Happenstance: Ryan Gander

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Alex Coles: I'm particularly interested in your collaborative works with designers--they seem to expand the already broad discursive territory that you move around in. But I find it curious that, given your general interest in triggering discourse on your work and producing work as discourse with the ongoing series of i'Loose Association Lectures', you don't have a discourse worker on the payroll in your studio.

Ryan Gander: What's a discourse worker? A clever bod?

Kind of ...

What would they do in my studio? Blog about me?

Perhaps, but they could also read books that you don't have time to read and generate seminars and conierences about your work--generally accumulating discourse on it.

Would you have to pay them more because they're clever?

I'm not too sure, but I can try and find out for you. One thing a discourse worker would do is ensure that interesting essays and interviews were strategically commissioned for books and catalogues about your work. I noticed that the book you did with the graphic design collective Abdke, Ryan Gander: Catalogue Raisonnable, Vol. 1, 2010, doesn't have any new texts in it at all. Your discourse worker could have plugged that hole for you,. But I guess that the book doesn't need any new essays: it is already textually dense because of the way Abdke designs. In fact, it is really unusual for an artist to have such an open attitude towards collaborating with graphic designers.

Do you think?

Definitely. Most artists probably wouldn't view it as a collaborative process at all--or at least not to the extent that you do.

I studied interactive art at Manchester Metropolitan University so there were playwrights, ballet dancers, computer animators, furniture designers as well as graphic designers on the course. They were just people I would talk with.

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Maki Suzuki from Abake walked me through the design process of your book a little in preparation for this interview, explaining how at the beginning of the research for the book you personally selected the pieces you did and didn't want to include, and how as a result this made Maki want to include everything you had ever done in the book. But not everything is in there. There is an erratum that lists the pieces that have been taken out--mainly for political reasons.

Like what?

You know--when you've made something and then you make another one but give it a different name. Anything that could make me look like a trustafarian trying to generate cash was taken out. Works that I remade afterwards but didn't want to delete from history were also taken out and works that I generally felt were rubbish. Basically, everything is in the book, but not everything is glorified.

Were Abake the first graphic designers you collaborated with?

No, that was Stuart Bailey of Dexter Sinister and The Lending Library.

So it was always important for you to be in dialogue with graphic designers?

Yeah. And when I was in Amsterdam for three years, Stuart lived down the road. We were like the expats and would have dinner together every night.

What year is this?

1999 to 2001. Stuart was teaching and starting up Dot Dot Dot and I was at the Rijksakademie.

When was your first collaboration?

We worked on the book Appendix for two years before it was published in 2003. There are probably 150 pages in it but it felt like we generated something like 500-odd. In 2007 we did a sequel Appendix, Appendix and laid it out at Marc Fox gallery in Los Angeles while I was having a show there.

Sofior you a graphic designer was always another form of ipractitioner? Yes. I've designed a few books myself but I don't feel so comfortable in this role. That 'jack of all trades master of none' thing always worries me. I prefer someone else to do it. …