Critics’ Picks

View of “Liam Gillick,” 2010.

View of “Liam Gillick,” 2010.


Liam Gillick

Esther Schipper
Potsdamer Strasse 81E
June 12–August 31, 2010

The centerpiece of Liam Gillick’s latest exhibition is 1848!!!, 2010, a film that shows Clementine Coupau (one of his students) discussing the key events of the European revolutionary year 1848. Instead of Coupau’s voice, though, we hear a complete restructuring of Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians (1974–76). The mechanistic, repetitive electronic music and the scenes of Coupau are juxtaposed in the show with a series of ink-jet prints titled “Bar ‘Volvo,’ ” 2010. These depict medieval woodcuts and fragments of dialogue from the first act of Gillick’s play A “Volvo” Bar (2008). The theatrical conversation is set in a seemingly working-class environment, involving laborers from a car factory. Adjacent, there is a paper banner, listing major events from 1848 across Europe. A structure of aluminum and Plexiglas—frequent materials for Gillick—rounds out the exhibition.

Here, Alain Badiou’s idea of the event comes to mind: Badiou understands the historical event as a disruptive force that exceeds the logic of time and history. It not only destroys but also forcefully opens up the future, with a still unnamed set of possibilities. Of course, the year of 1848 gave way to industrialization, which changed the world in the most fundamental way. Gillick often works with industrial products that take repetitive labor as their starting point; indeed, he thinks of labor itself as the basic force underlying any form of production. In his work, the life energy that is expended by labor transforms these industrial products into monuments bearing the traces of human activity.