Ryan Gander’s Illusional Irony

Only really applicable to those that can visualize it upside down, back to front and inside out, 2009
Installation: smoke machine and sensors

      Blurring the boundaries between reality and fiction, Ryan Gander assembles seemingly disparate objects, situations and texts to develop his own sarcastic narrative language. His game-playing may initially appear difficult to understand, but his artwork has very simple principles charged with a comic and/or critical sentiment. Gander’s work explores –many times with sharp sense of humor- themes that concern art’s discursive potential and communication channels.

         The installation entitled Only is applicable to those that can visualize it upside down, back to front and inside out is part of Adrastus Collection, and consists of a fog machine placed in the doorway of the gallery. The apparatus creates a “smoke curtain” that can be seen right outside through a glass door, enticing the potential visitor to enter the exhibition space. The machine has a sensor that recognizes the visitor upon entry and immediately suspends the emission of vapor. Seconds after the spectator leaves the space, a plume of “smoke” is ejected once again.

        The installation creates the illusion that the spectator has disappeared into a puff of smoke. Although other visitors inside the gallery have the opportunity to witness how the newly arrived visitor disappears into the fog, the spectator just arriving doesn’t initially realize that he’s part of the show. Only really applicable to those that can visualize it upside down, back to front and inside out intends to mock the expectations created outside exhibition spaces, such as white-cubed galleries or biennales. In this artwork, the artist criticizes the fact that some conceptual exhibitions generate high anticipations, but the truth is that there is nothing of worth inside sometimes. The vanishing curtain of smoke is an allegorical representation of how disappointing a show can be once you realize that it was only a marketing illusion. The piece is witty and impactful, perhaps in direct proportion to the degree that the spectator is familiar with contemporary art exhibitions.

The artist next to his artwork Eye up…

It is mostly the visitor’s interaction that separates Ryan Gander from other conceptual artists. Artworks like Eye up…[1] and Ftt, Ft, Ftt, Ftt, Ffttt, Ftt…[2] exemplify the constant intention of the artist to create physically engaging works. The fact that he is handicapped and usually in a wheelchair is inevitable when trying to understand his frequent necessity of interplay and movement.

[1] This artwork consists of a pair of cartoonish animatronic eyes that follows the visitor tracking his movements. The installation confronts the idea that you look at art; in this case, art is looking at you.

[2] A saturated room full of black arrows forces the visitor to make a zigzag course in order to elude the contect with the multiple objects.