|Liam Gillick’s exhibition at Witte de With is the starting point of a year-long, mid-career retrospective which is also a collaboration between four international art institutions. It comprises a solo exhibition by Gillick at Kunsthalle Zürich, running parallel to his show here at Witte de With; a “scenario” to be held in June 2008 at Kunstverein München; and a retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago in January 2009. Three perspectives and a short scenario will be a continuous investigation into Gillick’s practice and an in-depth study of his work to date, adopting a different form at each “station”.
The first station of the project will take place at Witte de With and will consist of three inter-related levels:
an architectural intervention
Gillick’s exhibition at Witte de With will feature an architectural structure, constructed from various screens that create corridors and semi-permeable galleries, while closing off other spaces. This will alter the visitor’s sensation of space, direction and perspective, leading them along a labyrinthine route to a screening room at the heart of the exhibition. On the way, the visitor will also encounter a vitrine designed by Gillick, featuring his posters, books and texts.
a documentary film
Gillick’s first documentary film will act as a “reframing” of all his previous work, derived from documentation of projects dating from 1988 to the present, and encompassing projects that range in scope from various lectures to architectural designs and exhibition projects. Accompanied by a voiceover, the film will guide the viewer through a collection of images, creating new narratives via the movement of the camera. Rather than employing the “usual” format of a retrospective exhibition at Witte de With, the film itself will act as Gillick’s mid-career retrospective.
the “institutional space”
The remaining space within the galleries is categorized by Gillick as the “institutional space”. These zones have been offered by Gillick back to Witte de With’s curatorial team, in a gesture designed to highlight the division of responsibility between artist and institution in the creation of any exhibition. This gesture can be seen as either one of generosity or provocation, depending on how it is interpreted by the receiver (in this case, by Witte de With). Considering his spatial intervention as a given, the curatorial team has decided to use this space to launch its series of solo presentations planned for 2008 (artists to be announced soon), presenting the work of other artists during Gillick’s solo exhibition.
Gillick’s practice – which asks who decides what is included in (or excluded from) an exhibition, and explores how an artistic practice can be represented – questions existing conventions of exhibition design and modes of display. It is a curatorial choice to continue this line of investigation and to very deliberately confront Witte de With (and its viewers) with what can be considered as the essential role of the prototypical contemporary art institution: the presentation of contemporary art. Any ambiguities or misunderstandings that result from this artistic and curatorial choice will raise questions about the functions of art institutions and the assumptions or expectations of artists and visitors.
The exhibition at Witte de With is curated by Nicolaus Schafhausen, Zoë Gray and Sophie von Olfers.