Locked Room Scenario

Ryan Gander

Dairy distribution depot, London
29 August 2011 - 23 October 2011

Video: A Tour of Locked Room Scenario

10 minutes 37 seconds
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Gander is tapping in here to that dangerous animal trait, curiosity. There is nothing more annoying or intriguing than a locked room. What's behind the door? – The Times

A group show in a warehouse in Hoxton: sculptures, paintings, photographs, performance and video. You'd made an appointment to see the show. When you arrived, the building was open but the exhibition appeared to be closed. Or maybe the show was over, and the works were waiting to be taken away? Offering fragmentary glimpses of an exhibition, inaccessible spaces, partially visible artworks, and leftover or discarded pieces of information, Locked Room Scenario prompted a number of questions. Who were these artists and what are their interconnected histories? What was Gander's role in bringing the exhibition together in this warehouse?

Locked Room Scenario invited the viewer to adopt a detective's mentality to piece together the available clues, scrutinise detail, and imagine what could not be seen. An accumulation of evidence, encounters with objects, information and passers-by precipitated an unnerving awareness of fact and fiction beginning to merge, a sense of the uncanny that even pursued visitors as they left. 

Video: A Tour of Locked Room Scenario

This video is a walk-through of Ryan Gander's Locked Room Scenario.

Also available to view on Vimeo and YouTube.

Film: Federico Urdaneta
Image: Locked Room Scenario, 2011 installation at Londonewcastle Depot, Hoxton. Photograph: Julian Abrams

About Ryan Gander

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Ryan Gander

Ryan Gander is a British artist born in 1976. He has established an international reputation through artworks that materialise in many different forms from sculpture to film, writing, graphic design, installation, performance and more. His work springs from jackdaw instincts for appropriation and re-presentation, and associative thought processes that connect the everyday and the esoteric, the overlooked and the commonplace.

Images: (left) Locked Room Scenario. Photograph:Julian Abrams. (Above) Ryan Gander. Photograph: courtesy of Lisson Gallery.

Illustrations: Badaude

Illustrations by Badaude
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Illustrations by Badaude

On 7 October 2011, the writer and illustrator Badaude paid a visit to Locked Room Scenario. She was being trailed for the day by a reporter and photographer from Hong Kong, and had arranged to meet with Artangel's web editor. Subsequently she produced a four-page illustration. A certain Oulipian restraint applies. 

Image: (left) Badaude's illustration of her experience at Locked Room Scenario, 2011. 1 of 4 pages.



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To find the solution to the puzzle, Gander makes us crawl on all fours, peer into smelly lavatories, pick our way through a rubbish-strewn tip, and stare in frustration at locked doors and inaccessible spaces. – Richard Dorment, The Telegraph

Selected Press

The press release hypothesises that the show might be over, but I don't believe that for a second; the pungent smell of newly-laid carpet pervades the space and the blue velvet sausages hanging limply between the barrier posts are glinting with a never-been-touched glow. The Tate-style timeline is pasted to the wall, and the laser-cut lettering listing the artists names is intact, an imaginary Situationist group show; a knowing nod from Gander to the Situationist's trend of constructed environments in relation to his own joy in fakery. — Lauren Godfrey, The Playground. 

This is a creepy experience - the corridors are dark, almost too dark to see in places; you feel your way along walls half-carpeted with dense blue shagpile in an eerie quiet, broken only by the "schlick" of a slide projector and the ghostly soundtrack of a looping video piece, left on, presumably, by the same slovenly invigilator who left the crumpled packet of Gitanes and a dog-eared copy of Le Monde just inside one of the doors. — Nancy Durrant, The Times, 31 August 2011.

[...] The odd thing is that in spite of the fact that, like Nat Tate, Gander's Blue Conceptualists are also all fictional, like art detectives, we piece together all this information about them (and the more closely you look, the more of it you'll find) until our imagination forms it into a plausible back story. It may be based in fantasy but like reading a good novel it allows you to imagine an alternative reality that's detailed and multi-layered enough to merge with your own. — Helen Sumpter, Time Out, 6 September 2011.

The interesting thing about inaccessibility is that it’s frequently more intriguing than the actuality of accessing a space. When you’re given something on a silver plate, you often disregard it, but if you find something on the floor, you put it in your pocket and you’re on your own when you find it, you value it a great deal more. — Ryan Gander, TateShots.

Audio: Ryan Gander and Joe Dunthorne discuss Locked Room Scenario

And other audio recordings
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Audio: Ryan Gander and Joe Dunthorne discuss Locked Room Scenario and other audio recordings

To complement Ryan Gander’s Artangel project Locked Room Scenario, a range of talks explored some of the myriad, loosely associated themes he alighted upon in devising his work. Joe Dunthorne joins Ryan Gander to discuss Locked Room Scenario. Recorded at the Tab Centre in Shoreditch, London on 29 September 2011.

Joe Dunthorne was brought up in Swansea and now lives in London. His debut novel Submarine, was adapted for the big screen and directed by Richard Ayoade. His second novel, Wild Abandon was published by Hamish Hamilton in August 2011

You can listen to the talk on Soundcloud

You can listen to the project's other events on Soundcloud. 

Talk: Locked Room Scenario — Clare Birchall, Conspiracy Theories and Cultural Anxiety

Clare Birchall teaches at the University of Kent. She is author of Knowledge Goes Pop: From Conspiracy Theory to Gossip and co-editor of New Cultural Studies. She writes about popular knowledge’s, the politics of secrecy, and new cultures of transparency.

Recorded on Thursday 13 October 2011 at The Tab Centre, Austin St, Shoreditch, London E2 7NB.


Talk: Locked Room Scenario — Frank Clifford , Exploring Astrology

If you think astrology is simply the daily star sign columns in the tabloids, think again! In this practical and fun talk, Frank will introduce the subject – its many uses and applications – and provide insights that’ll help you interpret your own birth chart. Along the way, he’ll look at what each of the twelve zodiac signs was born to do in life.

Frank Clifford is a full-time astrologer and palmist. He has written a number of books on both subjects, including Palmistry 4 Today (Random House), which is available in half a dozen languages. He runs classes and workshops in astrology and palmistry from late October each year at the London School of Astrology, based in Euston. Frank’s websites are at www.flareuk.com and www.londonschoolofastrology.co.uk

Recorded on 20 September 2011 at The Tab Centre, Austin St, Shoreditch, London E2 7NB.


Talk: Locked Room Scenario  Baroness Susan Greenfield, How can neuroscience help us understand consciousness?

Susan Greenfield is Professor of Pharmacology at Oxford University and a neuroscientist, writer, and broadcaster. She has been awarded 30 Honorary Degrees from British and foreign universities and heads a multi-disciplinary research group exploring novel brain mechanisms linked to neurodegenerative diseases such Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. In addition, she has published a neuroscientific theory of consciousness (The Private Life of Brian, 2003) and developed an interest in the impact of 21st Century technologies on how young people think and feel, as discussed in her book ID: The Quest for Identity in the 21st Century (2008).

Recorded on 7 October 2011 at The Tab Centre, Austin St, Shoreditch, London E2 7NB.


Image: (left) Detail from Ryan Gander, Locked Room Scenario, 2011. Photograph: Julian Abrams

Writing: A Failure to Know

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Writing: A Failure to Know

By Anthony Uhlmann, 2011

The art of combining is not my fault. It’s a curse from above – Samuel Beckett, Enough

Google ‘The Blue Conceptualists’. Some hits bear Gander’s imprint: the references to works by fake artists on real websites; the YouTube clip ‘In Search of Mary’; the homepage of the Kimberling gallery. Other links seem distinct from the work, but are drawn into it: the lyrics to the hit ‘To Build a Home’, which includes the title of a work by Mary Aurory, ‘There is a tree as old as me’, alongside heartfelt interpretations of the song’s meaning; the equally authentically awkward website by a mathematician called Kimberling. Then a blog that urges you to see Gander’s show because it mixes conceptualism (an art of ideas) with Picasso’s blue period (an art of emotion). While at first seeming inadequate the link is precise. Locked Room Scenario makes you feel an idea: one written in bold type before the second locked door: ‘Field of Meaning’.

You connect jumbled elements that generate a sensation of meaningfulness. The first stairway is barred by two demonstrative teens: you feel you can’t approach. The second is pitch black: your eyes adjust to reveal a door with a keyhole (you look through with trepidation). The corridor (marked, like many elements, by blue roped partitions) leads to the second locked door. At first you fail to notice the woman in a blue dress dancing behind the heavily opaque glass, but when you return the occluded spectacle assumes the very structure of desire. A large room carries a press release and timeline for the Blue Conceptualists. Postcard reproductions of their works are dispersed nearby. Through an internal office window these images recur: on a magazine cover, a poster, a CCTV screen. The space becomes charged with combinations. The colour blue repeats and gathers significance. You enter a blue corridor, remember a line from the press release that links it to the keyhole motifs on one postcard, and recognise the corridor on the CCTV screen. The main works, only partially visible through blinds, stand in a locked room. Under a large image of a naked woman a message states that what is important now is to make the life one has left meaningful. An iPhone chimes behind another locked door: surrounded by older phones, worn out by the failure to connect, its blue world throbs out an unanswered call. Past them trees, perhaps Mary Aurory’s, stare back, and voices are dimly heard. 

Outside, the graffiti ‘Mary Aurory Sorry’ leads you behind the building; a blue hose draws you to a mail chute full of unopened letters to Spencer Anthony. Through the glass are two coffin-sized boxes on their ends marked ‘Mary Aurory’ and a blue neon sculpture. Meaning, felt through accumulation, generates a widening field. On the street, some distance away, a stranger points to something you have ‘dropped’. Two pages from a memoire explain how it was not Spencer, but another who took to forlornly scrawling ‘Mary Aurory Sorry’ after her departure. 

There is a feeling of distance and loss, of working one’s whole life and failing to be understood. The idea of meaning Gander makes you feel aches of a failure to know or be known, a soul shaped stain you recognise, and somehow here seem to approach.

Anthony Uhlmann is editor of the Journal of Beckett Studies and the Director of the Writing and Society Research Centre at the University of Western Sydney, Australia. 



Writing: A letter from Mary Aurory

And other essays
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Writing: a letter from Mary Aurory

By Naomi Alderman 2011

Dear Murray,

I can't write to Spencer. He'll start looking at postmarks and figuring things out. But listen, you have to convince him somehow to stop. 

I know he's putting them where I can see them. Sometimes I think he must be watching me, following me. I never see him but it's like he's everywhere now. And it’s not right, Murray. It’s not good for him, and I hate it. Please, tell him to stop. 

And he’ll say no, he has to apologise. But he doesn’t. He has. I’ve understood. But whether or not he’s sorry is almost nothing of it, you know. It’s not just about him: his regret, his sorrow. Tell him if I wanted to find him, I’d find him. Tell him he’s not hard to find. Tell him women aren’t a puzzle to be solved. Tell him it’s not up to him to go questing for me, a knight with a white pot of paint. Tell him he has to let me go. 

Listen, tell him everyone gets to lock their own room. He’ll understand that. Tell him everyone’s doors only open from the inside. All you can do otherwise is press your ear to the door. And it’s not comfortable, doing that. No one wants you to. Other people will spot you there eventually with your ear pressed to the door, eavesdropping. There’s a reason people don’t do that. 

Listen, tell him if someone won’t let you in you can’t keep trying to get in. 

And you can’t keep something you love locked up, you know. Even if he found me, even if he made me come back. And you can’t break into that secret room. You could break down the door, but then you’d destroy it. Once you smashed into that locked room you’d find nothing in there worth the price of the destruction. You’d never get the door to fit right again. Once you’ve cut something open, you’ve killed it. 

Read the rest.


Read other essays  in conjunction with the Locked Room Scenario project.

In a Locked Room, Steven Poole, 2011

An a-priori derivation for the weak Spencer Anthony conjecture (excerpts), Vincenzo Latronico, 2011




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Who made this possible?