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. His work is intentionally vague and undefined, and is open to multiple interpretations.
Gillick’s exhibition title references the ways in which artwork is produced within collective artistic communities. Social anthropologist 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’, an understanding of ‘truth’ when considered in a wide social sense that gave way to the ‘paradigm shift’. Comparative epistemology and cross-pollination between thought collectives is the most effective way to share ideas and learn from others’ perspectives. 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 of the exhibition, 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-centre 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 1887, 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 much more visually busy, containing a glittered floor, unlit bonfire and three acrylic ceiling-hung assemblages. Presented alongside this work is a set of artist-written instructions with which the work was created. These note that the swirls made in the glitter are the result of pouring a litre of vodka on the floor. The flammability of vodka tempts fate when spilt around an enormous unlit bonfire.
The bonfire itself reaches beyond the ceiling support beams and almost up to the roof. Containing enough wood to destroy the building were it ever to go up in flames, this piece speaks of incredible potential energy and foregrounds the chaos that would ensue were it freed. It conveys feelings of tension in its seemingly innocuous raw material - 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 Gillick’s work speaks to all. Great art is art that promotes challenging and critical discourse, and encourages further discovery - this exhibition does both.