Popular Unrest: An Artist’s Talk by Melanie Gilligan

Melanie Gilligan will present an artist’s lecture, discussing a range of her material, historical and intellectual interests as an artist.

“Of course you’re special, special like everyone else.”*

Melanie Gilligan is a London-based Canadian artist whose practice incorporates video, performance, drawing and installation, critical writing, and music. Gilligan has received numerous awards and commissions for her recent video works, which combine scathing critical analyses of global economic and cultural forms, with the often comedic forms of television and popular entertainment. Her critical essays and reviews have been published in journals such as Artforum and Texte zur Kunst, and her band Petit Mal, has been declared “The most interesting and forward looking artists on the avant-electronic underground pop scene!” by Paul Lester of The Guardian.

Her new film, Popular Unrest – which will be opening at the Presentation House Gallery, Vancouver on November 26th – is a multi-episode drama set in a future much like the present. Here, however, all exchange transactions and social interactions are overseen by a system called ‘the Spirit’. A rash of unexplained killings have broken out across the globe. They often take place in public but witnesses never see an assailant. Just as mysteriously, groups of unrelated people are suddenly coming together everywhere, amassing new members rapidly. Unaccountably, they feel a deep and persistent sense of connection to one another. 
The film explores a world in which the self is reduced to physical biology, directly subject to the needs of capital. Hotels offer bed-warming servants with every room, people are fined for not preventing foreseeable illness, weight watching foods eat the digester from the inside and the unemployed repay their debt to society in physical energy.

Shot in London with a cast of twelve main actors, the film’s form is partly inspired by David Cronenberg’s ‘body horror’ and American television dramas CSI, Dexter and Bones, where reality is perceived through a pornographic forensics of empirical and visceral phenomena. As with Gilligan’s other recent video works, the film’s episodic structure takes its cue from television and its ability to dispense a storyline in stages. The five episodes of the film are each screened individually in an installation that takes the form of a series of enclosed booths, fabricated from office screens and room dividers.

As part of the Distinguished Visiting Artist Program at UBC’s Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory, Gilligan will present an artist’s lecture, discussing a range of her material, historical and intellectual interests as an artist. Running throughout Gilligan’s work is an abiding interest in examining, as Walter Benjamin wrote, how storytelling submerges the important facts and details of its narrative into the life of the storyteller, rather than present them as raw data such as a report assumes to do.

Melanie Gilligan was born in Toronto in 1979. She currently lives and works in London and New York. Gilligan completed a BA (Hons) Fine Art at Central Saint Martins in 2002 and was a Fellow with the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Independent Study Programme in 2004-5. Recent exhibitions include: Transmission Gallery Glasgow (2008) as part of the Glasgow International Festival and Franco Soffiantino Gallery, Turin (2009). In 2008 Gilligan released Crisis in the Credit System, a four-part fictional mini drama about the recent financial crisis, made specifically for internet viewing and distribution, commissioned and produced by Artangel Interaction. She has recently completed a single screen film Self-capital (2009), commissioned by the Institute of Contemporary Arts London as part of the group exhibition ‘Talk Show’. In October 2009 Gilligan was the recipient of a Paul Hamlyn Award for Artists and has most recently been awarded the 2010 Present-Future prize at Artissima, Torino, Italy.

*from Popular Unrest, 2010 – http://www.popularunrest.org

Presentation House Gallery