British conceptual artist, Liam Gillick, who now lives and works in New York received his BFA with Honors from Goldsmiths, University of London after first considering a career in politics and law. While he was at Goldsmiths during the rise of the Young British Artists and participated to some extent with the YBAs, Gillick is most readily recognized for his affiliation with the artists included in the 1996 exhibition, Traffic, which introduced the term “relational aesthetics.”
Since Goldsmiths, Gillick’s exhibition record has been extensive. A recent and defining solo exhibition, Three Perspectives and a short scenario was a collection of three comprehensive, site-specific exhibitions at the Witte de With in Rotterdam, the Kunsthalle Zurich and the MCA in Chicago, with a performance (“short scenario”) at the Kunstverein Munich, 2008 through 2010. As a whole, this exhibition project addressed Gillick’s interest in the relationship between artist, institution and audience. Liam Gillick: From 199A to 199B, a comprehensive survey of the artist’s seminal projects and installations, opened this summer at the CCS Bard Hessel Museum.
Short listed for the Turner Prize in 2002 and the Vincent Award at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in 2008, the British born and U.S. residing Gillick was chosen to represent Germany for the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009. He has also published a number of texts that run parallel to his artwork including Proxemics (Selected writing 1988-2006), JRP-Ringer; Factories in the Snow text by Lilian Haberer, JRP-Ringier; Meaning: Liam Gillick, MIT Press; Allbooks, Book Works; and “Pourquoi travailler?” (Why Work?),Three Star Books.
A press release for Scorpion and und et Felix opening last May at Casey Kaplan gallery describes Liam Gillick’s practice as divergent – including sculpture, writing, architectural and graphic design, film and music – and resisting methodological boundaries and constraints, “showing a fondness for discursiveness, distractions and evasive tactics.”
I began the exhibition, where is the power with Gillick’s text, “It’s a poor sort of memory that only runs backwards” from Lewis Carroll’s Alice: Through the Looking Glass written in English and then mirrored in Spanish. The piece was actually shown in a previous exhibition, Liam Gillick, in 2010 at Fort Worth Contemporary Arts and I happened to have access to the same text but at a fraction of its original size (a story for another time). The quote conjured the nonsensical magic of its source, challenging everyone who entered the gallery to accept its irrational proposal so that memory might be released from its confinement to the past. I was immediately enamored with the piece — what it said, how it said and where it was placed.
To address the where in where is the power, it was always certain that my miniature text by Gillick would go in the same location as its grander predecessor, testing the source of power as some visitors recall seeing the previous installation and others wonder about the piece’s central location in this exhibition. While small and unassuming, Gillick’s text defies its diminutive scale by successfully holding the entire wall it occupies, making it the largest piece in the show and playing into the artist’s “fondness for discursiveness, distractions and evasive tactics.”