New York

Ryan Gander

Artists Space Exhibitions

Both works in London-based artist Ryan Gander’s New York debut make productive use of a disconnect between sound and image. In The First Grand National, 2003, a small monitor facing the wall illuminates an empty, black-carpeted room. A color-bar test pattern on the screen casts a gently moving rainbow on the wall as an elderly Englishwoman holds forth on various methods of high-speed typing, perfume, and, predominantly, the BBC Radio 4 programming—plays, the news, the shipping forecast, Women’s Hour—that is her daily companion. A quaver in her voice, buttressed by our understanding that her preferred links to the outside world are showing their age as much as she is, gives the oration an elegiac tone. (Likewise the Grand National, England’s premier horse race, is one of only ten sporting events guaranteed live broadcast on network television, itself a dying technology now mostly replaced by satellite transmission.)

Gander, whose heterogeneous practice includes sound works, videos, posters, text pieces, photographs, and site-specific installations, and whose methodology sometimes seems more like that of an art director than an artist, doesn’t often use his formidable talents to provoke an emotional response. But by pairing The First Grand National ’s narration with an unconnected abstract image—as opposed to, say, a scene of a little old lady in her rundown flat—Gander encourages us to pay greater attention to her words and, by extension, to empathize with her plight.

Previously, Gander has created works that thematize their own production or the manner in which they are exhibited. In one example, Brown Corduroy Lounge, 2001, he presented a sequence of photographs inspired by a Serge Gainsbourg album cover, each taken with a different format camera (35 mm, 6 x 6 cm, and 6 x 7 cm), to show the varying amounts of visual information captured by each. The sound track of his 2005 installation at STORE in London described in detail the physical properties of the space itself.

Is this guilt in you too—(The study of a car in a field), 2005, is in the same vein as the latter work. It is a video installation enclosed in a room slightly larger than the one housing The First Grand National, but with white walls and an ivory-color carpet. Originally created for Annet Gelink Gallery’s Art Statements booth at last summer’s Art Basel fair, the visual component of the piece is a minute-long video loop in which, after a fade from black to white, an airborne camera zooms in from above on a car idling in the middle of a snowy field near a stand of trees. But there are no tire tracks, and everything seems a bit too perfect. By placing the projector behind the wall, Gander makes his video loop an equally “impossible” apparition.

A ten-to-fifteen-minute audio track performs a pas de deux with this repeating scene, as an intelligent young girl responds to verbal prompts we cannot hear. She describes what we are seeing in real time, speculating on how the car got there; explains that “it’s going to be shown in the art fair, in Basel” and what exactly an art fair is; ruminates on whether or not the image is “real” before deciding it is digitally constructed; and even selects a track from a CD as part of a potential musical sound track for the video. As in Gander’s earlier pieces, everything is interrogated. The young girl’s gloss punctures the seamlessness of the artwork, but none of its power to fascinate slips through the cracks.

Brian Sholis