This essay will analyze the contemporary artistic practice of my chosen artist Liam Gillick. I will discuss how his works engages with the realm of human interaction and its social context and discuss how it builds a place of sociability between architecture social frameworks and human relationships through 3 of his artworks.
Liam Gillicks contemporary artistic practice is one influenced by the ever-changing developing world and is very much influenced by Relational Art or better known under the title of ''relational aesthetics''. The practice of relational arts is one that practically and theoretically communicates with the ideas of human participation and relation. It requires a social environment where people and/or communities share and participate in an activity as a collective. Bourriaud, N. (1998, p.269) states, ''Aesthetic theory consisting in judging artworks on the basis of the inter-human notions which they represent, produce or prompt''. In my opinion this allows collaboration of the artist and audience in a shared environment and space dependant on the wider social order creating multiple possibilities of utopias. Bourriaud, N. (1998, p.269) also goes on to mention theoretically and practically the point of departure and the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than independent and private space, explaining the reasoning for my opinion above, and the change in the position of the gallery and the part it plays in relational art. Relational art has allowed the gallery to turn into a social place. Bourriaud, N (1998) states, "It compresses relational space. Whereas televisions and books send us all back to spaces where we consume in private".
I will analyze Liam Gillicks artwork titled 'Pin board Project (Grey) (1992)' an earlier piece he created in his career. At first sight it doesn't look like much just a few random cut outs and clippings of information pinned up on a board. However when the audience takes time to interact with the provided data, the act of participation becomes activated. Liam Gillicks 'Pin board Project (Grey) (1992) is better described as a bulletin board holding information for instructions of operation, subscription details to journals, and suggestions for additional elements to be included to the piece. Bishop, C. (2004, p.59) states, ''His early work investigated the space between sculpture and functional design'' which I agree to because she also goes on to say ''Gillicks Pin boards are embraced as democratic in structure but only those who own them may interact with their arrangement''. It's the improvisation of human interaction and social context that allows the work to function and create the production of social relationships.
The idea of 'The Encounter' is one amongst the many ideas that function under the practice of relational aesthetics. Rancier, J. (2004, p.90) states ''Change in occurrence is due to the introduction of a third form titled 'The Encounter'â€¦ Art no longer wants to respond to the excess of commodities and signs but to a lack of connections''. The act of the encounter enables there to be a wider range of inclusion or human interaction with a work, which becomes subject to a variety of possibilities in which the work may follow creating meaning. Bourriaud, N. (1998) states, "Contemporary art resembles a period of time that has to be experienced, or the opening of a dialogue that never ends". The action of sharing, giving opinions and ideas thru experience, shows art is an encounter. Bourriaud, R. (1998, p163) in his writings on conviviality and encounters in relational aesthetics explains ''Social utopias and revolutionary hopes have given way to day-to-day micro-utopias and mimetic strategies''. This simply meaning ''any 'direct' critique of society is pointless if its based upon the illusion of a marginality that is now impossible, if not regressiveâ€¦'' as said by Bourriaud, R. (1998, p163).
Another work by Liam Gillick I have chosen to discuss is his work titled 'Ã-vningskörning (Driving Practice)' (2004). In a piece of writing titled 'When are you leaving?' by Liam Gillick he explains the shift in British art and the way art is received and assessed stating, ''Right from the start the process of assessment is withdrawn from the artist's complete control, and a story develops in parallel to the events as they are perceived by the artist themselves'' stated by Gillick, L. (1995, p.77). I think this idea links in with ''the encounter'' and how the social act of participation causes a change of difference. This is important to Liam Gillicks work especially because his work deals with the reading of works through narratives. The thing that describes the distinctive nature of the work is the occurrences its leads to, and the potential a work receives by its flexibility. Madoff, S.H. (2009) states, ''the density of layers in Gillick's practice is only increased by a third narrative element he often adds: words as sculpture''. That this particular artwork is no exception too. Gillick claims, "there is no the idea, there are maybe 20,000 ideas flickering between the illusion of the present and the illusion of the past'. His works engage with the built world and they borrow a pre-existing vocabulary to explore the tension between ideology and its operating systems". I think this work creates not just a space for activity but references on past, present and future opportunities through the use of text and the language the text holds creating an open narrative for the viewer and participants creating a new space, a space of different meaning derived from this work. Bishop, C. (2004, p.69) states ''Unwilling to state what ideals are to be compromised, Gillick trades on the credibility of referencing architecture (its engagement with concrete social situations) while remaining abstract on the issue of articulating a specific position''.
I would like to go more in depth and discuss the roles in which the artist, the author, and collective are responsible for. Enwezor, O. (2007, p.224) states, ''The Idea of ensemble or collective work for the visual arts under capitalism is anathema to the traditional ideal of the artist as author whose work purportedly exhibits the mark of her unique ancestry''. Leading us to question, who is the artist? And what is the author? And to what roles do they play?. It seems to me that in the sphere of relational art, the artist is the person who creates spaces in which his or her art will become activated, and the introduction of others communicating and occupying the space entitles the work to be a collaborative one. I think the idea of authorship or ownership over the work cannot be defined, because although the artist has created a social space, the inclusions of those who take part allow the art to function. Barthes, R. (1968) states, ''language knows a 'subject', not a 'person' and this subject, empty outside of the very enunciation which defines it, suffices to make language hold together' ''. Meaning for the work to function the viewer who partakes in the activity has no grater advantage or knowledge of collaborating with the work by knowing whom the author is. Which relates to not just Gillick and his work but other artist whose art practice is working within relational aesthetics. Another important view of Barthes is his thoughts on the impact of a text when the author is removed. He explains ''Once the author is removed, the claim to decipher a text becomes quite futile. To give a text an Author is to impose a limit on that text, to furnish it with a signified, to close the writing''. Meaning the text is able to become flexible and subject to multiple conversations creating a mutual relation of dialogue.
A utopia is the idea of harmony and progress with ideals of modernist architecture, which seem to promise that we can build a better-developed world. Haberer, L. (2007,p.7) mentions ''Social utopias and the evaluation of the past and the present social systems via the writing of their history are themes frequently discussed in Gillicks work'', especially in this artwork it is important to know the thought process behind the work just as much as the experience and interaction of the art. Unlike artist such as Rirkrit Tiravanija and Santiago Sierra whose art practice are very much reliant on the interaction of people to make up the work or have the feeling of an accomplished piece, Gillicks art practice is based on narrative structures, space, time and the concept of the 'scenario'. To Gillick 'The Scenario' is the idea of questioning time and its effects, for example does the future help the past? Haberer, L. (2007,p.7) mentions, ''His concept of temporalization or even of 'future pasts' describes an aspect of the perception of time which Gillick, with various works on memory of the future, has recognized and formulated as having considerable potential for models of thought''. Scenario Formalism is the way in which Gillicks art functions. Gillick works with a range of media and is known for working with perplex and text. Madoff, S.H. (2009) states, ''There are many routes to follow in his narratives, which are rife which are suggestions of flexibility, negotiation, and invention. He speaks of them as 'senarios' schemes that lay out the what-ifs of social and economic order, of what he calls "functional utopias" ".
The third work I have chosen to discuss is a work titled 'Reciprocal Passage Work' (2003) by Gillick. Where Gillick has incorporated his art in a passageway located in London with surrounding shops, situated between two public streets with gates at either ends for closure if decided by tenants. Gillick uses Plexiglas and covers the overhead lights with the material. Miller, A (2004), records Gillick who says, "I am not looking to insert my work into the realm of public art, but I am interested in inflecting each situation with a critical perspective otherwise impossible in the world of bureaucracy, planning, speculation, and consultancy''. However the space becomes a "speculative situation, where speculation alone replaces other collective action. Speculation as collectivism" says Gillick, recorded by Madoff, S.H. (2009). Though this work may not hold as much weight as his works with text he has created a nearly unnoticeable work but one that is highly effective. It is directly playing apart in social activity and transformation that holds an interpretive gravity to it, a subtle intervention. Another important aspect of this work is the use of color Gillick uses when he creates works with Plexiglas and perplex. In an interview with Miller, A. (2004), Gillick says, "I am working with the available range of colors so there is some kind of cross-over to the functional world of decision-makingâ€¦ I don't design something and then look for the right color, I work with a range of permutations until something settles into a parallel relationship with the situation at hand ". I think the use of color is important because with color effects human emotions, mood and behaviors.
In this essay I have analyzed the contemporary artist practice of Liam Gillick and discussed his practice in relation to relational aesthetics. Through the 3 works I have mentioned in this essay I have discussed how his work engages with the realm of human interaction and its social context, discussed how his work builds sociability between architecture social frame works and human relation. I have mentioned particular ideas of relational aesthetics such as 'the encounter', Utopia's and the working of narratives in Gillicks work. In my opinion I believe that Gillicks work and art practice is a prime example of an artist whose work and art practice ties into the ideas of relational art and extends and develops the involvement of outside sources and social interaction allowing art to become a collective.