Breathe in, breathe out. Now open your eyes. Slowly unfold yourself. Lift your head, stretch your limbs. Unclench your fists. You are alive. Now, light a cigarette. Behold the world. Its structures, it’s materials. This is your universe. You created it.
Breathing and living human beings we are. Rational animals, in an age of technology that we called upon ourselves. Gods, we want to be, creators, dreaming of ever bigger, higher, brighter. We walk up straight: our heads reaching for the skies. A laborious kind: working, aiming, building, aching. Thinking. Breathing.
Indrikis Gelzis’ second exhibition at the gallery picks up from his large scale work ‘Aeolian breath’(201?). In the field of geology, aeolian processes refer to the wind’s ability to shape the surface of the Earth. Aeolian breath connects this idea to life on a human scale. The ‘breath’ of the winds working on an aeolian time scale (a scale that will forever be beyond human experience) is measured against our breathing – that involuntary, almost ’automatic’ and repetitive act that is most fundamental to life.
Break. The. Cycle.
Inhale. Reflect. Repeat.
A smoke break. ‘A pause for the cause.’ Take a step back, hacking the cycle.
A brief relief from the desk job, assembly line, welding machine. From automation. Even breathing becomes a conscious rather than an ‘automatic’ experience. Life!
Having a laugh. Sarcastic joke. Do you have a light? (De-stressing with a pull from that most addictive and carcinogenic of all consumer products. Chuckle. Cough.)
At the basis of Gelzis’ works, we find figuration: human poses, headless torso’s and limbs abstracted into frail, skeletal spatial-linear compositions. The figurative origins may be hard to discern at first sight, but they traceable, as if the artist took up a course in live-model drawing class and decided to rationalise the process of live drawing into a mechanical and industrial practice. In a sense, Gelzis’ work is a re-enactment of the historic shift from figuration to abstraction, albeit set to 21st-century tune. It is no coincidence that Gelzis’ abstracted figuration winks at modernist artistic positions. After all, Gelzis shares an interest with his avant-garde predecessors: industrialisation, labour, and how this impacts our (social) world.
At this point, we see before our mind’s eye a yellowed black and white photograph of workers gathering ‘for the cause’, discussing their next social action or strike while lurking on a cigarette. (Practically everyone was a smoker in those more revolutionary days, and the revolutions were artistic as much as industrial/technical and social. We could just as easily replace the workers in the photograph with a who’s who of the interbellum artistic avant-garde.) Yet…
Yet while the industrial revolution continues as a technological revolution (drones delivering consumer goods, need I say more?), the continuation of an artistic revolution is less obvious. According to Gelzis, «the world is being rebuilt to communicate with itself, as well as to communicate without the assistance of human consciousness”. Man is left out of the equation. How does this resonate artistically? Isn’t art, isn’t the artist, above all, human?
Gelzis’ installation is comically modeled after a cigarette, rendered into a rectangular, open structure. In a fragment of the wall covered with yellow fibreglass, we might recognise the filter; plasterboards and tiles are the filter zone, metal profiles outlining the rest of the ‘cigarette’. Upon the ‘cigarette’ the works are places, said tableaus of frail, headless postures, ideal postures; an ideal of man in inhuman times.
Time is a filter. Aeolian breathes turn civilisations to dust. For a brief moment, we live. We breathe.
A drone hovers over. You arch your back, you clench yourself into a ball and close your eyes. At peace? At peace.
I hope this doesn’t find you,
My cigarette is lit while the star is falling
The anguish is far away
You don’t say, but
My pose feels like ibuprofen
It tickles when you weld and grind
All the turns and bends
Wind currents laugh instead
Breath that shapes the globe
not more arrogant than a map
Ghosts up and down the graph
Where the checkered pattern can be sunburned
An intangible unit can be born
Construct my desire
Turn it into evidence
Solely in fume
my everlasting posture can be ascertained
A reflex of a limb
Makes my Rolex glitter
The star is falling
Shall I Inhale or
await the breeze
caused by superhighway rock