Melanie Gilligan (3 stars)

Melanie Gilligan

Transmission Gallery, Glasgow, until Sat 10 May


This exhibition by London-based artist and writer Melanie Gilligan takes place not in the usual Transmission gallery, but in an upper Wasps studio space opposite. The decision for this seems partly to be an atmospheric one; the exhibition attempts to create confusion and dislocation so for visitors to enter a cage lift and be transported into a huge dusty room is perhaps a better place to start than the more conventional space opposite. Another reason seems to be a desire to create an ongoing ‘work in progress’ feel and where better than an artist’s studio to do this? Gilligan has created this mood by scattering strange and broken objects, allegedly from ‘the Renaissance to the 18th century’, around the space. Most are two dimensional drawings, paintings or photocopies of drawings in strange, cheap frames, some on stands, others hanging precariously from the ceiling at head height.

Elsewhere, broken plaster figurines lie discarded on the floor along with other more modern found objects. In the midst of all this, two camps have been set up, ready for an impending exhibition. Performances take place every hour, demonstrating the importance of the performance to the overall exhibition experience. To begin with Gilligan sits at a desk with a laptop and recounts a story about a writing commission and the impossible quest to write something original, until she encounters a mysterious medieval room in a New York gallery where the odd objects begin to provide inspiration. Then, across the room writer Dan Berchenko plays the rather clichéd angst-ridden struggling artist where he, too, is searching for originality. ‘Expressionism, Pop Art, Minimalism . . . there’s too much history!’ he shouts into his empty easel.

There is an attempt here to grapple with what comes next for artists after the free-for-all postmodern approach to art, addressed in more detail in two essays accompanying the show. Clearly there are no obvious solutions, and the unanswered questions arising from the performances and the essays are perplexing. But the strongest aspects of this exhibition, perhaps providing some answers, are found in Gilligan and Berchenko’s honest and direct performances.

Prison for Objects: Melanie Gilligan

  • 3 stars

New work for Transmission and Glasgow International by the London-based performer, writer and object-maker, starting from the basis that that the historical transition to commodity production in capitalism gave rise to striking visual representations of objects that manifest this shift. 'Part of Glasgow International 2008'

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