I used to think that conceptual art was a minefield. Damn. I still think that conceptual art is a minefield. But I tell you what. In Manchester Art Gallery, its present incarnation of an exhibition called ‘Culturefield’ is a great whopping minefield. Yes a total hop, skip and jump through Ryan Gander’s maze of wondrous conceptual incarnations.
Now, I will be honest that I still found some of his work complex and unfathomable, but it was fewer and far between than a lot of conceptual art shows I’ve been to over the years. Plus I liked his tongue-in-cheek humour, playful concepts (obviously influenced by his children) as well as other silly, yet not-so silly, ideas that may make your brain burn… let me give you an idea.
So some of the ‘pranks’ I loved were his mischievously draped marble sculptures. Instead of Greek heads or bodies, its his children’s play dens. At first glance they still look like white cotton sheets draped over pieces of furniture, so imagine your amazement when they turn out to be rock-solid.
Another one are the ‘portraits’ of all the people he has met in the world from a random person on the street, his butcher (I made that one up) to his solicitor (that too). You get the idea. Perspex plate after perspex plate of different sizes acting as the ‘face’, they are his ‘paint palette’ of features, characteristics, identities of various people… could anyone guess who was who. Its a great idea. A great concept. Luckily, there’s an accompanying list too.
My other favourite is a made-up photograph of a computer keyboard. Gander has simply taken an up-close photograph of a particular section of keys and made up his own symbol. Simple and wonderful. Ha what does it signify?
There are more that I quite like such as ‘The useless machine with blowing curtain’. And guess what. Its exactly that. I’m not sure what else to say except that its ironic in that you’d expect there to be a showreel or something really, really interesting going on behind the moving curtain but actually there’s not. Nada. Not a thing. Pretty cool stuff.
Some of the things I didn’t “get” were his montage of printed cards ‘How the present pierce the
past’. I didn’t quite understand that one. His constructed lampshades. Boxes of badges. Hmmmm. There’s quite a few, though I plan on changing that when I take one of the gallery’s curatorial tours soon. If there’s one thing I’m sure of and that’s that there is more to these works than meets the eye and in the name of ‘conceptual art’ I will be finding out their true nature. Keep posted.
So definitely head on over. This exhibition is totally accessible and fun. Kids will love it too. Look out for the moving eyes, the coin on the floor ready to be picked up (hehe) and a tv advertisement selling not very much (a short video of a woman jumping on a bed) to the highest bidder.
All I can say is let the confusion, despair, hope and joy wave over you and soak it up.
On until the 14th September.