Would you try your luck with a vending machine that dispenses random artworks for a £500 fee (about $640)?
British artist Ryan Gander’s latest art installation is on display at London’s Taro Nasu gallery as part of Frieze, an annual arts fair taking place in the city’s Regent’s Park.
The machine contains a total of 125 items, including stones that Gander has collected with his children, as well as cast versions of some of the most widely used and affordable digital watches. The watches aren’t real, but sculptures of the originals made with jesmonite (a composite material that can replicate any finish or texture). Other items include cast rolls of cash and a key card for a hotel room at the London hotel where Gander is staying for the duration of the Frieze fair.
The machine, which accepts card payments and has an elegant matte black finish, is part of an installation titled “Time Well Spent.”
“That’s because it’s about the economics of time,” explained Gander during a phone interview. “I’m very interested in the way that we understand time, and the way the world is changing around us has redefined our understanding of time.”
“There’s that old quote that time is money, which is completely incorrect and a bit futile now, because time isn’t money. Our attention is money. There is an information abundance and an attention shortage. I recognized very rapidly over the last five years that time and our attention is our greatest asset.”
The rest of the installation includes paintings and a book, which is a version “If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler,” a 1979 novel by Italian writer Italo Calvino, that Gander has re-typed using a typeface of his own invention that no one can read, in which the letters are replaced by shapes of stones – the same stones that can be obtained from the vending machine.
“These stones are millions of years old and each one is different from the other. I collected them from a beach with my children, then we designed a typeface using the stone shapes. I was teaching them about the way that language is just people agreeing on, you know, something,” he said.
The paintings are enlarged pages from the book, printed using the illegible stone typeface, then annotated over by the artist with black ink. “I repeated the annotations over them with a large calligraphy brush. They become a form of censorship, it makes them illegible in a way. But through that process they become an abstract, expressionist motif of what art is,” he said.
“The book is published. We will distribute these unreadable books in hospitals, prisons, hotels, lighthouses – places that have time abundance and attention abundance,” he continued, adding that he’s replaced the bible in the hotel room up for grabs with a copy of the book.
One of the stones in the machine contains a diamond, although Gander refrained from calling it the most valuable item: “It depends on how you define value, and what your perspective is,” he said.
“You could say that someone will be interested in the diamond. A completely different person will be interested in a unique stone that took 500 million years to make. Someone else would be interested in a cast of a watch as one piece around the stone, because formally it looks the most like art. Someone would be interested in the key card, because they want an experience,” he said.
“This is not made to attract a single type of person. It’s one of those things that starts in one place and explodes and ends up in a million places, which in my opinion is the objective of good artworks.”
“Time Well Spent” is on display at London’s Taro Nasu gallery until Oct. 6, 2019.