• Liam Gillick

    Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art
    Witte de Withstraat 50
    January 19–March 24, 2008

    Curated by Nicolaus Schafhausen

    With a practice that moves between installation and text, sculpture and architecture, Liam Gillick has long been invested in creating the basic situational and spatial conditions for communicative encounter and exchange. In keeping with this modus operandi, the London- and New York–based artist’s exhibitions are often designed to investigate institutional and social relationships as well as their own structures. Aptly, then, the yearlong project inaugurated by this show at Witte de With is less a traditional retrospective than a series of self-reflexive shows devoted to this Vincent- and Turner-prize short-listed artist. The title of the endeavor, “Three Perspectives and a Short Scenario,” illuminates its premise: After the Witte de With, a second “perspective” is offered by a show organized by Beatrix Ruf at the Kunsthalle Zürich, opening later in January; a last view, organized by Dominic Molon, will take place at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago next year. In the interim, for an exhibition this summer organized by Stefan Kalmar at the Kunstverein München, Gillick is establishing a “scenario”: Among other events, including talks, discussions, and seminars, this “site of production” will feature the performance and filming of a play written by the artist and intended to shed light on the relationships and forms of cooperation relevant to his work. The script will be published in a book timed to coincide with the MCA exhibition, which will also present a collection of Gillick’s key writings in addition to texts by art-world figures who have collaborated with or influenced him over the past twenty years. As the entire project makes clear, the processes of pre- and postproduction often play a more central role for Gillick than do his works themselves; Nicolas Bourriaud argues in Postproduction (2002) that this is a characteristic strategy for artists of Gillick’s generation.

    For the three main shows, Gillick has created architectural points of departure. Each has the same basic components: corridorlike spaces constructed from dark gray dividing walls, which define a route through the exhibition space and lead to two elements designed by the artist—a film that literally serves as a “review” of his work, documenting projects from 1988 to the present, and a number of display cases presenting objects, books, texts, and posters pertaining to Gillick’s practice. The space not required for his show has been designated a “gray zone” by the artist, who has returned the responsibility for determining its use to the curatorial staff at the hosting institution. This gesture, which mirrors the shared responsibility of institution and artist in designing exhibitions, constitutes a central and certainly a playful element of Gillick’s approach. Witte de With has chosen to understand it as a gesture of both generosity and provocation, and is responding by placing exhibitions of its own in the space originally assigned to Gillick’s solo show. In Zurich, meanwhile, Ruf has decided to return the space to the artist once more. (As of press time, it remains unclear how the MCA will respond.)

    In addition to the processes that take place before and after the creation of both work and exhibition, Gillick is interested in institutional and social power hierarchies, which he has increasingly been investigating— sometimes casually, sometimes emphatically—in his structures and, in particular, in his recent exhibitions at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London. There are clear advantages to Gillick’s long history of close collaboration with curators: Communication over a period of years has led to a reciprocity of influence that has had positive effects both on the artist’s work and on the institutions concerned.

    Translated from German by Oliver E. Dryfuss.

    “Three Perspectives and a Short Scenario” is also on view at the Kunsthalle Zürich, Jan. 26–Mar. 30; Kunstverein München, July 26–Sept. 21; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Feb.–Apr. 2009.