Gelitin is made up of four artists from Austria. At first, these four artists were known as Gelatin but changed their name in 2005. They are known for their intriguing projects. Amongst them is their pool installation on the roof of a museum1 or their gigantic plush boy, a 55-meter tall pink rabbit near Genoa, Italy.
Over time, they have ventured into other art forms. Their project The B-thing began in March 2000. This time, the group allegedly removed one of the windows on the 91st floor of the former World Trade Center complex in New York.
Maintaining complete silence about their daring endeavor was paramount for Gelitin. The risk of hefty fines for damaging a national treasure loomed large if their covert mission had been exposed, adding to the intrigue surrounding their project.
After this, they installed a narrow balcony, and a helicopter was flying around the scene, capturing every moment which would later be documented in the book The B-thing. After the project concluded, the WTC was involved in one of the most prominent events of the last hundred years.
A balcony in the WTC
Gelitin’s project at the World Trade Center was a highly secretive and illegal endeavor. Situated on the 148th floor, they concealed construction materials under their clothing and meticulously crafted a functional load-bearing balcony.
During the covert construction process they carefully removed putty from an unopenable window on the 148th floor using suction pads. At 6 a.m., they posed on this balcony, capturing the moment from a helicopter—an integral part of the project’s documentation. Gelitin’s artistry extended to capturing their work from the sky, resulting in a remarkable and audacious photograph that captured the essence of their covert project.
The balcony was a prefabricated construction created by the team. After the installation, only one person at a time should be able to stand on the balcony. Another requirement was to camouflage the structure to be less visible to all the passersby on the street.
To do this, the team had to remove one of the windows. They had to be very professional to minimize mistakes and injuries and prevent damaging the skyscraper. Gelitin ensured that they were following all legal processes. An attorney guided them on how to behave.
Surprisingly, there was no surveillance on the facade of the World Trade Center, making the covert operation possible. This lack of security on such a prominent skyscraper raised questions about the effectiveness of security protocols.
A sticky memento
As a unique marker of their presence, Gelitin left behind an old piece of chewing gum adhered to the exterior of the World Trade Center at a dizzying height. This small but powerful symbol serves as lasting proof of their bold intervention.
Witnesses and denials
Various witnesses, including Gelitin’s art dealer, were present during the project. However, some individuals who were once involved now deny the project’s existence, further deepening the enigma surrounding the endeavor.
The B-Thing book
The B-thing book was published in 2001, with new copies retailing at $500 on Amazon. It is a hardcover volume with drawings, color photographs, and a few texts describing the events on the 91st floor of WTC in 2000, approximately 335 m (1,100 feet) above ground.
The B-thing book documents the project in a section of glossy color photographs, containing mostly drawings and calculations. The book was obtainable in very few places, including an art gallery in a frosted storefront on Broadway near Franklin Street and was printed in a run of 1,200 copies.
In the book, the individuals have all turned away from the camera but appear to be of college age. The 55 pages publication shows photos of each person at a time standing on a tiny balcony.
The book also displays photos of the balcony. Of the eight photographs taken from a distance, some show the tower’s vast eastern frontage stained by a tiny mole-like growth. The balcony is a narrow, cramped space protruding between two interior columns that initially hosted a window. Some of the pictures in The B-thing appear to have been shot from the balcony itself. The photos of the balcony are grainy and unconvincing.
Gelitin’s project draws comparisons to historical art pranks and audacious acts, such as Philippe Petit’s high-wire walk between the Twin Towers, creating a sense of artistic lineage and historical context.
The project at the World Trade Center has taken on the qualities of an urban myth. The affair has been shrouded in controversy, with rumors and denials circulating among the downtown cognoscenti, creating an aura of intrigue and mystery.
Experts in digital image manipulation have analyzed the content within “The B-Thing” book, specifically the photographs and visuals related to the balcony project. These experts examined the images carefully 2 and did not find any discrepancies or signs of digital manipulation, which could suggest that the balcony project was indeed a real event rather than a hoax.
Their analysis of the images indicated that they appeared authentic and unaltered, supporting the notion that Gelitin’s covert balcony installation may have actually taken place as documented in the book. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey reacted with disbelief and outrage when shown a copy of “The B-Thing,” but their own investigation found no evidence to disprove it.
Some people think that there was a close connection between the artists and the September 2001 perpetrators. Although this has never been proven, some people are still furious, with the art project instantly troubling questions about the security of the high-rise. They feel that this publication tells us something about the vulnerability of the WTC, which later provoked more debates after the attacks.
Some are also confused by the untidy sketches, which appear to be jotted in ballpoint. They seem to contradict the precision required to pull off such a covert installation. People have called the B-Thing a successful prank-as-statement by Austrian students, others troubling and stimulating. The quality of the photos makes it challenging to determine what was going on, creating mystery around the events.
The B-Thing is considered by some a troubling and thought-provoking project. However, it is safe to say that it was wholly original and bold. Gelitin’s project pushed the boundaries of artistic expression, testing the limits of legality and risk. It remains a testament to their unwavering commitment to creating provocative and unconventional art in unexpected locations.