Ryan Gander looks like Karl Pilkington and they are both misanthropic northerners
“What move?” “Which restaurant?” “Whose bunion?”
Perhaps it is inadvertent rudeness via inattention until the conversation hits a note I want to hear. Or maybe I’m undertaking less than expert multi-tasking (trolling and hand-washing or sauteeing and waxing). But lately, I’m in the habit of asking the wrong questions at the wrong time.
Picking up the thread mid-conversation when the chat is in full swing, and where those in the circle are with heads thrown back, all pre-big-laugh laughs. The storyteller is stalking attention and why would they stop to answer me?
Like his 2011 site-specific Artangel commission, Locked Room Scenario, (a ‘para-possible’ group show of invented artists the visitor was denied access to), Read Only lets you in, but only a little bit. No emotional shapes but apparent connective tissue, like a father who finds it difficult to say he loves you Gander doesn’t do feelings. Soooo needy, but I’m left wanting. Conceptualism doesn’t deal in hugs though, never has.
I’m not convinced it’s compelling storytelling, is it? Reaching towards so many Modernist signifiers in his work, we are denied the transformative. But this is prankstraction, and I can’t help thinking about the video interview I saw where it’s possible to see him working on hundreds of groups of index cards, containing images, jokes, scenarios, propositions, patterns, all lined up, just so, ready to be executed with a virtuosic command of materiality.
Most reviewers, critics and curators refute the title of ‘Conceptual artist’. Gander jokes about it, and all prefer ‘ideas artist’ or ‘inspiration-from-everything artist’. I prefer Ideas Man-boy. He comes from a long art historical genealogy of Ideas Men, each following the leader. And here in Melbourne, where public lectures, visiting artists and touring exhibitions can set off flurries of investigations into spirituality, choreography, the economy etc, will this set us off back into the bad old days of tricksy sk8er Unmonumental-ism? And while I’m asking, why is everyone wearing these? Are they really that comfortable?
Ryan Gander, Read Only, ACCA, Melbourne, 4 June – 2 August 2015.