Originally published through This Is Tomorrow
The real beauty in Liam Gillick’s work is his unpretentious approach. His art is, in his own words ‘aprofound’. Taken to mean unprofound, this is a refreshingly original stance for an artist to take. Much like all Relational Art, his work is intentionally vague and undefined, and for that reason has many meanings.
Specifically, Gillick’s title is referencing the ways in which artwork is produced within collective artistic communities. Mary Douglas interpreted the works of the scientist and sociologist Ludwik Fleck, and this in turn inspired Gillick. Fleck was deeply interested in the idea of the ‘thought collective’, and how truths can only be called true when regarded in the thought collective that deems them to be such. Comparative epistemology and cross-pollination between thought collectives is the best way to share ideas and learn from other’s perspectives that your individual group may have missed. This way of sharing brings with it a new group of issues which when combined with the tension between group and individual, creates contradictions and intransigent positions that are unavoidable.
In the first room, one is greeted by two large text pieces that are similar to the show title, and a short-wave radio receiver. The radio is unassumingly placed directly on the floor, off-center and unevenly lit. The audio contains elements of the Marxist/socialist utopian science-fiction novel ‘Looking Backward’ by Edward Bellamy, in which an individual time-travels over a century into the future. Published in 1888, Bellamy predicted many of the political and social conditions of the then-future with surprising accuracy. The novel spawned many ‘Bellamy Clubs’, who debated and spread his theories religiously. This collective system of sharing ideas reflects the thought collectives developed by Fleck.
The second room is visually more interesting, containing a glittery floor, unlit bonfire, and three acrylic ceiling-hung assemblages.
Presented with this work is the set of artist-written instructions with which the work was created. Upon reading these instructions one learns that the swirls made in the glitter are the result of pouring a liter of vodka on the floor. (Vodka is incredibly flammable, and seems to tempt fate when spilled around an enormous unlit bonfire).
The bonfire reaches beyond the ceiling support beams and almost up to the very roof itself. Containing enough wood to destroy the building were it ever to go up in flames, this piece speaks of incredible potential energy and suggests the chaos that would ensue were it freed. It conveys feelings of tension in its seemingly innocuous raw material, and it is only when the wood is presented in this way that its true destructive power becomes evident.
This show is about communities and the potential perils that lie therein. Much of Liam Gillick’s work, and indeed much of Relational art on the whole, speaks to all. The beauty of this type of art is its universality, and its ability to be inclusive of all and any interpretations and readings.
Great art is art that promotes interesting discourse and encourages further discovery, and this exhibition does both.