Retrospective Study for Dramaturgical Framework (The fighting Gaul’s next step, with elongated armature), 2018

Photo: The artist | Courtesy Lisson Gallery, London

Marble resin, stainless steel
115 x 127 x 50 cm

Interested in the conditions which govern artworks in art institutions, as well as in the relationship between spectator and spectacle, Ryan Gander has made a number of works which recreate and alter pre-existing sculptures from different periods of art history, to examine how certain mechanisms operate to structure a work’s existence in space. By deliberately exaggerating the scale or appearance of their supporting apparatuses and modifying their figurative positions, Gander highlights the contrast between the assumable athleticism of the figures depicted and the material reality of their life as sculpture, fixed in and by the institution of art. In Retrospective Study for Dramaturgical Framework (2018), this occurs through his literal extension of the sculpture’s armature beyond its necessary and functional length. The work takes its form from the Marble statue of a fighting Gaul, 2nd or 1st century B.C., housed in the Met Museum’s collection of Greek and Roman art.[1]Thought to depict a Roman enemy, the original sculpture consists of the remains of the upper leg, crotch and lower torso of a male fighter figure. The legs are spread wide, with the back leg positioned outstretched and the other placed several paces in front in an active stance. Despite its definitive lack or partialness, the original sculpture retains a dynamic sense of movement and enough detail to offer forms of social, historical and physical information that fuel the viewer’s imagination: it is possible to think of the fighter as being in the midst of a movement of attack or charge. 
By simply re-presenting the figure in what would have been his next step, Gander exploits the potential offered by the viewer’s imagination. Comparing Gander’s piece with the original sculpture shows that he has changed the fighter’s position so that the foot which originally grounded the front leg now grounds the back. The armature which originally gave a skeletal impression of the fighter’s unfleshed shinbones, has also been extended to an exaggerated length so as to have been transformed into two large rods which plant the fighter on his plinth. The contrast between the apparent liberation of the fighter from his original fixed stance and the increased sense of immovability suggested by his enlarged metal framework creates a tension around the condition of his place in both art history and in his resurrection in the contemporary field in which Gander operates. His series of sculptures modelled on Edgar Degas’ Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer work via the same concerns. Speaking of his recreations of the ballerina in diverse positions he has said: “The magic recipe or spell in this work was an equation of four components: the figure - a human form saturated in history and sociology; the institution of art - the gallery space, the frames, the pedestals, the plinths, all the mechanisms that contribute to an artwork’s preservation and stature; contemporary art… and finally, the visitor, the spectator. In this equation it is not the four individual components that make up the stuff that we call art, but the relationships and interplay between them.”[2]The selection of these figures for their original athleticism, flexibility, and agility calls attention to the material weight of their existence as sculpture. As with Gander’s dancer, in Retrospective Study for Dramaturgical Framework, what lies at the heart of the artist’s recreation of the fighter is a paradox: a circle is drawn from his original stasis in art history and in the institution in which he is housed, to his re-insertion through Gander’s practice to another state of fixity. Between these two points, he became discharged by an act of Gander’s imagination, only to return and become subject to the same conditions which inspired his attempted deliverance from what Gander has called the “institutional ball and chain” [3]of the plinth. –Elsa Gray

[1]See Accessed 2 August 2019.
[2]Ryan Gander Curates Night in the Museum: A Touring Exhibition from the Arts Council Collection (London: Hayward Publishing, 2016), 18.
[3]ibid, 16.
Ryan Gander’s practice is guided by a keen curiosity about storytelling and narrative construction; a consideration of the way objects can be used to implicate meaning and therefore transcend their material reality. Often seeming opaque or impervious, Gander intentionally omits critical details in order to urge the viewer to conceptualise a fitting narrative. The artist understands his role as providing subtle clues and prompts that are ripe with interpretative potential.

This biography is from Wikipedia under an Attribution-ShareAlike Creative Commons License