Liam Gillick: the one-time Turner Prize nominee is making his acting debut in a new British film

A YBA makes an exhibition of himself

The artist and 2002 Turner Prize nominee Liam Gillick was in Spain when he received an email from a casting agent. His first thought was that someone wanted to use his artworks in a film. “I wanted to set them straight,” he recalls. “I was going to give them a lecture about how it was fake, that it’s not a commodity or something. So I called and this very nice lady asked if I could come to London, explaining about Joanna Hogg and whatnot. Oddly enough, I’d seen her films. And I don’t normally watch anything.”

The British director of Archipelago and  Unrelated, wanted the artist, a former YBA, now 50 and famed for his colour-coded Plexiglas and aluminium sculptures, to star in her third film. Intrigued, Gillick hopped on a plane to London on what he thought was going to be a weekend stop-off on his way back to his home in New York, where he now lives and works.

 “Joanna arrived and said, ‘Let’s get into a taxi.’ We went to Camden and there was Viv Albertine,” says the artist. “She said, ‘This is going to be your wife in the film and we start on Monday. So you have to decide whether you are going to do it or not.’ This was on Friday.”

The Slits guitarist Albertine was Hogg’s trump card. In the early Nineties, Gillick was in the band Soho and once opened for Gang of Four. “I thought this is too good to miss, but of course there is a time commitment and I’d never acted before, not even in school. All I’ve done is the acting you do in daily life, if you know what I mean. I’m aware of myself as a person in the world. I actually said to them, ‘We’ll see how it goes in the first few days and if it’s really shit, just tell me. Don’t try and change me into an actor.’”

Although he is an amateur, Gillick did spend four years between 1990 and 1994 posing as  a journalist and going to events marked up in the Press Association’s gazette with Henry Bond who posed as his photographer, for his Documents Series.

Hogg says that she hit upon the idea of casting Gillick when she saw that he was due to do a talk at ICA. She checked out videos of his previous lectures online and felt that he had a tremendous screen presence. “I think they were trying to cast someone in the role and they had been showing people YouTube clips and photographs of me as an idea,” adds Gillick, “And then she thought, ‘Why don’t I just ask the actual person rather than have someone try to imitate him?’”

In Exhibition, Gillick plays a successful artist. After 20 years, his marriage to a performance artist has gone stale. They live and work in the same place, a Modernist west London house, originally designed by the architect James Melvin, to whom the film is dedicated. In the Nineties it was updated by the Berlin-based firm Sauerbruch Hutton Architects and sliding doors were put in. The film revolves around the decision to sell the house and the emotional effect the sale has on the couple – not least on their sex life. 

“The difficult bit for me as an actor was not taking my clothes off and rolling around,” says Gillick, who was married to the artist Sarah Morris for 14 years before they divorced in 2012. “The difficult bits are the scenes where you have to say, ‘I love you’. That’s what you do training for.”

A critical thinker, Gillick has his own theories about the film and its place in screen history: “If you think about it, there’s already a film made in west London in the 1960s, close to Notting Hill, that has a name associated with acting in culture, Performance, and a non-actor playing the main role. There are lots of Nic Roeg  elements in the film.”

Despite enjoying the experience, Gillick doesn’t see himself following in the footsteps of his art-world contemporaries Steve McQueen and Sam Taylor-Wood and directing his own film. “I had been thinking about how I would deal with cinema before Exhibition came along. And I thought, bingo, this is how I’m going to deal with it. It’s the wrong thing to do in a way, because there is not much precedent for it.”

 ‘Exhibition’ is released on 25 April

Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little