Underground (Fragments of Future Histories)

Liam Gillick


Book, 20 x 13.8 cm, 96 p, language: English, publisher: Brussels/Dijon: Les Maîtres de Forme Contemporains/Les presses du réel, ISBN: 2-84066-134-9.
Materials: ink, paper

Collection: Collection M HKA, Antwerp (Inv. no. B 2025/630).

Literary synopsis

The starting point of Underground (Fragments of Future Histories) by Liam Gillick is the first science fiction novel ever written, entitled Fragments d’Histoire Future and written in 1884 by Gabriel Tarde. The French philosopher, sociologist and criminologist depicts in his novel the collective functioning of a society that has taken refuge in the heart of the Earth following a climatic disaster. Liam Gillick has made a contemporary adaptation of Tarde’s text, by rewriting the English translation from 1904 that had a preface by H.G. Wells. Gillick added a preface on his own by the Italian sociologist Maurizio Lazzarato. Tarde’s original book concerns an ecological catastrophe that befalls a world that has embraced what can only be described as a form of globalisation. The rump of the world’s population ends up in a bunker in Iraq, waiting to perish before they are saved by a man who suggests that they make a new life underground. Once the decision has been made they create a new aesthetic life in an architecture with no exterior, which gives Tarde the opportunity to play with varied paradigms of human potential.

Relation of the novel to the artist’s practice

The use of this text as a concentrated core allows other parallel potentials to spin free of the central idea and produce a sequence of provisional structures that allow both focus on the text and embody notions of distraction and delusion simultaneously. In September 2004, Liam Gillick produced an exhibition in Galerie Micheline Szwajcer, under the same title Underground (Fragments of Future Histories). This exhibition brought together a sequence of displacements that highlighted the close line that the work often describes between states of fiction and documentary. On one hand it was the setting for the presentation of Gillick’s book: an altered place where it is possible to stop a while and watch a trailer for the text set to electronically re-processed midi files of “Early Music” while flicking through the novel. The floor of the gallery was tweaked, troubled and accentuated. Standing on a pile of carpet that doubled as a model terrain was a television playing a 7 minute trailer that featured selections from the book published as the raison d’être of this project. The exhibition space was both a search for temporary contextual devices that “will do” in relation to the work on the book while the works, including four new Discussion Platforms in the rear space, are also a continuation of a formal language that developed alongside the written work.

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