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Born in England in 1964, Liam Gillick has been one of the most prominent exponents of the advancement of conceptual art since the early 1990s and is one of the most influential contemporary artists. In 2009 he was selected to design the German Pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennale. For the first time in Germany, the Bundeskunsthalle is dedicating an extensive solo exhibition to Liam Gillick that shows the development of his work on the basis of important groups of works and themes. A good 60 works of art from almost two decades form a theoretical and sensual platform on which the stringency, continuity and beauty of the work can be experienced.
Anyone visiting the exhibition is seduced by the clarity of the colors and materials, sometimes brittle, sometimes shiny, the poetry of the words, the formal rigor and seriality, the play of light and reflection, and tempts you to linger. The work provokes fundamental questions about the possibilities and function of art in our social reality. The artist, who lives in New York and London and whose work cannot be limited to an artistic medium, thus plays an important role in the critical reflection of our aesthetic expectations. Liam Gillick has also created an extensive journalistic oeuvre that includes essays, reviews, fictional texts and theater-like scenarios. Gillick's exhibition rooms, which also change the idea of what exhibiting can mean, become places that appeal to our sensuality, provoke reflection and assign art a central position in determining our future.
LOTS OF WALKS ON MANY SHORT PATHS
WHY A LONG WALK, TWO SHORT WALKS?
Because a long walk on a short pier means someone will get wet.
WHO IS THE CAT NOW?
It is not a cat. It's a sad logo for an exhibition. Something you get at a sporting event. Maybe it's a provincial football mascot for a team that can't play.
WHAT'S SPECIAL ABOUT THE BUNDESKUNSTHALLE?
In winter there is a sticker on the door with a crossed out ice skate. This means: “No ice skates in the showroom”. I had never thought of wearing ice skates in a gallery before, but there is such a danger in Bonn.
TELL ME MORE ABOUT THE TITLE
It describes a way of working. It indicates the need to start at the wrong end and work backwards. Keep moving in circles or even take the same route again.
SO IS THAT WHAT TAKES PLACE HERE?
It is an exhibition that has a certain retrospective quality. A number of key installations from the past ten years are being assembled and restored. This is accentuated with other works, which are staged like a counterweight to the larger structures.
WHAT ABOUT VENICE THEN?
Yes, the work from the German Pavilion in Venice will be here. To show that it was also intended to work independently of the building in Venice. Early on in my work process, I tried to break down my obsession with this building by making a model of Arnold Bode's proposal from the 1950s for a new building. But of course the building itself was once again the star and the problem. The Venice structure will be in Bonn to show how it works in my context and not as part of an international exhibition that is permanently damaged by the unresolved tensions with the past - this does not only apply to Germany.
WILL THE CAT TALK AGAIN?
This time in German.
WHO WILL DO THE TRANSLATION?
The text was already being translated in Venice, the cat held it in its mouth.
WHY IS THE BONNER CAT SO SAD, THE VENICE CAT SEEMED SO SELF-COMFORTABLE?
She cannot wear ice skates in the building. The Venice cat wasn't smug. She was a voice. A device, like an MP3 player or a history machine, that can tell a story without adopting a dominant tone. There could be no speeches in this building. But a cat can cry.
SHE HAS NO CLAWS?
I don't have any claws either, and I don't want them either. But she wears a federal art hall hat. Like the hats that teenagers buy as tourists in London, Copenhagen or Amsterdam.
CAN I ASK YOU SOME SERIOUS QUESTIONS? DO YOU EVALUATE YOUR OWN ART AS SPECIFIC POSTAL MEDIAL?
While the idea of a specific post-mediality is “true”, it does not go far enough. In this fragmented form it is unable to convey enough of what we might call the contingency of materials - the specific properties of the relationships of materiality in different contexts. That’s why I’m not a postal medium. I don't think that one should be too concerned with the material and the medium. I always think in relation to material facts, which means that I don't really think of an “effect” or an “idea” in order to find a way of expressing it through the choice of material. The relationship between materials and ideas is inextricably linked. The interaction of the subject is presupposed by the type of work that is being produced. I assume that a person will do book-related things with a book and sit on a seat-like object. But you can also put the book on a table or put it in your pocket, or you can just look at the seat. Certainly the medium is a social relationship. Precisely because I use forms and materials that have an existing function and a number of associations in the world. I don't try to create sublime structures.
HOW DO YOU THINK ABOUT COLOR IN RELATION TO SHAPE? OR ALSO TO GRID IN RELATION TO?
I am one who picks colors. I work with the RAL system on the computer screen, which is a real system. Because of this, my relationship with color itself derives from one shape - the computer. Before this system was available to me for work, there was no color.
IN A WORK IN THE MID-2000s, YOU ASKED, "HOW CAN ONE PRESENT THE CRISIS IN A CULTURE THAT PRESENTS NOT TO HAVE CRISES?"
During the modernism of the 1930s, art became kitschy and stylistically “postmodern” - think of Picabia and Picasso's period of classical references - I'm not sure I can make a precise connection between moments of crisis in art and “good ones “Works can pull. Because today we are seeing the blooming of the same kitschy, allegorical works. It's a myth that good works of art prevail in a crisis. There are of course obligations to approach differently, but these are always influenced in modernism by the legacy of the desire for autonomy, which means that artists often act against intuition. The question is about the semiotics of the constructed world. The relationship between work, life and work. The work is about modes of production, not consumption.
Parts of the interview were conducted in December 2009 by Michael Meredith, lecturer in architecture at Harvard University.
* One long walk ... Two short piers ...
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