'Willis's performances and installations of the mid 70's dramatized his own experience within Beckett-like scanarios, where conflicting impulses and antinomies were acted out. The contrarities and conflict experienced in those works reflect the artistic alienation of the period'
Helen Topliss 'Between Duchamp & Warhol lies the Shadow; The work of Gary Willis' - 1983

1973 - 1979

The Shooter's Gallery (For Madmen Only) 

shooters gallery - drawing sml

Shooter's Gallery - sketch book notes - 1973

The Shooter's Gallery was a multi-media installation work concieved in 1973, completed in 1977 when I was artist-in-residence at R.M.I.T.  It was inspired by a mix of the Magic Theatre from Herman Hesse's book Steppenwolf - Not for everybody - Madmen Only, and Eugene Herrigal's book Zen and the Art of Archery.  Although I had sketched out the Shooter's Gallery and begun work on its construction in 1973, I abandoned it. It wasn't until after I had spent a couple of years in the context of Tibetan, Zen & Theravden monasteries that I regained the nerve to take it on. I saw Peter Tyndall's Shooting Gallery at the Mildura Sculpture Triennial, and immediatly decided it was time to rebuild.  Donna Greaves set-up an artist-in-residency at R.M.I.T. to help facilitate the project The Shooter's Gallery, came in several demountable parts, such that it could be easily transported from site to site in the back of a truck at left in a public place to be discovered, as if it had magically appeared from nowhere, and equally quickly disappeared.

It came with a stripped umbrella, and its own power generator, which ran a set of carnival lights and two sound systems;

1/. the first for the overhead speaker system, which played calliope side-show music in a continuous loop, 

2/. the second for an internal sound system which played through a set of three headphones, one for each out-facing booth windows.

The voice in the head-set looped the following text; Pick up the gun - cock the trigger - bang - between the eyes - bang - let go - pick up the gun - cock the trigger - let go - bang - between the eyes - let go... This text was looped as a voice over, through the headset.

All guns faced outwards, there was no obvious or stated target. On each of these three booth windows was a gun. In those days you could buy dummy metal replicas of a wide range of pistols in army disposal shops.  The booth was cordoned off by a rope which lead into an entrance marked 'enter'.


This work was presented at the each of the following, towns, festivals and bienales.  It would spend some time mysteriously appearing and dissappearing around the town before being installed within the galleries associated with its exhibition.

1977 - R.M.I.T. University - Victorian Ministry for the Arts Gallery

1978 - Queensland Festival of the Arts, Institute of Modern Art

1978 - Benalla, Benalla Regional Art Gallery

1978 - Shepparton, Shepparton Regional Art Gallery 

1979 - Sydney Biennale, Art Gallery of N.S.W.

In this mode - See also The Art Tram - & The Flying Trapeze Cafe



ROCK - Syndey Bienale 1979

Poster for ROCK, Sydney 1979

This project was also concieved in 1973 as a sort of Everyman play, with a fool and a wiseman and an artist, influenced by performance theatre and theory coming from groups like The Living Theatre, Richard Foreman's Ontological-Hysteric Theatre Ontological-Hysteric Theatre, and Jersy Grotowski's 'Toward a poor theatre'. In 1973 I performed Macbeth with Canberra Youth Theatre and tried to join Jersy Grotowski's performance company when they presented 'Apocalyspe Cum Figurus' Sydney that year.

I began rehearsals for ROCK in 1974 in Wagga Wagga with two friends; Ross Kalend & John Wilson.  This production had been booked to be presented as a performance piece at the National Gallery of Victoria (north court) and also Central Street Gallery(Sydney) in 1975.  But after only a few weeks rehearsal I suffered a sort of conceptual and emotional breakdown and abandoned the project and also art practice.

I returned to art practice in 1977 after a couple of years following Buddhist schools of thought and practice.  I began reworking ROCK as a script in N.Y. whilst living in the Chelsea Hotel. The finished work was produced in Sydney in 1979 in conjuction with the Sydney  Biennale and  presented in tandem with The Shooter's Gallery.

Rock was another multimedia interactive installation work. It consisted of one large boulder (specification: larger than any single person could move by themselves) which was chained to a post. The rock had a speaker system embedded within it such that it would appear to speak at specific times. Although the script was a monologue - the artist talks to themselves about their immovable condition - it was constructed as if a dialogue, where half the script was missing, as such it drew an instinctive response from anyone passing by. 

The Rock had two apparatus' with which it might be moved:

1/. The first was a winch and pulley system - constructed using a surf life-savers reel

2/. The second was a red body harness, which attached from the groin to the rock via an elastic bungey rope. Between these two mechanisms it was possible to move the rock, although it required both a physical/sexual and an strategic/intellectual energy to do so.  Even so the rock could not be moved very far, since it it was chained to a post in the ground. All the while the Rock continued its monologue, essentially begging to be moved.

 ROCK - Vacant Lot - Wooloomooloo 1979

                                          Rock is pictured above in a vacant lot in Woolloomooloo, Sydney, 1979, where unsolicited and unknown group of participants have engaged in the task of trying to move the rock.