Paris

Ryan Gander, Ampersand (detail), 2012, one element of a mixed-media installation additionally comprising a conveyor belt and sixty-five objects, dimensions variable.

Ryan Gander, Ampersand (detail), 2012, one element of a mixed-media installation additionally comprising a conveyor belt and sixty-five objects, dimensions variable.

Ryan Gander

Palais de Tokyo

Ryan Gander, Ampersand (detail), 2012, one element of a mixed-media installation additionally comprising a conveyor belt and sixty-five objects, dimensions variable.

Ryan Gander’s solo show “Ampersand” is the first installment of an “Artist’s Library” exhibition series curated by Akiko Miki. It begins with a window presenting, one by one, sixty-six objects on a conveyor belt. While some were made by the artist and a few were gifts of sentimental value, the majority are consumer goods. All belong to Gander’s personal collection. Ranging from absurdities worthy of a SkyMall catalogue (Zippo perfume) to status symbols (a Leica M9) to what could be office belongings gathered by somebody who’s just been fired (a box of Niceday binders), they amount to a library of objects that would make for an astonishing time capsule. With their order of appearance flouting typology and formal similarity, the task of dreaming up connections between the objects is left to the viewer. In this, the entire exhibition runs counter to Gander’s earlier photo-library–based projects such as the “Loose Associations” slide-show lectures, 2002– , wherein visual threads of logic are immediately apparent and conceptual connections, however far-fetched, are served up by the artist-lecturer.

A poster on which the installation’s objects are alphabetically listed is freely available. It is also presented in an illuminated display case whose light makes the French translation, printed backward on the verso, show through with the English. A neighboring display case presents a copy of Gander’s book Ampersand: Notes on a Collection (all works 2012), placed open but facedown. You could say he has written a backstory for each of the “characters” of his revolving installation, whose structure has the effect of a continuous static-shot film. Characteristically, he “never let(s) the truth get in the way of a good story,” which, in the book, he specifies is the best advice his father ever gave him, and there is as much mention of his wife, mother, and brother as of Theo van Doesburg or Josef and Anni Albers. But even if these backstories give the reader’s line of thought a good spin, Gander refrains from making them intersect. In telling about his exchange of a work for a Bamford Rolex watch, the artist ponders the worth of art and identifies storytelling as the foremost value system in his practice. Indeed, as he casually quips about his Rimowa carry-on lifestyle and enthuses about modes of production, you wonder why stories surrounding the conveyor belt itself are not part of this picture. Or are they? The installation includes a reconstruction of a satchel that once belonged to William Morris. In the book, Gander points out the importance of what came out of that satchel, since Morris was known to actively distribute from it anarchist-communist pamphlets, some of which he penned himself. Gander then recounts a time when he sketched a caricature of an unnamed Spanish artist whose seeming pseudo-politics irked him—“an Ugg boot and puffer-jacket-wearing Marxist”—only to find, the next morning, Morris’s satchel magically added to the figure. Could this be a draft for one of Gander’s fictional artist-characters, such as Aston Ernest or Santo Sterne, through whom he sometimes makes work? If so, apart from having a nice bag, what would this artist distribute from it?

The rolling cast of artifacts also occupies the nearby men’s and women’s rooms, where over loudspeakers visitors could hear the list of items enumerated, the name of each one spoken by a different voice. Ampersand, the installation, the poster, the book, and the spoken recording, all have the same characters, but their order of appearance is rewritten according to their carefully considered manifestation. At the other end of the building is a series of Associative Ghost Templates, layers of Plexiglas presenting holes where pictures and articles had been arranged on a pinboard. Here, the form of Gander’s associative thinking, which he’s explored over the past decade, has been hollowed of all content—possibly freeing up your gaze to take in the nearby designer chair on which a guard is sitting.

Jian-Xing Too