Liam Gillick

ALTHOUGH HE HAS SHOWN frequently in the United States and continental Europe, this was Liam Gillick's first substantial exhibition in Britain. He therefore conceived “Renovation Filter: Recent Past and Near Future,” if not exactly as a miniretrospective, then as an opportunity to indicate something of the breadth of his interests and activities. Rejecting the idea that art implies a particular function or look, Gillick's work touches on other disciplines and professions—notably design and architecture—without merely ionizing or undermining them. The desire is not to usurp the power and competencies of these disciplines and their associated professional structures, but rather to examine the processes by which those structures were assembled and fixed and, in doing so, to open them up for renegotiation.

One gallery contained examples of poster and logo design as well as Vicinato 2, 2000, a film made collaboratively with Philippe Parreno, Carsten Höller, Douglas Gordon, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and Pierre Huyghe. Characteristic of Gillick's broad interest in “the language of how things are constructed, added-to, moderated, and renovated,” the film shows a group of young men on a leisurely stroll in a pleasant Mediterranean setting. On the sound track a conversation takes place among several interlocutors (one with a Stephen Hawking-like computer-generated voice) concerning the potential inherent in undogmatic discursive activity. A second gallery housed two of Gillick's discussion platforms—areas of suspended ceiling that suggest possibilities for the dynamics of interaction among the room's occupants—and McNamara, 1994, a film script giving a fictional account of events in the career of John F. Kennedy's secretary of defense. The first scene of the script has been realized as an animation that played on a Brionvega TV, a design classic from the early '60s.

A tall, L-shaped wooden screen dominated the main room. Like the screens and platforms that Gillick regularly constructs from aluminum framing and Plexiglas, it both entered and altered the space. Together with Renovation Filter Lobby Diagram #1 and #2, both 2000—large wall paintings of repeat patterns derived from Celtic sources—the untitled screen provided not a focus for attention but rather what Gillick prefers to think of as a backdrop, to the activities of those who use the room. The screen's open, rectilinear structure allowed it to function as a shelving unit, among other things, and several of its surfaces provided homes for copies of Gillick's previously published texts, including Discussion Island/Big Conference Centre, 1997, and Erasmus Is Late, 1995, as well as Erasmus Is Late Complete Prototype Manuscript File, 1995, a stack of plain yellow A4 paper with printed top sheet masquerading as the full text of the book Somewhere in status between blank page and finalized argument or narrative—symbolic, that is, of the interesting period within which all thinking and working occurs—Complete Prototype also implicates the transition from manuscript to published book as another potentially fruitful period. This state of in-betweenness is one that Gillick cherishes. Suspicious of attempts at cultural orientation that rely exclusively on references to key figures or defining moments for their validity, he prefers to generate situations whose implications are less clear-cut. Here we were asked to focus on the unconventional ideas of freethinking, drug-taking Erasmus Darwin instead of the widely acknowledged cultural contribution of his younger brother, Charles. That terms such as “compromise” and “middle ground” frequently crop up in Gillick's discussion of his work is less a signal of hesitation or weakness than it is recognition that things yet to assume rigid form display the greatest potential.

Michael Archer