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THE ART-MEETS-WEATHER ORACLE OF FOGO ISLAND - LIAM GILLICK
 
(2023 - Winter Issue)

Writer: BILL KING



On the furthest edge of Canada’s Atlantic embrace, where the windswept airstreams play their own concerto, a crimson sentinel stands tall, catching the eye like a fiery beacon. It’s a creation that’s more than meets the eye, more than just another weather vane. This is the brainchild of none other than Liam Gillick, a maestro of the contemporary art scene. Partnering with the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) and Fogo Island Arts, Gillick has created a masterpiece that dances at the crossroads of art and atmospheric dynamics.

Entitled A Variability Quantifier, the architectural marvel, which is perched defiantly on the rugged cliffs of Fogo Island, is a visual testament to human creativity intertwined with the unyielding nature. This artwork is anything but typical gallery fare. Gillick’s creation, now being acquired by the NGC as part of its National Outreach initiative, invites art enthusiasts to participate in a unique dance, a waltz of artistry and the ever-changing whims of the weather. It’s a bold acquisition, a testament to the National Gallery of Canada’s ethos of pushing the boundaries and taking art beyond the museum walls, into the heart of nature and the human spirit.

Dreamscapes spoke to the British expat about A Variability Quantifier (The Fogo Island Red Weather Station) 2022 now on view until October 2026.

DS: Beyond just an art installation, is this about gathering data?
LG: That’s a key part of it. Some people can think of it as a weather station, they don’t have to think about the art side. Then there’s this feeling that it’s kind of switching identity, but I like that transformation, which can be useful when dealing with public art.

DS: This past summer was ablaze—undoubtedly, one of the worst summers ever on Earth. And you think about the marriage of activism and art.
LG: You are a music guy. Music is very direct. I think activism has a direct effect on people in raising direct consciousness. I think art, especially contemporary art, is a bit more complicated. You can only verify art backwards. If you got rid of all the art, what would happen?

DS: Did you have a design in mind?
LG: During my first trip to Fogo Island, I was struck by how the environment affects everyone. I found the landscape even overwhelming. Then one day everything was unlocked for me. I saw a fishing stage put together, and then watched actual fishing, and then the processing and it got me out of an emotional reverie that the nature had created. It reaffirmed that I was on an island in an isolated community, and that kind of human interaction with nature was where everything started.

DS: Why Fogo Island?
LG: I’m Irish and English. I make sense on the island. I recognize that place and understand why people went there. I can understand what some people are up to, in the way they live. One important practicality is that the community didn’t have a weather station. The nearest was in Gander.

DS: Any parting thoughts?
LG: It’s no accident that writers and thinkers head there. It’s a place where you can reflect on a lot of contemporary questions. It changed me and made me have many more complicated ideas about things.

 
 
 
 
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