December 2nd, 2011 · Katy Diamond Hamer

Liam Gillick and Anton Vidokle: A Guiding Light (Part II)

A Guiding Light (Part II), a film by Liam Gillick and Anton Vidokle, was recently screened on the occasion of Performa 11. First shown last year at the Cooper Union Theater, this second screening took place in a crowded classroom on the second floor of the Performa Hub, and was accompanied by Gillick, Vidokle and Gao Shiming, curator of the Shanghai Biennial in China who commissioned the film along with Performa. Watching the film in this new setting reduced formality and an ideal environment for discussion emerged. The classroom wasn’t necessarily filled with students, but rather a mixed group including Performa Director Roselee Goldberg and others interested not only in A Guiding Light but also in the active dialogue that Gillick and Vidokle bring forth via their ongoing collaboration.


Gao Shiming spoke first and presented the audience with the curatorial inquiries that led him to the theme Rehearsal for the 2010 Shanghai Biennial. A Guiding Light is a direct result of the invitation that was presented to Liam Gillick and Anton Vidokle on the occasion of the Rehearsal for the Shanghai Biennial. The curator’s particular queries were addressed to the artists and in turn led to the dialogue “performance” which occurs within the film. A select group of participants were brought together for A Guiding Light with very limited instructions except that they would discuss the questions at hand, which largely focus on the role of the artist in society.

The content of the film revolves around both their own and collective opinions of the issues brought up. It was implied that each participant was chosen to engage with a particular margin of thought although lacking identity: gender wasn’t discussed, nor was occupation. Gillick however, alluded to the idea that the representation of participants allowed for a mirroring of artistic thought between possibility and may have included a member of an artist collective, a critic, a curator and a gallerist. Within the framework of the interaction between "actors", a definitive answer wasn’t the intention because the artistic intention fell only within the realm of inquiry. An active script was not provided and the dialogue between "actors" was filmed in real time and without any form of prompting. The interactive discussion was the goal.

Video still from A Guiding Light (Part II).  

In his curatorial process, Gao Shiming sought to capture the daily routine of life on a global level and chose the title Rehearsal in order to reference a larger continuity of self-awareness that occurs when we seek out something greater than ourselves. A Guiding Light (Part II) second screening succeeded in reopening a dialogue that may continue for quite some time because the role of artist as individual and member of public is not easy to define. Aesthetically, the film is minimally theatrical with little to no overt visual stimulation or set and is somewhat reminiscent of Dogville by Lars Von Trier and Elmgreen & Dragset’s Happy Days in the Art World, also part of Performa 11.  In the representation of a moment, as viewers we are left to consider artist autonomy versus public referendum. For if exhibition is theater, everything else leading up to it lends itself as Rehearsal


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