Magazine article Artforum International

Liam Gillick

Magazine article Artforum International

Liam Gillick

Article excerpt

BASILICO FINE ARTS

The most striking aspect of Liam Gillick's recent Discussion Island, 1997, an installation of modular forms, was how liberally he sampled from Minimalism. Gillick's pristine, freestanding cubes and rectangular boxes, as well as his panels and a lighting grid, all hung high and parallel to the ceiling, instantly recalled Donald Judd's "primary structures." They are, after all, simply planes and solids. Like many of Judd's constructions, which play form against function and hinge on a complex relation to sculpture, furniture, and architecture, Gillick's objects are predicated on conditional or situational factors. Tantamount to "social sculpture," Gillick's work organizes space, hence, behavior. It's not simply a matter of what his art looks like, but rather how the audience sees it, what use we have for it, and what we do in relation to it.

Though in their aspiration to be all things to all viewers Gillick's objects are tinged with the ideal, it is through their relation to their surroundings that they suggest a potential use value. The aluminum-framed lighting unit was decidedly functional. The suspended Plexiglas panels, not unlike sections of drop ceiling, created attractive pools of diffused, colored light and offer a decorative touch. The boxes, modular units framed in aluminum with Plexi and cardboard sides, suggested an Ikea adaptability. Indeed, one could view the installation as a showroom of modular prototypes, each of which could be customized for individual clients and situations.

For all the "what you see is what you get" simplicity of Gillick's art, it has a considerable narrative spin. The title of one box, "Assessment Think Tank," suggested how it should be viewed. Similarly, the suspended ceiling panels were labeled "Conciliation Platform," and "Revision Platform," and the lighting unit dubbed an "Arrival Rig." Together these appellations, though they seemingly had little to do with the objects they named, suggested a progressive, rational, open approach to problem-solving. Indeed, the installation's title, "Discussion Island," referred to a Celtic myth about an island collectively maintained, by various clans as a meeting ground for conflict resolution.

In previous projects Gillick wrote semi-fictional texts that served as the basis for related objects. Discussion Island - termed by Gillick "A 'What If' Scenario" - represents a reversal of the artist's working process in that the objects came first. …

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