This is a photograph of an installation in Chicago titled Striated Presentation Striated. It shows two people preparing cloth to hang on my display structure. I took the photo when I went to check the installation of the work the day before the trade showroom opened to clients. There is a deep history that connects exhibition display to commercial display. In the 1950s, artist Richard Hamilton made use of this complex set of cross-references to create work that was—in its most extreme form—pure display. Yet it is not the structure I want to talk about here. It is the action I caught in motion while struggling with limited light that morning in Chicago. For here can be found the evocative moment for me. It is the human body moving with fabric. I am old enough to have had homemade clothes. I would go with my mother when she bought cloth to make things for me, such as denim for homemade jeans that made other mothers sigh with sympathy at my no-brand plight and my bravery. I fought her over these homemade garments. But I never confessed to her how much I was entranced by the process itself of buying the cloth. Watching the man (it was always a man) pulling down a roll of fabric and swiftly pulling it out across a flat table that carried a measuring mark along one edge. Pulling, bunching, and pulling again—swiftly reaching the required length and adding a little more before speeding scissors across the weave. The idea of “stock”—a length or roll that could be stored for years or sold out within days—seemed abstract and at the same time full of potential. I saw something of that man’s facility with material that morning in Chicago. Something fundamental and toward something more.
Liam Gillick is a New York and London-based artist.
This text is an excerpt from Maharam Stories (Skira Rizzoli, 2015).