16 December 2006
David Watson reviews Ryan Gander's contribution to Full Circle Arts' 'Adjustments' season, on show at Old Whitechapel Library, 14 October to 5 November 2006.
Situated in the old Whitechapel Library, entering the cool darkness of what will one day be the new Commissions Gallery of the Whitechapel Gallery is at once both disorientating and soothing after the pandemonium of Whitechapel High Street at rush hour.
Soothing that is until you trip over a brick or an overturned chair or some other example of the detritus littering the floor. Welcome to Ryan Gander's new installation 'Is this guilt in you too?' (Cinema Verso).
Lit only by the flickering half-light of a makeshift white-washed cinema screen that dominates one wall, careful squinting reveals you are in what appears to be a partially renovated storeroom. Discarded tools and building materials are strewn across the floor; probably part of the artwork but just as likely evidence of the gallery's ongoing refurbishment. A back-projected blurred film shimmers to a muffled soundtrack. A pool of clear sound close to the right corner of the screen draws you to a scratched patch revealing the empty auditorium beyond the glass. You're in the wrong place; you're on the wrong side of the screen.
To the left of the screen a door waits, promising entrance to the cinema. But the corridor beyond leads only to a locked door. You're forced to retrace your steps and return to the space behind the cinema screen. It dawns on you about then that this is it. This is the artwork. A dark empty room with rubbish covering the floor. A blurred, through the looking-glass vision of a film; the back-projected imagery rendered even vaguer and less distinct by the opaque painted glass standing in for the screen. A muffled, barely audible soundtrack; a directional speaker strategically placed to draw the audience to that one area where the sound is intelligible, where they can't help but discover the existence of the cinema they're excluded from.
Part of the Arts Council-funded series of 'Adjustments' exhibitions whose stated aim is to 'address transitional thinking on disability equality and inclusion', Ryan Gander's 'Is this guilt in you too?' (Cinema Verso) is a perfect example of conceptual art that's all concept and precious little art. In some ways reminiscent of his previous work 'But it was all green' (an installation which used a broken display screens found at bus stops to symbolise life's unsuccessful search for meaning or possibly just how useless Transport for London's passenger information service is), 'Is this guilt in you too?' (Cinema Verso) is a disorientating and unsatisfying experience.
If the intention behind the installation is to somehow symbolise the discrimination and inequity faced by disabled people when trying to visit the cinema (and by inference the discrimination they face in everyday society) then Gander succeeds admirably. The only thing it lacks is an usher barring entry to the cinema on the grounds you may be a fire hazard. Perhaps his blurred images and fuzzy sound are somehow an attempt to comment on the fragile, transitory nature of both sight and hearing. Or perhaps his distorted, fragmentary film is simply an attempt to confuse, to muddle, to induce a sense of mental and physical disorientation. Who knows?
Ultimately 'Is this guilt in you too?' (Cinema Verso) induces a hollow sense of disappointment, a sense of being excluded (whether that be from society in general, the world of the arts or just the cinema, is probably dependent on the viewer) and, in myself, a sense of anger. Admittedly in my case that sense of anger was just as likely to be because I had just spent 75 minutes getting there on the bus in order to not see a film. But then again, maybe that was Gander's intention all along…
To read more about Ryan Gander go to Store Gallery and Tate Britain
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