Liam Gillick and Lawrence Weiner: A Syntax of Dependency:
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Liam Gillick was born in Aylesbury (UK) in 1964. A contemporary of Angela Bulloch, Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas and other so-called YBAs or ‘Young British Artists’, Gillick graduated from Goldsmiths College in 1987, and had his first solo exhibition at Karsten Schubert in London in 1989. His most recent exhibition projects include shows at the Kunst-und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland in Bonn, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Museum für angewandte Kunst in Vienna, Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam, the Kunsthalle Zürich, the Kunstverein München and most controversially, the German pavilion at 53th Venice biennial. Recent gallery exhibitions include The State Itself as a Super Commune at Galerie Micheline Szwajcer (Antwerp), 1848!! at Galerie Esther Schipper (Berlin), Discussion Bench Platforms, A ‘Volvo’ Bar + Everything Good Goes at Casey Kaplan Gallery (New York), and Fractional Factories in the Snow at Air de Paris (Paris). His work was included in such landmark group exhibitions as Traffic (CAPC, Bordeaux), documenta X in Kassel, the 2nd Berlin Biennial, Utopia Station at the 50th Venice Biennial, the 2008 Sydney Biennial and theanyspacewhatever at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. He has authored many books and public projects, and has collaborated closely with artists such as Angela Bulloch, Gabriel Kuri, Sarah Morris, Philippe Parreno and Anton Vidokle. He lives and works in London and New York.
Lawrence Weiner was born in The Bronx in New York (US) in 1942. Along with Robert Barry, Mel Bochner, Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth and art impresario Seth Siegelaub, Weiner was a key figure in the development of New York conceptual art. Some of his early ‘statements’ and pioneering work in language contributed decisively to what has since become known as (the movement towards) the dematerialization of the art object. One of his first solo exhibitions in Europe was held at Wide White Space in Antwerp in 1969. In recent years he has exhibited at BAK in Utrecht, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf, The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and Museum Ludwig in Cologne. Recent gallery exhibitions include shows at Galerie Micheline Szwajcer (Antwerp), Marian Goodman Gallery (New York), Lisson Gallery (London), Yvon Lambert (Paris), Konrad Fischer Galerie and Buchmann Galerie (both in Berlin) and Cristina Guerra (Lisbon). His work has been included in many of the last half-century’s most important exhibitions, from When Attitudes Become Form, Op losse schroeven and Documenta 5 to Reconsidering the Object of Art 1965-1975 and the 52nd Venice Biennial. Lawrence Weiner has produced films, recorded music, designed posters and published numerous artist books; he has also realized public art projects in major cities around the world. He lives and works in Amsterdam and New York.
How much art is really ‘horizontal’? Not much – and that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, given Homo sapiens’ own evolution towards a vertical way of being-in-the-world: the vertical axis of bipedal locomotion is the primary organizational principle of human cultural practice. Yet this verticality inevitably implies a certain notion of hierarchy, however primitive or crudely put: upper and lower, high above and down below, head and gut (heart, pelvis), heaven and earth. Opting to work on the lowly (literally ‘pedestrian’) level of the museum floor only, Gillick and Weiner inscribe their project in the long tradition of ‘horizontalist’ critiques of such hierarchical, ‘verticalist’ thinking, a tradition stretching back to Georges Bataille and beyond. A floor sculpture thereby becomes a demonstration of thinking in terms of equality and equivalence – once again, the syntax of dependency, not of ‘influence’ –, a mode of thinking that is also anchored (literally ‘grounded’) in the world of living, gravity-bound beings. A potentially limitless or infinite level playing field, best seen from below: the work has been designed in such a way that it cannot be viewed in its entirety at once – it does not allow for an Olympian viewpoint, but must be experienced piecemeal instead, walked on and walked in. Not so very different, then, from a street – that particular type of public space that both Liam Gillick and Lawrence Weiner (who even managed to turn some of New York City’s manhole covers into works of art) have assembled some experience working in. And isn’t the street, in the philosophy of modernity, the quintessential space of the encounter? Looking down, if only to see where we are going, we certainly bump into the other more easily…
For more than twenty years now, New York-based artists Liam Gillick (°1964) and Lawrence Weiner (°1942), who each represent different aspects of the conceptual, post-conceptual and neo-conceptual traditions in art, have engaged in an intense intellectual and artistic dialogue. In one of a number of conversations between both artists that has been published over the years, they noted how this dialogue has so far ‘failed’ to produce concretely artistic.
This casual observation on an apparently long history of unrealized projects prompted M HKA to invite both artists to develop a project together in which their dialogue would finally be allowed to acquire material form. Their commitment to exploring the many meanings and possibilities of the dialogical model in art is expressed in the exemplary title of the project, A Syntax of Dependency:.
A Syntax of Dependency: took place at M HKA from February 3 till May 29, 2011.