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LIAM GILLICK

June 23 through December 21, 2012
at the Hessel Museum of Art
Opening reception: Saturday, June 23, 2012

from 1:00-5:00pm
Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College

 

 

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(CCS Bard)   

 

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The flower twists, leaves twisting outwards
the sun no longer shines but hope pumps

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Recent highlights at head gall including:

wnienrcinfeBarnaby Furnas - pictures of wheat (weird)

wnienrcinfeJutta Koether, Albino animals/White cube series (critical)

wnienrcinfeXXxxxx Rodriguez (yeah ...whatever)

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The Puppet Master was a shadowy figure in the post-apoc artworld, known for reanimating the corpses of long dead artists cyro-frozen from the 20th century. He had bulk-purchased 2,000 freezers from the Culture Coop when they went bankrupt in 2054. They were a 20th century organization that provided subsidized cryo to acknowledged cultural workers of international standing to allow for the future resurrection of their genius. Andrea Fraser, Terence Koh, Barnaby Furnas, Christian Marclay amongst others had taken up the offer in the vain hope of returning. Ironically, the Puppet Master gave them a half-life harnessing their degraded brain cells to create post-mortem seminal works. Calling into question notions of authorship, these zombie artists were summoned from the grave, to produce substandard versions of their hey-day masterworks. As it turns out a lot of their work already scraped the bottom of the barrel the first time around. The Puppet Master claimed these were necro-works transformed by the potentials and visions of death.

 

     
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What surprised most people, and what made Puppet Master exhibitions a sensation for a couple of seasons, is that the zombie-artists weren't really all that zombie. They reemerged fairly the same, with a few physical handicaps and speech impediments, and a smell that they couldn't shake. Luckily, Rei Kawakubo, herself zombied back by the Puppet Master, in collaboration with Comme de Garcons, bottled the stink, Zombie, and made a killing with it. This integrated the zombies into the general, smelly population. They also fitted in because they could be confused with someone who had been in bad pod accident or had fallen from a low habitu-box. This was the extent of their physical difference. What was truly different among them were a series of secret (and sometimes not so secret) quirks and obsessions, something amplified from their original lives. In the case of Gillick, it seemed at first to be an obsession with fatherly foreskins and tourretes-like outbursts in which he would scream "BORIS GROYS. BORIS GROYS. BORIS GROYS" and other words. The outbursts were exacerbated by eye-contact and perceived (imaginary) threats and attacks.      
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As a zombie, he would straggle into cemeteries, dragging a slightly bum left leg, exhume bodies and snip off their decaying foreskins and other sections of skin (although always ‘male’ skin). Critics were divided on whether this constituted an exteriorization of some hidden anti-semitism in his previous life. Or, if, on the contrary, it marked a secret desire to turn every male into a Jew--to salute the procreating organ as an inevitably Jewish organ, the future destined to happen under the Star of David. Or whether it was more directly to do with flesh. In fact, it turned out it was not only foreskins but sections of skin that might be described as extensive or ‘non-skin’. Skin defined by a function in relation to a location or operation of the body, rather than simply ‘skin-ness’: eyelids and elbows, knuckles and knee - covering skin, levered skin, creased by labor: foreskin covering glands, eyelid slipping across eye, the pinch of skin between anus and ball-sack. Open eye/shut eye. Foreskin/ glands. BORIS GROYS. BORIS GROYS. The indeterminacy of this obsession's ‘meat-meaning’ led to endless debates and articles with Jarmin Haziz, in The Third Tablet persecuted, Christian of the Southern Caliphate, arguing that the circumcision of all the male bodies--and the symbolic extension in de-lidding the eyes, etc--was less a celebration of Christ as a Jewish man, than an effort to make every single male organ emulate that of Christ (who just so happened to be Jewish). Prayer should be undertaken only with a full erection, the rounded helmet of the penis pointing to the Holy Kingdom. The longer the prayer, the longer the erection had to be maintained, the more robust the faith. Forced erection was the new flagellation. Saints could make their vagina-penises spout blood, the way that heathens made them spout cum. Certain denominations began to emboss erect penis-cunts on their Eucharists.  

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It turned out that, like a good obsessive, he was simply pushing the skin into little hiding places between the aluminum frames of his sculptures and the plexiglass sheets. Bits of skin as cushioning. Flesh inbetween. Over time, this gave the objects a strange olfactory dimension. It was as if classic Gillick pieces were literally rotting. They began to smell as he did. The whiff of death. A strange affect. It infused their cool visuality with this aura of ...not of decay, but of life, of miserable living. It couldn't be decided if this was a celebration of the lost dimension of human smell that was so present in previous worlds of colliding and rubbing flesh, sweating, puking, fucking, shitting under a merciless sun. A kind of pre-religious world of magic and ritual – and a celebration of the humanity abuzz in such a place. Humans as animals, as smelly and filthy.  

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Dimitri-X has a tear in his eye. The Gillick show is titled An Abrupt Treatise on the Discursive Harmonization of Trade Union Voting Strategies. Standing at the centre of the space is the red and green Conversation Platform XIII (2022). The plexiglass is in immaculate condition, although on close inspection the aluminum joiners, are slightly corroded. It gives the work a historical patina. And the work’s smell is unbearable (recreated chemically by Dimitri based on records of what rotting human flesh smells like). The work which takes the form of a hybrid room divider/ work station marks out a complex ideological space, twisting between the deathly execution-squad-esthetics of post-industrial forms and utopian diagramming of post-post-fordist non-structures: summoning up the potentials of collective labour whilst pumping out the fucked dreams of production over consumption. Speaking of the oppression of the individual in the workspace in the moment of its own act of oppression. All of which is thrown into sublime oscillation with the infinity of the universe represented by the slow motion tableau of planets and stars on the holo-screen behind. It is his best work.

     
       

 

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OOr against the fucking Post Fordist vastness of a culture-less and transcendent deep space, the screen/room divider serves as an index of the supermarket aisle those mythical and archetypal structures that signal the longevity of the market. The profane counterpart to the time the human race has devoted to the divine, to study and culture (index here the aisle in the library) in little dusty rooms and mold-lined temples. Some commentators, including Ari Weldenstein in Suck Me sought to link Gillick back to the Caballist tradition. He claimed, although the argument was full of holes, that the space around the screen was the cellar space where the Caballist spun their letters, seeking secret messages. He argued this by proposing that this Caballist cellar is secularized into the back rooms in which syndicates and communist parties plotted, seeking secret messages from the other side of social redemption.   


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Or: the screen, against a black vastness that is the cloak under which the Merciful One hides His tropical paradise. There to camouflage the heroic martyrs, or better yet, the Martyr--that archetype, second only to the President of the united States. And the State sanctioned mass slaughter by US and Eurozone in the name of capital. The rows of dead children and mutilated corpes arranged in lines. Mangled corpses used as intrictate design at the edges. It is behind the screen that martyrs produced both their material and spiritual bombs. The light that the plexiglass colors and falling on dead bodies bathing them in orange light.

     

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Or against the fucking Post Fordist vastness of a culture-less and transcendent deep space, the screen/room divider serves as an index of the supermarket aisle those mythical and archetypal structures that signal the longevity of the market. The profane counterpart to the time the human race has devoted to the divine, to study and culture (index here the aisle in the library) in little dusty rooms and mold-lined temples. Some commentators, including Ari Weldenstein in Suck Me sought to link Gillick back to the Caballist tradition. He claimed, although the argument was full of holes, that the space around the screen was the cellar space where the Caballist spun their letters, seeking secret messages. He argued this by proposing that this Caballist cellar is secularized into the back rooms in which syndicates and communist parties plotted, seeking secret messages from the other side of social redemption.   


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Or: the screen, against a black vastness that is the cloak under which the Merciful One hides His tropical paradise. There to camouflage the heroic martyrs, or better yet, the Martyr--that archetype, second only to the President of the united States. And the State sanctioned mass slaughter by US and Eurozone in the name of capital. The rows of dead children and mutilated corpes arranged in lines. Mangled corpses used as intrictate design at the edges. It is behind the screen that martyrs produced both their material and spiritual bombs. The light that the plexiglass colors and falling on dead bodies bathing them in orange light.

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Or: as Juanito Ronaldo, in Fanon Studies, has scathingly proposed: the screen means nothing. Like the space against it. More precisely: it hides things. It obscures the view on to a world of oppressive divisions by alluding insipidly to unions and other forms of progressive politics. Needless to say, this argument is terribly passe. 

     
       
       

: its just a fucking desperate plea to FUCK ME FUCK ME FUCK ME. A call to FUCK. TO FUCK and SHIT and TEAR and CRY. To make contact with the UNNAMEABLE. THE UNTOUCHABLE. To feel. To feel once again. To find a way back. TO FUCKING AND DYING AND JOY. TO DADDY AND MOTHER. TO THE FATHER. MOTHER. TO THE NON-CUNT. PHALLUS CUNT. BORIS GROYS.

Gillick was himself asked for an interpretation but he wouldn’t reply . Blood dripping from under his leather face mask (and perhaps tears). All he would say is: “I know … I know …I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
 
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The large plexiglass square lying on the floor is titled Discussion Pool [Zurich], doubling the gallery ceiling above. Dimitri has re-plastered the ceiling to exactly replicate the stippled texture of the original head gallery ceiling. And this is matched by the polished concrete floor below which had taken him many months to lay.
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As we enter the white washed space we notice Dimitri has sourced from the ship’s vast inventory a set of industro-lunes identical to those used by Head Gallery. Given that the electrical technology used by these lights is now redundant he has also had to invest many hours installing and re-wiring them – linking them to an old style generator hidden in the ceiling.

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He has installed retro inset tech sockets. And even put in a faux-steel pillar. This has involved twenty years of installation. Careful research and meticulous preparation have led to this point. He has printed and circulated the invitation, distributing bundles around the ship. Sent out an email e-vite  via the ship’s comms unit, including an image of the installation. Perhaps one day – sometime long in the future – the evite will ping up on the computer of the new human settlement. Well, in fact that won’t happen – the last of the other two arcs was destroyed in a meteor storm 450 years ago and the last ditch attempt by the remaining human population on Earth to build a synthetic New Earth lasted only five years, before the planet imploded. Dimitri has also reprinted the original press release and placed a pile on the front desk. After all that planning the day is now here. There is a blue bin to the right which is full of ice and beer and a table stacked with wine. He is standing solitary in the middle of the room with a glass of red wine in his hand. He has his hair fluoro-gelled--Liam Gillick style--under his rubber mask. (For years, Dimitri gelled his hair back with Coca-Cola, until he found Gillick's long list of toiletries tucked away in a file. Now, emulating Gillick, he uses James Brown Down, Styling Gel for Smooth Brothers.)

 

As he stands in silence, his gaze held impassively by the Gillick wall piece, he feels a slight tremor shake the ship. Through the holo-window he sees a small and distant flash. After a few seconds this is followed by a succession of red and green rings, expanding as they get closer. These pyrotechnics are reflected deep in the plexiglass of the sculptures. Dimitri looks back. As the last white flash grows – transforming into rippling golden waves with a blue echo at the extremities - increasing in intensity – red hues spiraling inwards - and finally a wave of heat. In the last seconds, as the super-nova eats up the universe, Dimitri does not take his eyes off the Gillick - the last image projected upside down on the retina of the last existing human. And then nothing. The nothing that always was.