Liam Gillick

Three perspectives and a short scenario


We begin our program in 2008 with a retrospective of work by the British artist Liam Gillick. The exhibition entitled “Three perspectives and a short scenario” will be shown from 25 January to 30 March at the Kunsthalle Zurich.

This Zurich retrospective is embedded in a multipart exhibition project that links times and places, that chooses concepts and works from the oeuvre of the last twenty years and translates them into a form that does without any kind of work-accumulating survey. At four geographically separate institutions the attempt will be made to provide an insight into the artist’s highly diverse oeuvre via various exhibition formats, objects on exhibit and architectural interventions.

Liam Gillick’s work breaks through the genre- and media-specific boundaries of the visual arts. He undertakes architectural and structural, spatial interventions, creates minimalist objects, as well as graphic works and wall paintings. Another important aspect of Gillick’s production is his extensive literary activity: along with essays, he writes reviews of his fellow artists, is the author of fictional futurist visions and historical “re-interpretations”. Beyond this he composes film music, creates theatre-like scenarios or takes on the role of an exhibition organizer. In all its forms of expression, his work is an ongoing study of structures that mould our cultural and political reality. He uses these as a “vocabulary of forms”, examines history as to its alleged progressive suggestions for designing and moulding societies and sets them up for debate as potential utopian models.

For his objects and installations Liam Gillick uses mass-produced materials, such as aluminium, chipboard and Plexiglas. The modular objects that result define areas in rooms or are arranged into room-filling installations, whereby Gillick in his work always takes into account the structure and the significance of the exhibition rooms themselves.

One year separates the parallel exhibitions at the Kunsthalle Zurich (25 January to 30 March) and the one at Witte de With in Rotterdam (19 January to 24 March) from the opening of the retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, January 2009. Between the exhibitions in Europe and the U.S., a new “Scenario” will be produced, performed and filmed in the summer months of 2008 at the Kunstverein Munich (June to August). In this play the different protagonists and collaborations that have influenced the artist’s work will be studied and presented.

The spatial and thematic structure of the two parallel running exhibitions in Zurich and Rotterdam will have a uniform conceptual premise: a poster of a comic figure, one created for each institution, will greet the visitor in the foyer. A specially designed architectural structure made up of dark grey partitions will lead the way through the exhibition parcourse. The visitor is guided to the heart of the exhibition: tabletop vitrines filled with the artist’s personal archive, as well as a movie projection.

The film shown there is Gillick’s first documentary and is a new formulation of his entire work, based on documents of his projects from 1988 up to the «unitednationplaza» project in Berlin that he has just recently finished. Gillick replaces the format of a retrospective with a film on his own art career. He transforms the presentation of works, which otherwise document an oeuvre, into a cinematic piece that represents a tautological meta-level of the work interpretation, namely as a documentation of the production of the artist by the artist/author himself.

In both institutions, Liam Gillick leaves an area blank and defines it as an “institutional zone”, which he hands over to the curatorial team of the respective institution. This gesture can be understood either as magnanimous or provocative. In any case it is meant to demonstrate the division between the responsibilities of the artist and the institution regarding the organization of an exhibition.

In this institutional zone at the Kunsthalle Zurich, a sequential survey of the less-known, ephemeral and conceptual works will be shown in consultation with Liam Gillick. To set it up this way was a decision that resulted from intense discussions with the artist on the definition of the general institutional practice and the view of the Kunsthalle Zurich that institutional reality is considerably defined and varied by the work of the exhibiting artists. In addition to brief presentations of the conceptual pieces and ephemeral works, special events, such as readings and symposia, will thematize the collaborative and discursive elements in the work of the artist. The detailed program of this retrospective within a retrospective will be announced in the exhibition rooms themselves, as well as on our current homepage.

A comprehensive catalogue that includes critical analyses of Liam Gillick’s work will evolve over the course of the year and be published for the opening at the MCA in Chicago, with contributions and documents from all the participating institutions.

Liam Gillick (*1964, UK) lives and works in London und New York. Liam Gillick has had important solo exhibitions at the following institutions: 2005, Palais de Tokyo (Paris) and ICA (London); 2003, “Projects” at the Museum of Modern Art (New York) and The Power Plant (Toronto); 2002, Whitechapel Gallery (London); 1999, Kunsthaus Glarus (Glarus) and the Frankfurter Kunstverein (Frankfurt); 1998, Villa Arson (Nice) and Kunstverein Hamburg (Hamburg); 1997, Le Consortium (Dijon).

2002, nomination for the Turner Prize. Liam Gillick has been nominated for the 2008 Vincent Award of Amsterdam’s Stedlijk Museum.