Ryan Gander is an artist who embodies the dictum by Jasper Johns, which goes: ”Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it.”. His work is multi-faceted.
Consider this homemade calendar for example. Populated by jottings from Gander’s notebooks, it comes with an evocative and seeming arbitrary title: And what if no one believes the truth?
More jottings, this time from a theoretical art world dinner party. The artist seemed to expect us to pick up and examine his power seating plan. The invigilators were not so keen.
More discarded art could be found nearby. Though you could easily miss this ‘quarter centi-dollar’. Glueing coins to the floor was a prank much loved by Gander’s father.
But as with all works here, the object is layered with conceptual difference. We are invited to believe this is a coin from the future, 2032, when today’s quarters will be worth $25.
As someone who’s worked on a few public sector ad campaigns before, I was very taken and taken in by Gander’s 30″ spot for a fictitious government department of the imagination.
It was put together by Kirke and Hodgson with Gander playing the role of client. Certainly it must have been the strangest brief this small agency has had the pleasure to work on.
One of the frustrations of this show was a lack of unifying aesthetic. It leaves a disparate impression in the mind’s eye and, if anything, gazes back at you (through conceptual shades).
Really! Below you can see Magnus Opus. It consists of two animatronic eyes with which you can interact. Noisy, googly, broadly humorous, they look, but are no lookers.
More cartoonery was to be found on an adjacent wall. Tintin fans will recognise these emotive dazed stars from any of the hero’s tales. Gander isolates them and puts in quote marks.
But in fact, this piece is incredibly complex, comparing reactions to Tintin’s abandoned final tale, from the point of view of creator, central character and the civilian identity of Hergé.
Gander is to be applauded for not wanting to make the same work twice, but he rarely hits the same note twice. There are a few chords in this show, but is there a coherent tune?
How do you compare a knowing slice of cartoon history with the innocent response to his wife’s desire for a designer lamp. Gander made the light below from junk.
So even this has a backstory. There’s not a piece here in Manchester which I didn’t like in one way or another; as a show not sure. But coherent tunes are probably old hat anyway.
Ryan Gander: Make every show like it’s your last is at Manchester Art Gallery until September 14 2014. My review for the Arts Desk can be found here.