|Performing for Real|
Effect - that's the engine behind
most of Gints Gabrans's artistic
motions. In a way, this is where
my writer's unease starts, as Gints
repeatedly has asked writers not
to refer to art in writing about
his work: so art is supposed to be
the least important detail to talk
about, like the frame around the
painting. Still it is this unsteady
borderline between the artificial
('art') construction and reality
that he keeps exposing.
This might be traced as a part of the broken tradition of intended 'trouble' in Latvian art. Gints Gabrans started out in the mid-90s within the generation of artists such as Mielis Fishers, Andris Fridbergs and Janis Vizelis, who combined the mockery of the establishment and mental escapism in their oeuvres. An example is the tryptich of the doped Baltic presidents swinging to the alien DJ painted by Fishers, or Fishers/Vizelis round-theclock surveillance cage Alvils Indriksons in the exhibition The State, where a person bearing this name was continuously monitored by surveillance cameras. The art critic Inga Shteimane attempted to attach the label 'message art' to this trend. For me the title largely fails in relation to Gabrans's works because they seem instead infused by hints and ambivalences of situations. He is also the only one of the group still visible in the current art field.
In my opinion Apparent/ Invisible. The Island of Perception succeeded in the task consequently pursued by this artist: eliminating the artwork. Meaning is invested less in formal solutions than in the exercise of mind. However, unlike conceptualism, the effect is based on the affluence of real-life laws. The way in which Gabrans got rid of the art-pieces in this show reminded me of the scandalous practical joke-statement from his past. In '98 he sold 'his' artist's page in the magazine Literature. Art. Us to the Zwilling knife company. The result was a huge ad image of a cleaver complemented by the slogan "Cutting is art". The scandal around the 'mercantile' artist was aggravated by the ad's clear reference to the sentence in the earlier Gabrans's installation The knife to cut your arse with.
The way his art looks and works has changed greatly
since the 90s. Still the accomplishment of the classic colour
scheme in Apparent/Invisible, where a white circle is the sum
of blue, red and yellow projector rays, reminds me of the
essential idealism that lies behind most of Gints Gabrans's
projects; for example, desire for happiness was the backbone
of Riga Dating Agency tours, and Gabrans's recent project
Starix is far more about the media-based fame factory for
everybody than about the success pack of a certain bum.
Formal appearances are just tools for framing far more general
and elusive quests, challenging individual and social
preconceptions. "It's all in your head", as was once stated by
The catch is in the cut to reality. Gints Gabrans literally reassembles everyday actions and structures into an exhibition showcase, with no innocent purpose. In some old interview he explained, "We live in the constructed world. What's fascinating is that art is totally constructed too, and that a second artificial thing breaks the rhythm".
Recent, and I'd say mature, Gabrans's pieces seem to
have preserved certain features of his harassing and ironic
early installations - he puts forward the antithesis to the
usual course of things. So Imploding Priest appeared as subverted
- alive but passive, a 'closed' art object, drifting in
another reality of sleep.
Elements are real and recognisable, and yet all is fake and stripped of its function. What we see is the construct plunged into the anarchy of profane meanings versus lofty ones. One can readily see the appearing and dissolving images in the mirror piece in Apparent/Invisible as a paraphrase of this thinking. In a way it reveals the mechanics of setting off the basics of survival: doubt and caution in consuming these pieces. Gabrans's works are marked by a lack of balance - on the one hand they promise the 'wonder' of the ideal, while on the other there is evidence of harsh trickery and incompleteness. The viewer or art critic is established as the starving easel between these haystacks. And that's what Apparent/ Invisible marks out too - illuminated space for thinking about seeing and wanting to see. This is Gints Gabrans's system for shutting out questions about art as art.
(1974) is a freelance curator, art critic and researcher living in Riga. currently collaborating with the centre for the new media culture RIXC
| Estonian Art 1/05 (16) | Published by the Estonian Institute 2005 | ISSN 1406-5711 (Online) | ISSN 1406-3549 (Printed version) | email@example.com | tel: (372) 631 43 55 | fax: (372) 631 43 56 |