Review: Ryan Gander, “The Connectivity Suite (and other places)”

Esther Schipper, Berlin.

Art can, at times, feel like magic: Mix materials with a sleight of hand, master the showmanship, distract with a story, and voilà!—you’ve created something from nothing. But to pull off the trick, one must conjure an audience’s imagination. To similar effect, the constituent parts of multi-media artist Ryan Gander’s exhibition “The Connectivity Suite (and other places)” befit a magic show, including theatrical curtains, trick coins, and a continuous stream of performative airs.

Lining the gallery from ceiling to floor are wispy gray curtains, pulled away in one section to reveal “Elevator to Culturefield” (all works 2016) — a façade of life-size elevator doors in metal relief. In the foreground, a lone balloon is depicted accompanying two decorative frames with a landscape view of a school far off in the woods, peeking out from behind the clouds. This is “Culturefield,” the unrealized art school of Gander’s dreams, imprinted on an elevator whose static doors cannot open. Gander presents the portal to this idealized space for creativity, but withholds the key to unlock it.

In “General Studies,” an inlaid vent set low on the adjoining wall expels a constant flow of air, causing the curtain to billow as if a phantom child is playing behind it. Transformative processes of inanimate and animate and tangible and intangible objects are recurring themes in Gander’s work: the liminal spaces that give rise, with a childlike innocence, to creativity, imagination, and self-realization. Gander’s process notes, which read as poetic lists, are written on a business directory light box titled “The Connectivity Suite.” A litany of “Acts” and “Treatments” cover sections like “The Baggage,” “Labour,” and “Morathics.” Is creativity also an order of business?

Connecting the tedious aspects of artistic labor with unencumbered perspectives on creativity, Gander enlists his young daughter Olive for the short film “Portrait Of A Colour Blind Artist Obscured By Flowers.” The artist is seen hiding behind flower arrangements, compiling images in groups in front of a wall of A4 papers with printed notes for future project ideas like “Cultivate errors” and “Post Life Romantic.” Close-ups of colored wooden blocks, sculptures, and paintbrushes are followed by a blue screen and voiceover of Olive’s voice critiquing the film; she asks, “Your film makes me think it must be lonely to be an artist, but is it?” The sentimental film pulls back the guise of creative magic — the laborious effort it takes to try and make dreams come true.

First published on, July 15th, 2016, and the print issue of Modern Painters, September 2016. Link to PDF

arielle bier