Ryan Gander: Imagineering And The Culturefield Manchester Art Gallery

Ryan Gander

The Manchester Art Gallery is currently presenting ‘Make Every Show Like It’s Your Last’, a major new exhibition of work by the British artist, Ryan Gander. At the heart of the exhibition lies the concept of the imagination. Focusing on two recent themes in Gander’s practice, ‘Imagineering’ and the ‘Culturefield’, the exhibition will bring together works previously unseen in the UK to highlight the artist’s playful wit as well as explore the relationships between author, work and viewer where the rules are constantly redefined. Returning to the city where he studied his undergraduate degree, Gander will illustrate his close connection to Manchester through the creation of new work made exclusively for the exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery.

The act of storytelling has long played an important role in Gander’s work and Make every show like it’s your last builds on this tradition to explore the way ambiguous objects can act as vessels for multiple narratives. The works on display will also highlight Gander’s multidisciplinary process, and pieces will range from paintings, sculpture, film and photography, installations, slideshows, and even advertising campaigns on the streets of Manchester. Bringing together multifarious biographical, narrative and conceptual elements, the exhibition will reflect Gander’s interest in the nature of art production and the perception of objects, presenting a complex puzzle to be solved.

Exclusively to the Manchester Art Gallery presentation of this exhibition, Ryan Gander will be unveiling the latest work of his Degas’ Dancer series The Retinal Account, or And when you are older you will go away, You’ll see injustice and you’ll see pain. Gander is interested in the reinterpretation of iconic figures in art and has worked with Degas’ Dancer since 2008. As part of this series he enables the female figure to step down from her plinth, remove her tutu and explore the exhibition space that surrounds her. With each new staging of this work, a new narrative sequence is proposed and the dancer’s position in art history is questioned as she attempts to make a transition from modern to contemporary.

Another highlight of the exhibition will be Gander’s video work Imagineering, 2013 which takes the form of a fictional advertising campaign aimed at encouraging imagination among the British population. Commissioned by Gander and designed and produced by Kirke and Hodgson Advertising, with Henry Maynard Primary School, Walthamstow, the artist plays the role of the government’s Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS). Through this work, Gander imagines an alternative reality to our current political and creative climate in which the government has an ambition to promote creativity in the British psyche. As well as a TV commercial in the gallery space, a full print advertising campaign will take place around the city of Manchester to coincide with the duration of the exhibition.

Also referencing the fictional world and inviting the viewer to use their imagination is Tank with ‘Entrance to a Clearing’, which takes the form of a framed glass window leading to a forest. The fictional scene viewed from the window shows a place that Gander refers to as a ‘Culturefield’, a territory where creativity is experienced without any intellectual or conceptual boundaries.

The show will also include Magnus Opus, 2013 which features a pair of animatronic eyes that stare at passing visitors while reacting to their movement. Responding to visitors in the space around them, the eyes adopt a range of expressions such as curiosity, boredom, anger, concentration, confusion and happiness. Through this work, Gander reverses the traditional gallery experience and creates a situation in which it is the spectator who is being watched by the exhibition space.

Make every show like it’s your last will coincide with the launch of a new public artwork to be unveiled in September 2014, entitled Dad’s Halo Effect which will be installed as the centrepiece to the Beswick community hub regeneration project in East Manchester. Based on an idea described to Gander by his father, Dad’s Halo Effect will be composed of three, 3 metre highly polished stainless steel sculptures that represent chess pieces in a checkmate position. The idea for the sculpture was conceived while Gander’s father worked for General Motors and its forms will be based on parts of the steering mechanism of a commercial Bedford truck, signalling the tradition of heavy industry in the local area. Manchester Art Gallery will host a month of community art education workshops with schools in Beswick and local community groups.

To coincide with this exhibition, Castlefield Gallery (CG) in Manchester will present I Would Like to Join a Club and Hit Myself with It (11 July – 17 August 2014), a group show conceived in collaboration with Manchester Art Gallery which will explore the concept of ‘Culturefield’. The exhibition will include work by Ryan Gander alongside work by a number of artists based in the North-West including Robert Carter, Helen Collett, Monty, Lois MacDonald and Joe Fletcher Orr.

This exhibition will provide an insight into Gander’s diverse practice and build on recent critically acclaimed presentations, such as I need some meaning I can memorise (The Invisible Pull) presented dOCUMENTA 13, which featured a gust of wind that occupied the main exhibition space of the Fridericianum museum in Kassel; Gander’s 2011 project Locked Room Scenario, produced by Artangel that invited viewers to an exhibition in Hoxton that appeared to be closed, allowing the viewer to adopt a detective’s mentality and imagine what could not be seen; and his latest play on fictional narratives The Artists Have the Keys which takes over the National Trust’s 1930s house built and occupied by Hungarian émigré architect Ernö Goldfinger.

Ryan Gander has said of the exhibition: “I was looking forward to presenting Make every show like it’s your last at Manchester Art Gallery as the city of Manchester has always been important to me. Through this exhibition I am exploring my interest in stories, the way objects can act as vessels for narratives and the possibilities presented by the imagination.”

Ryan Gander Make Every Show Like It’s Your Last – Manchester Art Gallery  – 3 July – 14 September 2014 Press Preview: Wednesday 2 July 2014