A day in the Skin(s) of Various & Gould.

I’m not going to insist more on that, Various & Gould are who I want to become when I’m a grown-up – if it ever happens. (See previous posts for more details). So when they invited us to participate to their new project ‘City Skins’, I couldn’t have been happier: it would be huge, messy, a bit random, everything I absolutely love.

From a distance, Marx and Engels are impressive, that’s no news, but when you stand at the bottom, thinking that you only have a few hours to cover the sculptures entirely with papier mâché, and if possible with several layers, your heart start beating faster. Luckily enough, not only did we have the 3 artists but something like 10 students from our group turned up at various points. And that was a blessing. IMG_1691.JPG
(Various & Gould prepping the statues)

Once the basic preparation was over, we had to make a start. The artists didn’t really dare asking us to ‘get on with it’, students didn’t really know where to start, so I am afraid I started bossing everybody around and got the papier mâché factory going. Within 15 minutes, we had it all set up: one girl was cutting the paper, two were spreading glue on it (‘one side!’ or ‘two sides!’ depending on the position of the paper on the statues), I was dispatching the paper to the artists and helpers who would put them, bit by bit, layer by layer on the sculpture.

And it took a while. The rain came, went. The sun came, stayed. All around, people were stopping by, asking hundreds of questions. The buzz really started when a group of Chinese students in Philosophy came to take pictures of the statues and found us climbing, gluing, covering them. And something we didn’t expect happened: the teacher came to see us and asked if they could give it a go…

For 40 minutes, the whole spot became a massive workshop. They were spreading the paste, posing for a photo, taking the paper off the table – taking another one – placing the paper on the statue – smile! – and ran off. It was an absolute waste of time, but they were all so sweet and it made them so happy that it was definitely worth it!

After a few hours, my fellow students got a bit tired/bored/unamused by the massive project and disappeared quietly. The good thing is I stayed with German speakers only and finally managed to practice a bit my appalling German. And we finished it off! At 6:00pm, Marx & Engels looked like they’ve just been dug up from a pyramid… All sandy and shiny…


But that’s not it… After that they will need to do the same thing all over again, to get a proper solid cast of the sculptures, and then a last layer with coloured/printed paper and paint to end up with a bright, colourful version of the statues.

The final work will be inaugurated on the 20th of May (my birthday!!!) in East Berlin where the artwork originally was, before being moved to Alexander Platz. Guess what, I’ll be there!

Ready more about the project: http://cityskins.net


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