Presentation House Gallery
The Polygon Gallery
333 Chesterfield Avenue
North Vancouver, BC V7M 3G9

Melanie Gilligan: Popular Unrest

Melanie Gilligan works in video, film, performance, installation, text and music. Her newest multi-episode drama, Popular Unrest (2010) presents surreal, satirical and disturbing narratives based on the current state of politics and the public realm, after the recent global economic crisis.

Rather than take a documentary approach to its subject matter, the film offers a fictional future, in which all monetary exchanges and social interactions are overseen by a system called ‘the Spirit’. Its five episodes center on eight unrelated people who are mysteriously drawn together to form a group. When assembled they feel a deep and persistent sense of connection. They are not the only ones; this phenomenon of ‘groupings’ is happening world wide. Meanwhile, a rash of mysterious and disturbing killings has broken out across the globe. These murders often take place in public but witnesses never see an assailant. As the story develops, the killings become the thread that ties the group to ‘the Spirit’, but they need to discover how and why.

Popular Unrest was shot in London with a cast of twelve main actors. While writing the script, Gilligan was partly inspired by David Cronenberg’s ‘body horror’ and American television dramas like Bones, CSI and Dexter, in which reality is perceived through a pornographic forensics of empirical and visceral phenomena. As with her recent video works, the film’s episodic structure takes its cue from television and the medium’s ability to dispense a storyline in stages, emphasized by the five viewing booths of the installation.

While Popular Unrest explores a world in which the self is reduced to a biology directly subjected to the needs of capital, in Self-capital (2009) contemporary capitalism is represented as a person undergoing therapy. After the traumas that recently shook the global economic system, capital’s deep-seated problems are worked through in order to rehabilitate it to its previous and more ‘functional’ state. Under hypnosis the patient is submitted to a series of body-focused exercises, circumventing the patient’s conscious mind.

Melanie Gilligan was born in Toronto in 1979 and currently lives in London, England. She has a BA in Fine Arts from Central St. Martin’s College in London and was a Fellow in the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program. Popular Unrest is co-commissioned by Chisenhale Gallery, London, Kolnischer Kunstverein, Cologne Walter Phillips Gallery, The Banff Centre and Presentation House Gallery where it has been exhibited in 2010. It is available for viewing online at and Self-Capital can be watched on Youtube. In 2008 Gilligan released Crisis in the Credit System, a four-part fictional drama about the financial crisis made specifically for internet viewing and distribution, commissioned by Artangel Interaction. Other recent exhibitions include: Manifesta 8 in Murcia, Spain (2010), Galleria Franco Soffiantino, Turin (2009), Talk Show, ICA, London (2009) and Transmission Gallery, Glasgow (2008). Her writing has been widely published in art magazines and journals, and she sings in the bands Petit Mal and Antifamily. Gilligan was the recipient of a Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for Artists and the Illy Present Future Award at Artissima 17 in Turin.

A Lecture by Melanie Gilligan
November 23, 5:30 PM

Buchanan Building, Block A, Room 203
(Located across Main Mall from the Belkin Art Gallery)
University of British Columbia
Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory

The Distinguished Visiting Artist Program is made possible by the generous support of the Rennie Collection

Opening Reception
November 26, 7:00 PM

  • Melanie Gilligan, still from Popular Unrest, 2010. Courtesy the artist.