History no longer really matters. Time is collapsed and compressed. Visual references, styles and looks are pried from their original contexts and allowed to float free. Images have no meaning anymore, instead they have become materials. That was the standard line of postmodern critics writing about visual culture in the 1970s and 1980s.
I used to think they were talking scholarly nonsense – how could you look around you and not see how radically, fundamentally new it all was – but now I’m not so sure. The further ago the 1960s and 1970s get and the more we settle into the new logic of the times, or perhaps simply as I get older, the more I think they were bang on the money.
Minna Gilligan is fixated with 1960s and 1970s iconography and palettes in a way that could only be possible in 2014. Moddish fashions, psychedelic patterns, loud fabrics, and a general mish-mash of the period’s most striking looks find their way into Gilligan’s paintings and collages – all filtered through her 1990s childhood, through her blog, through Instagram and Tumblr accounts. It’s 1969 done as an animated gif.
“In my honours year, my thesis was pretty much trying to investigate why I have this fixation,” says Gilligan. “I never came to a clear one answer because I don’t think there is one answer, but I think there’s a bunch of factors that contribute to it.”
Her mum raised her on a diet of 60s and 70s culture, says Gilligan, she watched a lot of Brady Bunch (she still does). Those feel-good associations with her own childhood help to explain the abundance of stickers, felt-tip pens and cut outs that are a big part of Gilligan’s work. “I always joke that my practice is me trying to live my childhood again in the way that I always wanted, with a plethora of Textas I could use for ever and a million stickers.”
But Gilligan’s aesthetic interests also stem from a general sense of dissatisfaction with the present, and a longing for a (pre-digital) material past that she never knew. “I use the internet so much and I’m online all the time and I do feel very overwhelmed by all of that, and I think it’s about wanting to grab on to something and slow it down.”
In other words, Gilligan’s work is nostalgic both for her 1990s childhood and for an imaginary version of the 1960s and 70s that she didn’t experience first-hand but which was a nonetheless a big part of her life.
Gilligan likens it to Grease (a 1970s vision of the 1950s) or psychedelic prog like Led Zeppelin (1970s does medievalism) or those girls who dress up in immaculate 1950s attire, using how-to hairdo guides they’ve shared online and dresses they’ve found on Etsy. It's like that 1971 episode of The Brady Bunch about the Bradys throwing a 1920s themed dress-up party, which Gilligan recently re-watched some forty years later. “You’re looking back on someone who’s looking back. It’s never ending… It’s through so many lenses and if you watch it now it’s through another lens again.”
For her upcoming exhibition as part of the Spring 1883 art fair, taking place in The Windsor (14 – 17 August), Gilligan will be turning one of the suites into a vision of what the hotel might have looked like during the 1960s – complete with shaggy bedspreads, paintings and soft sculptures in her trademark rainbow palette. It is, she freely admits, a complete fantasy. The rooms have probably always been dressed in a dour Victorian style but it’s fun to imagine an alternative history for them.
“I project my own fantasies onto other people’s memories and make these hybrid memories and hybrid pasts that probably never existed except in my own head.”
>> Maura Edmond
>> Posted 8 August 2014