Gerard Byrne: A Thing Is a Hole in a Thing It Is Not
This article is from 2010.
Newly commissioned, the title for this multiple screen video installation by Irish artist Gerard Byrne is taken from a statement by American minimalist Carl André. Lauded for his fictional reconstructions articulated in relation to modernist aesthetics, Byrne here pays attention to the emergence of minimal art in the early 1960s. Testament to the strength of this artist, the resonant and lasting effects of this intelligent exhibition reach further than the artistic sphere to which it attends, and negotiations with ideas of newness, media, fictionalisation and the general inception of trends, all come into play.
Four films screen with four soundtracks, and while it takes time to allow yourself to be immersed in the installation as one, upon doing so, complexity melts into clarity. And it this sense of totality that affirms Byrne’s project as simultaneously confronting us with not only chronicles of a projected future, but past, present, fiction and reality.
Bringing the principles of epic theatre to the medium of film, one of the screens shows footage of a faux TV documentary beautifully filmed in the Van Abbemuseum. Granting equal attention to minimalist works, their viewers, the purring, lyrical presenter and his slowly pacing cameras, Byrne’s film stirs as much consideration for the mechanisms of the documentary format as he does the stark galleries and their laconic occupants.
Further working to highlight the contingencies inherent in the popularisation of the minimalist aesthetic, a second film features an interview between Donald Judd and Frank Stella. The screen flickers with radio dials and recorders, but it remains unclear as to whether these are actors or whether this is footage of some ‘real event’. Crescendoing at moments when the other films fall silent, their mesmerising conversation — which touches on notions of presence, an achingly relevant parallel — resides over the installation, persuasively returning the viewer to questions of authorship and fabrication.
Two other films make more oblique, poetic references, further adding to the confusion of Byrne’s visitation to this particular cultural moment. A seamless fiction in which most can detect historical points of reference, this is a resonant installation that presents a significantly disorientating set of questions.
GI Hub, Miller Street, Glasgow, until Mon 3 May