THE OUTER TERRITORIES
An essay on the art of Frank Gerlitzki
The outer territories is an australian expression to define the remote parts of this huge country, mostly deserted and untouched where only few groups of native aboriginal live.When I first met Frank, during an open studio event in Beijing and I had to confront his art, I tried without success to grasp the references behind the objects, maps, paintings, drawings, photos and installations which filled the studio. In my mind either it was too obvious, either there was something missing.
After several years and a few projects we had the chance to develop together, the subtle and innovative quality of his work started to unveil itself. That day, the point was not about what was in the studio,....it was the fact that we were in that studio, in that unexplored physical space he was living since a few weeks for the first time.
Not long after, Frank moved to Guangzhou, right at the time when Beijing was the hottest art city of the world, and it was clear that this had a quite marginal impact on Frank's path. Why avoiding the hype, the "place to be", the center of the energy? I'm not sure how Frank would answer this question, yet there is a clear answer in his work: language, form, mediums and contents are neither synthesized, nor developed in themselves, they are, instead, transformed into tools to explore unknown physical and cultural spaces: his art develops itself in an antropological quest of new territories.
One of Frank's most important work is in fact the creation of a temporary, artistic and autonomous territory, with proper identity, but with no fixed geographical location. The project was not completed, yet its potential existence was already a poetic and subversive image to confront. In his installations, we hear the echo of Mike Kelley, yet Frank does not push the abjection, and does not emphasize the nostalgic-punk attitude ; he simply uses the "otherness" of those kind of materials and objets trouvées. The "traveller spirit" of his bottles and baskets filled with sentences reminds us of Martin Kippenberger, but, again Frank avoids the romantic ironic self-celebration of the german artist and puts forward the nomadic, undefined, unstructured nature of these kind of interventions. Both Kelley's american "stinky" rebellion and Kippenberger's sophisticated european anarchy are simplified and reduced to their basic nature of unorthodox methods of research and inquiry.
Getting rid of any sort of indulgence, Frank transforms abject art, non-art and "degree-zero art" into refined instruments to question not only artistic production but the nature of communication itself. What makes the specific high quality of this approach is his capacity to be so severe with this potentially chaotic aesthetic; the fact that he seems not interested into developing further an intervention keeps him from "closing" his artworks and focusing the attention on themselves only. If he does not finish them, if he does not push them further, it is again because for him they are interesting only as functional tools to enter and explore the next new space. The nature of this exploration will be sympathetic but not intrusive, refusing to colonize the new area and aiming at recording the experience of the encounter and using it as a bridge for the next one to happen.
It is difficult to tell Frank's presence in his work, because he dissimulates it under the unpretentious non-chalance of his personality and the anti-subjective quality of his interventions, yet in his mirror-white-painting series (probably the most intimistic of his works) he cannot but confront the need of self-inquiry. Once again he tries to erase as much artistic and subjective gesture as possible from these raw, simple, modest-size collage paintings, but this time, he ( deliberately?) forgets that the act of painting, if not done by a machine, leaves personal marks. The white acrylic primer succeeds into leaving colour's sentimentality out, but the rough, organic texture bears a personal statement. The mirrors stuck in the white matter fail to be fragments and on their surface imprisoned in the matter we are obliged to confront our image.
By the time I saw the white-mirror-paintings, I was still under the influence of a completely different work of his, exhibited together with a sculpture of mine in a museum show in Songzhuan; it was a series of cartoon-like drawings, in which stylized sheeps conveyed a mockery of all politically correct social behaviors . The sheep drawings were behind bars made by the shadow of a supermarket trolley's structure, projected on the wall by a simple lightbulb. People could draw and write on the sheep-drawings. The reality of our consumerist society lied there bare, stripped of its colorful deceptions and seductive patina. It was like a sweet and sour cold shower for the viewers and the fact to have the possibility to write and draw on the sheep-drawings increased the sense of loss and the impossibility to escape from the postmodern flatness. You could mock it, criticize it or being indifferent, yet you are inevitably part of it. Then the white-mirror paintings came and thinking of the sequence I remembered few lines in the last chapter of "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury which could well express Frank's message:
"Come on now, we're going to go build a mirror factory first and put out nothing but mirrors for the next year and take a long look in them"
如果一个大国的偏远地区是一个很少与外界联系并只有少数原住民居住的区域，那么在澳大利亚人概念里就被定义为外部领土。我第一次见到弗兰克的 时候是在北京开放工作室活动期间，也是我首次接触到他的作品。我试图通过艺术品，地图，涂漆，绘画，照片及摆满整个工作室的装置艺术来理解他 作品背后的意义，但我失败了。以我的理解，一切或许是显而易见的又或许遗漏了某些要素。随后的几年里，我们在一些项目里有了一起合作的机会。 此时，他作品里的一些微妙而又新颖的特性开始显露。就在那天,重点不是工作室里有什么......而是我们在这个地方，一个他第一次生活了几 周的却未被探究的陌生空间。
不久，正当北京成为全世界最热门的艺术城市时，弗兰克移居到了广州。很显然，这对于弗兰克的艺术之路产生了一定的影响。为什么要远离便于宣传 自己的绝佳之地，远离能量的汇聚地？我不确定弗兰克怎么回答这个问题,不过，在他的作品里面已经很明显有了答案:语言、形式、媒介和内容既没 有被综合在一起,也没有各自发展着，而是转换成了一种探索未知物质和文化空间的工具:他的艺术在人类学的探索领域里有了新的发展。
事实上,弗兰克最重要的工作之一就是创作一种临时性、艺术化、完全自主且身份明确但没有固定地点的空间领地。这个项目没有完成，但它潜在的存在感已经展示出诗意般、颠覆性 的形象。在弗兰克的装置艺术中, 虽然他没有主动摈弃,也没有强调这种朋克式怀旧的态度,但我们还是仿佛听到了迈克·凯利的余音。谈到作品来源，他只是简单的用了“差异性”来形容找到的那些材料和物质。他 那具有 “旅行者精神”的瓶子和篮子里面蕴含着的意味让我们想起马丁·基彭伯格，巧妙的是弗兰克避免了具有浪漫讽刺意味的德国艺术家式的孤芳自赏，而是提出并渗入一些具有飘忽性、 不确定性、非结构化的特质。凯利美国式的“臭名远扬”般的叛逆和基彭贝尔格复杂的欧洲无政府状态因非正统研究和探索方式已经被简化和削弱。
摆脱对任何形式的偏爱，弗兰克将廉价品艺术、非艺术、“零度艺术”转换成精美的艺术装置，这种做法不仅是对艺术品本身，更是对这种交流的意义提出质疑。正是他对潜在混沌美 学的苛求才造就这种特殊而又高品质的创作形式。事实上，他似乎没有兴趣走的太远，为的是避免过多外界因素干扰自己并“禁锢”自己的作品，他将 注意力都集中在作品本身上。如果作品没有完工，也没有进一步完善的打算，那么对他而言这些创作形式只是进入和开拓未来新领域的一种方法。这种 探索的特性是和谐的不受侵入的，它拒绝新领域被殖民化。他旨在记录遇到的经验，并作为创作下一个作品的桥梁。
在弗兰克的作品中很难分辨出他的痕迹，因为都掩饰在他谦逊的个性和非主观性介入之中。在他的镜子－白色的绘画系列（可能是他最私密的作品）中他不得不面对自我探究的需求。 一次又一次他尝试尽可能从原始、简单、中等尺寸的拼贴画中抹去艺术和主观的姿态，而这一次他（故意？）全然忘记了绘画的艺术性。如果不是留下 了个人的签名，这些作品会被认为是由机器完成的。白色的丙烯酸底漆成功地将感性的色彩游离于外，但粗糙的有机的质地依然蕴含着个人的思想。滞 留在白色物体中的镜面并没有破碎，人们可以清晰的从未破碎的镜子中看到由此折射出来的影像。
当我看“白色镜子绘画”作品的时候，他的另外一部作品却影响我很深。这个作品和我的一个雕塑作品同时在宋庄的一个博物馆里展出。这是一组卡通 画式的风格作品，画里面特定风格化的羊想要表达的是在被政治气氛渲染下对所有正确行为的一种嘲讽。羊在牢中的形象是被设计为关在超市手推车样 式的阴影中，而这一阴影是利用一个简单的灯泡投射到墙上去的。人们可以在羊的绘图上绘画或书写。剥去丰富多彩的欺骗和诱人的铜锈，消费主义社 会的现实性就会一览无余的呈现出来，这就像给观众提供了一次酸甜的冷水淋浴。在我们给羊的绘图上画画和书写时，无疑加深了迷失感和无法逃离后 现代氛围的无奈感。你可以嘲笑它、批评它、或变得与众不同，但你终究还是属于其中的一部分。这部白镜画作品的出现让我想起雷布莱伯利写在“华 氏451”最后一章的几行话。我想，这几行话可以很好地解读弗兰克吧：
An Art Magnet
about Frank Gerlitzki's artwork
I'm trying to think if, when Ι first met Frank Gerlitzki several years ago when he had just opened the art gallery in Bonnevoie, the idea I had for this artist, was different from the one I have today. The answer is no.
He creates his own works, abstract or not, he makes lots of presentations of new artists, he participates with his own works in group exhibitions, he creates new artworks, videos, performances, he left Luxembourg and settled down in China, etc., etc. The
central axis of his work, however, remained unchanged. He offers his artistic work, which remains clear and straightforward – I repeat, for every type of his creations. He "drops" or he "plants" a seed of art and the spectators, you and me, need to lift
it, to observe it, to turn it around and see it from every angle, and finally to take the decision to do something with it. Frank Gerlitzki is giving. He is giving a lot and constantly, he is giving generously and his approach is extremely friendly and understandable.
He always was and still is a pure, transparent show case. If you look in it, you can easily see his humanistic approach to all the subjects that excite him. Our society. His basic theme. This cycle which involves humans. Humans who are always present.
In all their dimensions and in particular in their relations with one another and their different kinds of behaviours within it. Always with a keen criticism which sometimes can also be troublesome. The questions generated by his artworks remain, as to the
substance of the matter,disarmingly simple, but extremely up-to-date and meaningful.
His concept turns always around persistent invitations. He invites you to listen. What is he saying to you, sitting on a balcony? What is he giving you in the
middle of the street? What is he urging you to write on photos? What is he asking you to stick on the sign of a bus stop? Why is he washing my money? He invites you to show something that is yours to the other visitors of his exhibition. He is constantly proposing
something to you, and the next moment he is inviting you to take active part. And you, the spectator, if you decide to accept these calls, you become immediately part of the project. You participate actively. You are now part of the puzzle of Frank Gerlitzki's
artwork. He is leading you and at the same time you are leading by yourself through the paths of his work.
Frank Gerlitzki invites
us to move our hands and actively participate in this experience that is happening in front of us. Frank Gerlitzki is a machine that magnetizes us by his artwork.
Nikos Ververidis / Luxembourg 2012