Visitors to the Lisson Gallery booth at the Frieze art fair were greeted by an unusal sight: gallery assistants clad in two-tone linen uniform – a cross between evening wear and workers’ overalls. Some wore USB drive necklaces as accessories or pristine white sneakers designed to look like they collided with a puddle on their way to the tent through Regent’s Park. Devised as interventions to the format of the fair booth, the special edition gear was designed by artist Ryan Gander. Yet Gander’s interventions were subject to an intervention of their own: fellow artist Cory Arcangel, who printed a selection of his iconic Photoshop Gradient Demonstrations on the booth’s carpeted floor, showed an instructional piece where another sneaker-clad employee, sporting Arcangel Surfware hoodie and cap, used the art fair’s Wifi to download and watch Anchorman II on an iPad while on the job. Sleek did an impromptu interview with Gander to find out more about his designs, and got some important life advice on the way.
Sleek: The trainers you designed look like the person wearing them stepped into a puddle of mud. Is it because the way to the fair might be messy in the rain?
RG: It’s taken from the whole Glastonbury festival thing, where people get new trainers especially to go to the festival. In the north of England, in working class culture, having a new pair of trainers that are perfectly clean feeds back into a certain hierarchy, and making them artificially dirty is a spin on that.
Sleek: Do you think it will catch on and will one day be as natural as buying a pair of distressed, stone-washed jeans?
RG: Well, for now there are only a thousand of them and they’re all hand-painted with a special emulsion with gravel in it to make it more like mud.
Sleek: Tell me about the two-tone suits – how did they come about?
RG: There’s a label in Tokyo called CASH CA and another one called A.FOUR – I made a linen suit with them based on the prison uniform that Gandhi wore. It’s half brown half cream, and it has tails like a morning jacket. You could get them in Selfridges and there’ll also be another design of sneakers to go with them with Adidas. Those sneakers are one side white, and the other side is covered in sketches. They’re printed, and it’s the first time Adidas printed individual pieces of leather like that. They invested a lot of research considering there are only a thousand of them! I worked with Kazuki Kuraishi on them.
Sleek: You made them come up with a new technique to make these?
RG: You have to push things forward! I actually don’t even have any yet. But I’ve got friends who are a bit geeky about trainers and they got them on the internet from Berlin. They’re distributed more like editions, so they’re sent all over the world to small retailers.
Sleek: You do a lot collaborative work with brands on products that enter a different kind of market than your art work. What’s the attraction for you?
RG: It’s different to art but I do a lot of stuff like that, I recently designed a kitchen sink! I do consultancy, public art… I don’t just make art, so I’m quite used to the art/commerce or art/business crossover. It’s good to bring good ideas into different realms.
Sleek: You collaborated with Cory Arcangel on the interventions in the Lisson booth, did you two exchange notes?
RG: Cory is a really good friend, so I feel like… life is a collaboration with friends. Everything you do, really! The difference between life and art is so seamless anyway, and then friends are in your life, so it’s all kind of living and learning and working…and playing and discovering and learning… it’s good! It’s like cooking a really difficult meal.
Sleek: You make life sound like endless fun. Is that your natural positive attitude?
RG: I think art is like the thickener to happiness. I mean, I could have done any job. Well, not any job. I couldn’t have been an investment banker or a fireman, there are lots of things I couldn’t do. If you’re going to decide what job you should do, you should decide to do a job that’s going to make your life amazing. Art makes your life exciting and interesting. You get up in the morning and you have to go to Cambridge because you’re helping build a restaurant and a hospital, the next day you fly to Japan to meet someone at Adidas, and the next day you’re at the studio, and the day after you stay in bed and take it all in. It’s fun, fun, fun!
Sleek: I get the impression you’re not a big fan of routines.
RG: No, I hate routines. I spent a lot of time in hospital when I was a child so my days were totally routine and institutional. So maybe this is my way of flushing that sort of anal order away.
Interview by Hili Perlson
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