In 2001 Austrian art collective Gelitin made a bold move on the 91st floor of the WTC1 in New York. The group of four removed a window and eventually pushed a wooden balcony through the hole. At the end of it, they stood on it while photos of this incident were taken from a helicopter.
One year later, a jet hit the tower, precisely at the point where the artists stood. It makes you wonder what the Hayward Gallery can have been thinking when they invited Gelitin to build a pond on its roof. This article explores the clandestineness, intimacy, and mystery behind Gelitin’s Normally, Proceeding and Unrestricted With Without Title.
Gelitin’s pool installation in London
Now when we start a rainy day, it may feel empty, and it will fade eventually. To make it an excellent one, you might need an art experience. It’s sometimes unusual to watch a crowd spend most of their weekend standing in a queue. Not for what you may deem a donation or a Madame Tussaud’s but for work at the Hayward Gallery. It is here where the art team has collectively turned the rooftop into a puddle filled with paddling contraptions.
The pool is made to resemble an infinity pool with the water going all the way to the rim. It is also permanently overflowing. In one corner, a wobbly platform with seats is floating. It’s a little hidden, so you cannot see it right away, especially when you are coming up the stairs.
Three boats are housed in the floating platform. They are made specifically for two people and not more than that because of the weight and the size. The seats are made in such a way that the two people will be facing each other. Additionally, the seats of the boats are as deep as the boats themselves. Approximately 180kg of sand pulls the boats far down the water.
This is very tactical; it’s to make it easy for you to float in the water. When the water is around your belly-level while the rest of your body is submerged beyond the water-level, you will be sitting more in the water than above it. The boats were small and very shaky, which means you have to observe your body position. If you are not careful and if you are not moving accordingly, you may sink. Some people like it because they feel connected more deeply when they have to balance each other.
The less steep angle of vision makes it more reflective by the proximity of your eyes. The water now mirrors the sky and also the top side of the buildings. At the rim of the pond, the reflection meets the sky. The boats are not specifically for fast paddling. It means it takes some time to reach the rim, which is an issue, especially for people who want to experience more visual sensation.
Due to the black floor and the surface reflections, it will be tough to detect that the pond is only a few meters deep. You’ll feel as if you are basking in the sea, especially when it rains and the wind is blowing.
It’s easy to notice that the appeal of this artwork lies in the participatory promise and not in the structural aquatics. What makes this artwork stand out is the beauty of people lining up to sit in the tab to enjoy themselves paddling on the small pool. Gelitin’s selling point is their promise of entertainment and a one of a kind experience. This lets them get away with the idea that many people would deem impractical.
The art forces you to be susceptible to the position of your partner. You have to watch closely and make sure you are moving according to your partner’s movement. Gelitin explains that they wanted to make visitors feel the artwork and embrace teamwork. You have to face each other and, at the same time, watch out for your partner’s mood, movement, and position.
As a human being with changing moods, people expect to change the psychophysical balance within the boat. It means you should establish feelings of trust and interdependence without depending on your social context. It’s the physical and mental organization of your body that keeps the boat afloat.
The art focuses on making people understand the body as a sum of shifting conditions that must be matched the right way to control situations. While being in the boat, the circumstances, emotions, and other aspects of your life change. All this happens in adjustment to external pulls, impacts, and effects of your actions. Understanding every bit of your body is an excellent match of your life and of what rotates around you.
Gelitin is an Austrian artist collective and comprised of four artists. They met first in 1978 when they all attended a summer camp. They have been playing and working together. In 1993 they began exhibiting internationally.