Ryan Gander “Some Other Life” at Esther Schipper, Berlin
On the occasion of Gallery Weekend 2019, Esther Schipper is pleased to present Ryan Gander’s second solo exhibition with the gallery.
Some Other Life will feature new works—sculptures, installations, and a video—all articulated around the notion of illumination and enlightenment, both physical and metaphorical, notably through the use of neutral or middle grey, a tone that is perceptually about halfway between black and white on a lightness scale. Many of the exhibited works incorporate the use of rechargeable batteries for the storage of electricity that allow the works to function. In the artist’s own words: “Not only are many of the works conceptual timepieces unto themselves, but like our individual life cycles, they are quite simply running out. This relates to the mortality of the human condition and our anxiety around the influence we play in the world during our time here.”
Upon entering the exhibition space, visitors encounter two rolls of pure white carpet, partially unrolled and positioned side by side on the floor, showing wheel tracks and footprints left by two vehicles and their drivers in what could be a snow-covered landscape. The work, titled Diagram for Common Ground, 2019, suggests a vague narrative where two characters have met and then departed from one another. The marks appear partially obscured by a subsequent flurry of snow, adding on to the poetic yet mysterious scene that may have happened there. Twenty-four grey numbered cubes are scattered across the white carpets; each cube emits a low volume ticking sound, at a tempo unique to the others.
Positioned nearby, Evidence of absence, 2019, is comprised of two grey Peli cases containing glowing acrylic cubes numbered 1–24. Nine of them are dispatched across the exhibition marking the position of each artwork, while the remaining cubes are displayed within the open cases.
Featuring a full-size sculptural rendition of Vincent van Gogh’s painting Gauguin’s Chair, 1888 (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam), Monkey See, Monkey Do, 2019, continues Gander’s investigation of the notion of artist. The dark-toned canvas by Van Gogh depicts, through the means of a burning candle and a couple of books left on the armchair’s seat, a portrait in absentia of the French painter, and Van Gogh’s close friend, Paul Gauguin. Not only did Gander reproduce the chair and objects with faithful details—an artificial candle is burning and then mysteriously blown out before re-igniting again in an endless loop—but he also rendered the painting’s distorted perspective of the chair’s structure, mimicking Van Gogh’s style in a three-dimensional space.
The candle is also the central motif of Gander’s Embrace Your Mistakes… Your Mistakes Are the Markers of Your Time, 2019. In this series of 365 ink drawings, one for each day of the year, the artist tries in vain to draw a candle that goes out. Each sketch is then crumpled and discarded into a waste paper bin, only to be recovered and smoothed out—while preserving each fold and crease—and framed in a neutral grey frame that echoes the color of Gauguin’s chair.
Furthermore, Gander presents a new iteration of his recent animatronic mice. In I… I… I…, a white mouse looks through a hole broken in the gallery wall, close to the floor. The robotic animal attempts to deliver a speech using the voice of the artist’s 9-year-old daughter who struggles and stutters with her words, not quite knowing how to begin or what exactly to say.
In So I see (So I see, the light is changing constantly, as is your perspective), 2019, a short flight of three steps set alongside a low wall, made from internally illuminated acrylic emitting a bright glow of white light, echoes the number markers dispatched in the exhibition.
A new film entitled Foreseeable future, or When the shadows go the wrong way, 2019, features a virtual model of the artist’s studio complex, imagined one hundred years in the future as an overgrown ruin. The mass of the building, its debris and overgrowth are rendered transparent in a pure white landscape, resulting in the only visible remnant being shadows of the vegetation that covers the ruin as it moves in the breeze.
The material, formal and stylistic variety of Ryan Gander’s practice is unified both by his conceptual vision and by recurring themes concerning creativity, the nature of art and the life of the artist. In And for my next show, 2019, grey miniature maquettes of sculptural artworks—all from existing series by the artist—are displayed in a vitrine recessed into the wall, only 80 centimeters from the floor as if exhibited for a children audience.
Gander’s oeuvre evokes fictional spaces, referring to absent objects, artworks or persons, both real and imaginary. The artist often focuses his attention on the playfulness and imagination of children, who are less burdened by facts and appearances than adults.
at Esther Schipper, Berlin
until 15 June 2019