British artist Liam Gillick’s Pinboard Prototype #1 (Milan House Project) 1993 consists of a square hessian notice board on which seven A4 sheets of Ingres drawing paper are pinned. The pages are variously coloured and are arranged neatly in rows and columns: at the top of the board occupying its entire length is a row of four sheets (white, red, white and green), below which are two sheets (maroon and blue) positioned side by side towards the right of the board in line with the white and green sheets above, and a single grey page near the bottom of the board that is aligned vertically beneath the maroon and white pages and thus completes a column to the right of the board’s centre. The four pages along the top of the board contain printed texts while the three below feature architectural drawings in pencil. These texts and drawings relate to an unrealised project that Gillick proposed for the south of Milan, which initially involved building a private house for the artist, but changed to become plans for a museum and later a social centre.
Pinboard Prototype #1 (Milan House Project) is part of an ongoing series of works titled The Pinboard Project which Gillick began in 1992. Other works in this series include Pinboard Prototype #2 1992 and Pinboard Project (Grey) 1992. Gillick has provided a comprehensive set of guidelines for the construction and use of the pinboards – each of which has displayed different images and texts, some taken from newspapers, novels and magazines, on a range of subjects from tattoos to the rights of Romani people in Germany – which stress that the works are interactive and adjustable. For example, the guidelines suggest that the material affixed to the boards may be moved around and state that ‘Any other material belonging to the user or the artist can also be pinned onto the boards if it seems interesting or might improve the piece’ (quoted in Hessel Museum of Art 2012, p.14). Here, the term ‘user’ refers to an individual invited by Gillick to alter the pinboard, and may be a collector, curator or a person otherwise associated with the institution displaying the work, although not a general viewer. Discussing The Pinboard Project, Gillick has explained, ‘The term used throughout my work is “users”, never “owners”, and this project is precisely about who the public for the work might be and how culture is made rather than a private moment for included individuals’ (quoted in Gillick 2006, p.166). The specific material contained on Pinboard Prototype #1 (Milan House Project) also reflects an ethos of participation and customisation. The architectural plans pinned to the board state that the façade of Gillick’s proposed house be adorned with the names and song titles of the bands Joy Division and AC/DC, but with the proviso that this signage may be modified by other inhabitants to reflect their tastes.
In that they foreground the aims and thought processes of the artist or ‘user’, Gillick’s pinboards convey a sense of work in progress, providing a space or starting point for creative activity. In this respect they relate closely to other works by Gillick that feature raised platforms, seating arrangements, tables, screens and partitions – what the artist calls ‘scenarios’ – which are designed to prompt consideration of the architectural, institutional and cultural conditions that shape thought and behaviour. In the case of Pinboard Prototype #1 (Milan House Project), the allusion of a formal or professional working practice evoked by the pinboard and the rigid arrangement of paper seems to be at odds with the idea that an unidentified ‘user’ may alter the material in some way. This contradiction in turn ensures that the work represents a state of terminal possibility, despite and because the original architectural project remains unrealised.
The emphasis in Pinboard Prototype #1 (Milan House Project) on the potential for future change links it to a number of other works by Gillick that explore utopian possibilities, such as the sculptures in the (The What If? Scenario) series completed in 1996 and his book Literally No Place: Communes, Bars and Greenrooms (London 2002). It also recalls the work of the German artist Joseph Beuys, whose ‘blackboards’ (see, for example, Four Blackboards 1972, Tate T03594) are records of lectures, performances or actions where the artist discussed his ‘blend of art, politics, personal charisma, paradox and Utopian proposition’ (Caroline Tisdall, ‘Joseph Beuys’, Guardian, 28 February 1972). The Pinboard Project, alongside other aspects of Gillick’s practice, has also been identified as an example of ‘relational aesthetics’, a term developed by French curator Nicolas Bourriaud to characterise artworks of the 1990s primarily concerned with the production of social relationships or events, rather than objects or representations (see Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics, trans. by Simon Pleasance and Fronza Woods, Dijon-Quetigny 2002, p.32).
Pinboard Prototype #1 (Milan House Project) was first exhibited at the Lisson Gallery in London in July 1993 as part of a group exhibition titled Wonderful Life.
Claire Bishop, ‘Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics’, October, no.110, Fall 2004, pp.51–79.
Liam Gillick, Proxemics: Selected Writings (1988–2006), Zurich and Dijon 2006.
From 199A to 199B: Liam Gillick, exhibition catalogue, Hessel Museum of Art, New York 2012, pp.12–15.
Supported by Christie’s.