Days of being wild

The art project ‘ghosts of ourselves’ is now going on for several years and because of receiving a lot of very friendly emails from you or because you stranded here, while standing in front of a tile right now and don’t know what’s it about, I thought it is time to give a little insight to our work.

First of all, there are two of us and together we gave us the name Harry Gelb, which is the main character in different books by Jörg Fauser, a great, but underestimated poet and unfortunately dead. Choosing the right name was a pretty important thing to us – it is of course meant to be a reminiscence to the author and I love the idea that you start reading him because of seeing a ghost by us, but it was also a choice of a certain background. Nothing that lies in concrete facts, it’s more like an atmosphere, like a white balance for your perspective or like the first coordinates for an unknown route. In our storyline Harry Gelb stands for being wild in its most positive sense – open minded, ruthless against oneself and with a heart for the offbeat.

The ghosts themselves are handmade concrete tiles with an embedded picture, every single one a unique piece, signed and numbered, which we fix to different walls in cities around the world. In a mentality of doubt and questions they are telling various stories. One is about transience as it is per se part of every street art, but our intention is to double the effect by using photographs. What do I mean by that? On the one hand it’s the art piece itself, which vanishes or changes and on the other it’s also the original place shown in the frame. There are motifs, even complete streets and houses, which don’t exist anymore in reality. Two different kinds of decay, one obvious and the other just can be imagined. While drawing this line it is pretty simple to widen your perception as well to the corner where you actually found the ghost, what leads to the way you’ve walked, which will end up by yourself. Everything changes and it won’t be the same. So we’re not only talking about the rise and fall of rock solid material, it’s also about the volatility of photography itself, the singularity of its captured moment and especially about points of view. And the ghosts demonstrate this very precisely. By creating impossible prospects. Where do you stand? What do you see? It’s the contradiction between this impermanence and the so-called seriousness of our life, which we think appears and stays intangible as a ghost.

#508 located in a small side street in Basel, it shows the outdoor stair in its patio of Hotel Carly in Buenos Aires / San Telmo. The ghost was already damaged when we took the picture the day after gluing it and is completely gone today.

Another story the ghosts are telling through the image content. Every tile is meant to be an interpretation platform, which tries to skyrocket your fantasies. Where is this place? Is the loneliness intended? Do I miss or misinterpret something in the picture? Are those ghosts telling a coherent narrative? Where are all these stairs and doors leading? Is it about loss of orientation? Is it an odyssey? What is meant to be metaphorical and what is straight? Do you quote? Is it a diary? Who is the protagonist? Why is it positioned right here? Are the places and the photographs connected to each other? Do I really have to walk? Yes there are concrete answers, but truly believing that it is more important to keep asking questions, I won’t unpack and divide the whole concept to its core right now, especially because we don’t wanna take away what’s still most important – the mystery.

#116 is fixed to a fencing post in Kassel and presents the photography of a saleswoman for dried squid on a night market in Saigon. To the left her father, to the right a woman in black, seconds before turning the scenery into something really strange.

What I can tell you is, that it is pretty simple to see the ghosts just as a nice feature in your home city, which makes you smile for a moment, what is already quite a lot, but it should also carry the things, which underlie the project for us. Themes like the false believe in materialism instead of humanity, the lack of equal opportunities or the inter-changeability of single individuals. In its political aspect – which is in times like these even more important than it was when we started – are the ghosts also an attempt to get a bigger picture concerning globalization and its cruel consequences for the poor. It is a call for empathy, for respect, for humanity. They are meant to connect places, people and thoughts all over the world. And I don’t mean a computerized social network by that. Of course we’ve got our accounts in those too, but that is more like a map to give you an idea where to search in reality. You can’t instagram the feeling of finding a ghost by yourself. On the contrary, it is an attempt to return the necessary attention to a single picture instead of clicking forward second by second. The project is an empirical act, which is supposed to get you moving, both mentally and physically. And as the ghosts never hide just in one spot, you will have to search a whole city to discover them and doing that you hopefully will find more. Particularly when leaving your home city or country. Having a treasure map is maybe a good way of determining that the quest is more important than the aim and becoming friends with a stranger the real gold.

#12 – They stand so close together, but are worlds apart. A few houses of old (and poor) Shanghai surrounded by a human hive. This ghost used to haunt around in Berlin.

I know sometimes it seems to take ages until new ones are released. Responsible for this is mostly the fact that our lives, our journeys, our photographs are the thin red line behind the concept. And as we don’t wanna do some decorative instant art, we need to experience certain things between stages. What also includes the interaction with you, your thoughts and anticipations are also a part of the ghosts’ integrity. Another reason is that we constantly work on different components adding up to what’s already existing. One of them – the red series – has already started to release (maybe a great failure, but still promising – you can read more about it in its section) and the others are simply as complex and elaborate that they eat up a lot of time. So we are talking about patience, but I can assure you, there will come more.

I hope I’ve been able to give you a light, now go for the dark. We thank you so much for your interest in our little idea, for the kind words you’ve written us, for the time you spent walking and for that glimpse that distinguishes looking from seeing. We love to stay in contact with you all.

Start / keep on searching.

As do we.

And the ghosts won’t stop whispering.

Harry & Gelb



Share your thoughts with us: