For someone born and raised during the 70ties it is very easy to become nostalgic during a visit to the exhibition of Felix Gmelin at the Milliken Gallery. Gmelin presents several video installations and also paintings; the paintings have all motifs taken from one of the videos presented in the show, and the whole presentation is entitled “Film Stills” 2004. Two naked characters, a man and a woman, use each other’s bodies as canvases, and “paint” each other in a performative act in the film. The film is some 25 years old and from a piece of paper in the exhibition one gets to know that the man in the video is the artist’s father. The video, presented on a very small vintage monitor, is digitally manipulated boosting up the colours. The couple seems to have a very good time, and one gets smittened by the exhilarating feeling that must have been the origin of the performance/film.
Another video piece, a double-projection, bears the telling title Two Films Exchanging Soundtracks 2003.
Here Gmelin make use of other appropriated films, one from 1967 about how drugs can be spiritually liberating, and the other film from 1974 is a didactic documentary on Chinese schoolchildren hailing the republic they live in. The films are projected largely on opposite walls, and the soundtracks and subtitles have been exchanged, creating a lapse in both time and meaning. The narratives extracted and then again put together in the projections, are reflecting each other and become totally entangling. Sweet utopia can look very different depending on what time zone you’re in, and perhaps also depending on what drug your on; Cannabis Sativa or a political fairytale. The exhibition consists of more material, but the keynote is however the film once made by Gmelin’s father. Any Freudian could wallow in the material, but what is lingering after visiting the exhibition is somehow a most dignified and still sweet feeling of a sincere homage, but perhaps with a just a dash of indulgence.