ryan gander text RACHEL BUCHHOLTZER
Ryan Gander is an artist for right now. The poster child of his recent exhibition, “Make Every Show Like It’s Your Last,” is Magnus Opus, a pair of giant roving animatronic eyes set in the gallery wall. It is a cartoon-cliché of the haunted portrait with the wandering eyes. The work is linked to the rest of the exhibition in Gander’s quintessential mode: loosely. His overall body of work, a freely associative mix of multimedia pieces, ranges from idiosyncratic sculptures made of household goods, to sartorial collaborations with adidas and 84-Lab.
If art today is often prized for its imageability—its Instagram likeability— then Gander’s work operates by using expectations to catapult abnormality. As the show’s curator, Mark Lanctôt, observed, the shifting eyes of Magnus Opus consistently provoked muted exclamations of surprise from museum-goers. Gander’s work challenges the way we engage with physical and institutional space. How do you act in a gallery? Gander pushes the viewer to ask this question of themselves, cutting through a lot of the pretension that often surrounds the art milieu. He is unapologetically vocal about this, calling out everyone from trust-funded artists to lazy viewership. On the occasion of his exhibition in Montreal, he spoke with Rachel Buchholtzer. It seems like your audience has to do a lot of work at your exhibitions. Ryan Gander: I think good art isn’t really complete without the spectator. It’s funny how developed the human race is, but 95% of art is still hung on the wall—you just look at it, and then you walk onto the next piece of work. It’s kind of spectacularly ridiculous. You’ve talked about there being “infinite stuff” around us that has the potential to inspire a work. How do you know when an idea is worth pursuing? That’s difficult. I guess when you’re given something on a silver plate, it doesn’t mean as much to you as if you discover something. When you discover something on your own grounds, it’s almost like it belongs to you. In that sense, I think it’s always good to make spectators work a little bit, to get the idea, or to get a sense of ownership. For the show in Montreal, there are three works that are crumpled pieces of paper on the floor and they look like litter. There’s a piece of letter paper with a drawing of a fictional dinner seating plan on it, and there’s one that’s
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