Goldsmiths Curatorial Critique

I Feel so Divided

Posted in Reviews by mingjiuntsai on November 11, 2008

What is colour to a blind person? How does a deaf man describe music? Can a mute imagine his own voice? Through the juxtaposed medias in Felix Gmelin’s solo exhibition ‘I Feel so Divided,’ you may be aware for the first time of how the sensation works.

You might feel disappointed at first sight. The whole impression is basically flat. There is rarely any colour, or more specifically, gray is everywhere. The voice from the two speakers and the regular sound from the slide projector create the peculiar atmosphere in the space. However, you may find that your perception gradually changes via the process of seeing the works. The black and white images and the indiscernible audio atmosphere become clearly printed on your mind. Gmelin uses several materials – film, sound, painting, photography and text – to cause various sensations and construct the theme of the exhibition.

The visual artworks basically need to be seen, using eyes, of course.  What do we do with the other senses such as ears, mouth, nose or the spatial sense of body? When ‘film’ appears for the first time in history, people started to perceive moving actions and scenery on a two-dimensional screen. Subsequently, audio was added into film, and it became a fairly important media and material of art practice. Nonetheless, in some aspects, the style of film seems to make the sensations more restricted and separated from each other. The relationship becomes complex. The sounds go with the images, which means that hearing follows seeing. If there is a subtitle, and it will go with the dialogue, which indicates that visual follows audio. The senses are bounded and also disturbed by each other while seeing the film. Moreover, there is no more spatial experience of interpretation. The distance between the audience and the work is literally the distance between eyes and the screen.

Gmelin may try to bring this issue of the sensation toward visual art. The documentary-like film with a convincing vocal describes the content of the video in which a group of blind children learning and knowing the objects on this world. Opposite this work, there is another film showing the relationship between visual art and blind people, but the video and the audio don’t appear simultaneously as a film should be. Looking around the gray and muddy images on the wall, they are mixed with paintings and photographs. But it is hard to distinguish which ones are paintings and which are photographs because they are both so tactile and alike. In fact, the percept of these images is much more touching than vision.

There is a text shown by the slide projector on one of the images. It repeats the quote from Jean-Luc Godard – I’ve got a machine for seeing, called eyes. To hear, I’ve got ears. To talk, a mouth. But they feel like separate machines, there’s no unity. A person ought to feel unified. I feel like I’m divided’ (1965) – sentence by sentence in the order of German, French and English. It seems to have a continuing function in this exhibition. You have seen all the works of the show, but you might feel that you would like to see it all over again because the senses are reorganized. At the second time, you may have the impression of the tactile sense of the gray, muddy photographs while seeing the first film. You also be able to have the impression-montage in your mind that generates a different interpretation of the second film. You may see how our senses work independently and also together thereafter.081109-divided3

Felix Gmelin: I Feel so Divided

Vilma Gold

10/ October – 9/ November/ 2008



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