RYAN GANDER interviewed by Lorena Muñoz-Alonso
LMA. I’d like to start by asking you about the concept of “control”. I have the feeling that some artists make work in a quest of control: how the work exists and how it is experienced and interpreted. In you practice, including “Locked Room Scenario”, it feels like your goal is completely the opposite: opening up possibilities and discussions…
RG. Bad artworks only have one reading. Really good artworks start in one place but go to multiple places, have multiple readings, different possibilities and outcomes. Bad works are linear and singular and describe only one idea. But if there is only idea, you can probably articulate in speech. You don’t really need to “make something”. The point of making something is that it can be interpreted in multiple ways. The more ways it can be interpreted and the more complicated the journey to get to that interpretation, the better the work may be.
LMA. When I visited “Locked Room Scenario” I saw that many visitors were trying to unravel a mystery, gathering as many signs as possible. As if there was a complete narrative behind all those clues, a “right version” of the work. Is there such “right way” to experience it?
RG. No, there isn’t a proper way, or “more correct” way to experience this work because different things happen to different people by the nature of the work. It is constructed like that. So you probably miss about 60% of it if you go only once. You’d have to go like ten times to see “everything”, and even then some of the things only happen on certain moments, so might miss them altogether. So every person’s experience is completely different, which is one thing that I wanted, so that they end up sitting in the pub, asking “did that taxi driver offer you a free ride home?” “No, but I was followed by a deaf person!”. That’s important. I mean, there is a “story”, but it is my story and it is just an excuse to produce the work. It’s not important that the visitor understands the story, what’s important is that the visitor uses her imagination.
LMA. But when encountering your work it feels like if one is familiar with the history of art and even with your own previous practice, it is much easier to “unlock” the quotes and references you drop everywhere…
RG. No. It doesn’t matter, it just a different experience. It’s still an experience. A lot of these quotes are just excuses to make things. Just because there is a reference to me in it doesn’t mind that you need to know it to understand the work. It’s not elitist in the sense that the more you know the more you are going to get from it. I’ve seen people getting much more from my work than people that know everything about art. It doesn’t have to do with how much know and how much you research. It has to do with how much you let yourself go and how much you invest of yourself in it.
LMA. What connections do you find on you curatorial practice with your own artistic practice?
RG. I don’t have a curatorial practice. I just invite people to participate in shows…
LMA. How is that different from curating?
RG. It’s more like making a mixtape. Besides, everytime I “curate” something the logic behind it is closer to “anti-curating”, to a critique of curating. For example, the Young British Art show (Limoncello Gallery, 2011) was an “experiment”. You can put a show with the same 38 extraordinary artists and because no one knows who they are, not many people will come. But instead I called the show “Young British Art” and 2,000 people turned up for the opening. I like testing that sort of thing. It’s ludicrous, but it is also brilliant for the artists in the show (laughs).
LMA. What works did you show in this year’s Venice Biennale?
RG. In the para-pavilion, I showed two dice with 42 sides each, with the initials of all the artists that were in the show. But I had more works scattered around the biennale. I showed five works in total, which for me were pretty big works but that for biennale standards were actually pretty small. I remember going to Venice previous years and encountering these huge boombastics, business-card projects that shouted “this is me!”. And I decided that I wasn’t going to do that, so I thought I’d make five works and ask the curators to put them wherever they wanted, spreading them in different location, like “punctuations” scattered all over. Some people thought it worked really well, and that it was refreshing to see works in a smaller scale in this context. Others, on the other hand, thought “Ryan Gander, who does he think he is? He is everywhere!!”. You can’t really win, can you? (laughs).
LMA. I was wondering whether your lectures “Loose Associations”, which will soon be 10 years old, were a declaration of intent. An explanation of sorts of your artistic methodology…
RG. It wasn’t meant to be like that, but the truth is that it is the way I work. I have the “privilege” of making a lot of work. I make work really fast and I am not precious about letting it go. Some artist are really afraid of their works leaving their studios but I just need to see how my pieces work out there. We make at least a 100 works a year in the studio. I am not interested in doing masterpieces, I am interested in seeing how different works go together so I can “curate”, if you like, my own shows. That’s is where I get the most enjoyment.