung from the ceiling and whipped each other with leeks) to complex installations such as Operation Lila, 1999, a miniature operating room with stuffed animals as patients, created for the children’s ward in a hospital in Merano, Italy. No matter how different the occasions. there are similarities that link Gelatin’s appearances, from the objects and constructions they cobble together using found materials to the way they invite the viewer to take an active role in the art experience—not to mention their staging of themselves: jolly and often naked. This has led to their being labeled a “boy group” or “fun faction” (“Spaßfraktion”)—unfairly, as this gallery exhibition impressively demonstrated.

True, even here Gelatin could be seen delighting in their own nudity, notably on the invitation card: The half-naked artists were collaged into a kind of scale, a trestle with two baskets. Was the exhibition’s title, “Buttik Transportør,” meant to be cryptic? No. Rather, it is an altered spelling—the group explains it as the “Norwegian translation”—of “boutique transporter.” In the gallery itself there was an unruly, twenty-foot-tall construction of scrap lumber and old cabinets. Three open booths invited entry. A simple button-operated cable lift transported guests into the tower. On three floors and a mezzanine with a balcony, Gelatin presented their wares: clothing, drawings, catalogues, and videos; eggs representing the ones that they threw, while wearing chicken costumes, at the public during last year’s Wiener Festwochen; cardboard slippers for The B-Thing (World Trade Center, 2000), Lego models of Human Elevator (MAK Center for Art and Architecture, Los Angeles, 1999), and Hugbox (Liverpool Biennial, 1999), and some peculiar stuffed animals inserted in pickling jars.

Working one’s way through this “boutique,” one’s attention darted between the playful objects and the outlandish construction, between Gelatin’s world designs as maquettes and their actual execution in space, between the microcosm of the objects and the metalevel of their context. That Gelatin understands the gallery situation beyond its commercial aspect is obvious. Not that the artist group legitimized its appearance here through some all-too-familiar “institutional critique”—instead, they used the commercial space for a demonstrative miniretrospective. More than just providing information on five years of projects, this “retrospective” also dearly demonstrated that for Gelatin fun and humor are not ends in themselves but rather decisive factors on their way toward complex visualizations of literal meanings, toward body-centered wish fulfillment.

—Sabine B. Vogel

Translated from German by Sara Ogger.