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Farbtest, Die Rote Fahne II
Felix Gmelin

Revolutionary Time Warp: Felix Gmelin’s Farbtest, Die Rote Fahne II , 2002, a two-channel video, presents two short tapes that are, at a glance, identical. Closer examination reveals that in fact the images are not quite the same, but very similar.

In each one, a runner carries a large red flag through the streets of what appears to be a northern European city, transferring the flag to another participant at various intervals. The sense of historical period is also rather vague: the runners wear similar dark clothes; their hairstyles are not particularly revelatory, either. Perhaps the large number of Volkswagens in the video on the left tips the viewer off that this one was originally filmed in Germany. Gerd Conradt made the film in 1968, in connection with a camera seminar at the Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie Berlin, conducted by Michael Ballhaus, who worked with R.W. Fassbinder and later with Martin Scorsese.

Gmelin’s father was a filmmaker and theorist with radical political convictions, and the event that Conrad captured on film had been enacted by several of Gmelin’s students and also Gmelin himself appears twice in the film. It documented a ‘revolutionary’ student action; its final goal was achieved when the final flag-bearer entered the Berlin town hall the Schöneberger Rathaus, where John F. Kennedy made his famous (and famously ungrammatical) ‘Ich bin ein Berliner speech’ and reappeared on its balcony waving the red flag… In contrast to the triumphant or at least dramatic finale of Conrad’s film, the last flag-bearer in Gmelin’s re-enactment enters Stockholm’s town hall but doesn’t appear above brandishing the red flag. The opportunities for revolutionary action are evidently foreclosed, or at least ambiguous, uncertain.

/ David Rimanelli

English title Color test, The Red Flag II
Aspect ratio 1.78:1 (4:3 Letterbox)
Prod. format Generic film
Duration 00:12:00
Language No dialogue
Color Color
Year 2002
Latest screening Sep 24, 2022
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About the artist

Born 1962 in Heidelberg, Germany. Lives and works in Stockholm, Sweden.

Felix Gmelins’ education includes the Royal University College of Fine Arts, Stockholm. His previous exhibitions include Revolution II, Portikus, Frankfurt [DE], Malmö Konstmuseum, Malmö, Sweden, Milliken, Stockholm and Maccarone Inc., New York, USA, Berlin Biennale 4, Berlin, Germany, Delays and Revolutions, Italian Pavilion, 50th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy, Iconoclash, Beyond the Image Wars in Science, Religion and Art, ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany, among others.

Using unobtrusive visual techniques, Felix Gmelin explores in his work on video and his paintings the pictorial symbolism of politics, the idea of utopia and radicalism. By comparing the political movements of the late 1960s with the activism of today, he enriches the complexity of the political debate and reflects the significance of history and its presence in contemporary life. The works become both private and universal to the extent that he – like an entire generation along with him – has to relate to the inheritance of the revolutionary era.