Art Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany in Bonn presents 60 works by the conceptual artist Liam Gillick from recent 20 years.
Gillick's work, however, lacks the shocking elements of many of his classmates: There are no dead sharks, no porn kids or the like.
Mr. Gillick produces objects of an all too seductive beauty, prints, paintings, texts and curates exhibitions. He says, 'My work is like the light in the fridge, it only works when there are people there to open the fridge door. Without people it's not art - it's something else - stuff in a room.'
In the show, there is the installation and performance 'A Volvo Bar' of 2008: A group of people leans on colorful IKEA-style MDF objects and reads a text - all by Liam Gillick. The text is a typical nonsense bar conversation of regular bar goers. At a certain point you realize that the bar is set in Kalmar, Sweden, where an innovative project to produce Volvo cars failed in the 1970s. The beautiful industrially made objects confront the lost utopia of over-idealized ways of production and the banality of every day life.
Another piece of his work series 'Construción de Uno' is 'The Commune Itself becomes a Superstate' of 2007. There are colorful powder-coated aluminum and Plexiglas objects in the middle of the room. On the wall are the logo-like designed words of the title. Mr. Gillick charges this setting with a lot of critical text like 'Old questions of class struggle are initially difficult for them to focus upon and keep blurring, clarifying then shimmering away. As a result they shift the terms of engagement and use their applied theoretical work to try and restart and re-antagonize the relations of production.' (L.G. 2005) Isabelle Moffat writes in her catalogue text that in this way Liam Gillick's art helps us to unveil the viewer's prejustices about the appearance of critical art. Well, I do agree that Liam Gillick is a clever and innovative curator of shows.
I especially dislike the installation 'How are you going to behave? A kitchen cat speaks.', which was his contribution for the 53rd Venice Biennial in 2009. He put an IKEA-style wood sculpture with the measurements of standardized kitchen furniture in the middle of the German pavilion. On top of it, there was a stuffed talking cat. To me, the cat talked mostly nonsense - probably, I did not get the irony there.
Yes, there were a number of references: The kitchen design of the classic 'Frankfurt kitchen' was invented by Margarethe Schütte-Lihotzky in 1926. The text suggests that Frankfurt also might be a reference to Theodor Adorno's philosophical School of Frankfurt, which fiercely argued for autonomy of art.
Adrian Searle wrote in the Guardian about this installation in Venice: 'I have no problem with the British artist Liam Gillick in the German pavillion - except the fact that he is such a dull artist.'
If Liam Gillick's art were all about curating a show and the (frustrated) expectations of the curators and the viewers, I would agree to Adrian Searle. However, I don't think this is his sole intention. The point I don't understand is: If Mr. Gillick really wants to get social interactions about these important questions of society, why does he make it so hard to access for the people? Or, is this one more cynical post-modern comment about the impossibility of social utopia?
Liam Gillick: 'One long walk... Two short piers...' at the Art Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany in Bonn
Through 8th August 2010