Documents Series comprises ninety-nine photographs, each accompanied by a brief text panel which is displayed alongside it. Some of the photographs are black and white, others are in colour. The photographs depict diverse scenes such as the French mime artist Marcel Marceau giving a press conference, the British Conservative politician Michael Heseltine arriving at a lunch for the American Chamber of Commerce at Grosvenor House, London, and lawyers arriving at Southwark Crown Court in London to resume the Guinness share-trading fraud trial, a famous British business scandal of the 1980s. Each accompanying text includes the date, time and location of the event, together with a short description and, in some cases, a brief transcript of an audio recording made at the event.
The series is a collaboration between British artists Henry Bond and Liam Gillick, who were contemporaries at Goldsmiths College in London in the late 1980s. For this project Bond and Gillick posed as a news reporting team, with Gillick acting as the journalist and Bond as the photographer. Over a period of five years, between 1990 and 1995, they attended a range of press conferences and other potentially newsworthy events posted daily in Press Association listings. This list, as well as the events, were accessible to anyone in possession of a press card, enabling Bond and Gillick to pose as professional journalists; Bond would join the other press photographers present, while Gillick would collect the journalist’s press pack and, where appropriate, make an audio recording. Their subsequent presentation of the photographs and their accompanying texts makes no distinction between either the relative aesthetic merit of the images, or the interest value of the event documented. Cumulatively, they create a distinctive record of a moment in late twentieth-century British life.
When the series was shown at Tate Modern, London, in 2001 in the exhibition Century City: Art and Culture in the Modern Metropolis, curator Emma Dexter wrote of the work:
Henry Bond and Liam Gillick posed as journalists at press and media events, creating as a result a series of photo/text works that are a neat elision of two distinct realms of information gathering and sorting: that of conceptual art and that of the news and publicity industry. Documents exposes the codes and rituals involved in news management, but it has also become, with time, an accidental history of our age.
(Emma Dexter, ‘London 1990–2001’, in Tate Modern 2001, p.84.)
The work can be displayed in its entirety or in smaller groups, but the artists have stipulated that a minimum of three prints, with their accompanying texts, should be shown at any one time. They can be displayed either framed or unframed.
Documents: Henry Bond and Liam Gillick, exhibition catalogue, Karsten Schubert, London 1991.
Century City: Art and Culture in the Modern Metropolis, exhibition catalogue, Tate Modern, London 2001, p.84.
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