Lisson Gallery

FOCUS: Ryan Gander, 'The End'

The End is the final work in a trilogy of prophetic, animated mice, voiced by the artist’s young daughters. In each, the mouse appears from the debris of a hole in a wall to philosophise, commanding the room with a tiny, innocent voice, inviting the visitor to kneel down to hear what it has to say. In the first in the series, 2000 year collaboration (The Prophet) (2018), the mouse addresses the room, recounting a speech inspired by Charlie Chaplin in the 1940 film, The Great Dictator. Using the structure of this positive moral and ethical oration, written at such a critical time in history, Gander has re-written it from a post-simulacrum, or post-digital perspective, an unimaginable future without the crutches of instant information gratification. In the second work I... I... I... (2019), similarly written by Gander and narrated by his eldest daughter, the mouse evidently has something pivotal to say but struggles to get the words out. The frustration is palpable and reminds us all of our need to be heard.

In the third, final speech of the series — The End — the mouse, now voiced by Gander’s youngest daughter, delivers a profound sermon on some of the biggest questions that face humanity from our ability to cognitively time travel to our limitations in being able to foresee our own end. The work has an apocalyptic undertone but invites an embrace of the inevitability of mortality, and how the healthy acceptance of this can give us a renewed energy and optimism — "to make the most of the time and attention that we have".

The End (2020), was completed just before the outbreak of coronavirus and yet seems to be written in relation to this epic transformation in all our lives. Gander comments: "Some people refer to them as little prophets, and theyre meant to predict the future in some way, or possible versions of what the future could hold, but when I was writing the script I had no idea of what was about to transpire. Now, the work encapsulates a moment in the history of humankind and predicts something, and talks about something, that affected and is affecting now, every soul on the planet."

In each work in the series, the mouse demands our attention by refusing to be the one that shouts the loudest. As Gander states, "In this era where there's a lot of noise and flashing and blinking and worrying and beeping and bright colours and shiny surfaces and reflections and a rainbow and loud noises and whoops and bangs — all of which are aimed at commanding our attention — that actually, you don't need to shout anymore, that a whisper will suffice. And sometimes a whisper commands greater attention because society has realised that the things that grab our attention are often the things that aren't valid and valuable information."

Gander goes on to say that, "as predictors, as mini prophets, as protagonists that speculate about a future, the trilogy of mice all talk about time. And time really feels to me like it is the subject of our time. The art world is saturated with artworks and exhibitions about identity politics and about the internet and about things that are now. But now is not the subject of now. Time and the future is the subject of our time. Time is all that we have left and attention is our greatest asset."

Listen to Gander describe the series in the latest episode of the podcast, Lisson...ON AIR

Ryan Gander: The End_GAND200001 artwork
Ryan Gander: The End_GAND200001 artwork
Ryan Gander: The End_GAND200001 artwork
Ryan Gander: The End_GAND200001 artwork

I... I... I..., 2019

The second of the trilogy of mice was also narrated by Olive. But of course as she was a little bit older, maybe 10 or 11 by then, her voice had changed quite a bit so it was almost like this mouse was another perspective or another person. And it was a small white mouse this time, and the work was called I... I... I....

This came from a conversation that I had with Penelope, my youngest daughter, where her mental and cognitive agility and imagination had developed very quickly but her capabilities of language at about age four or five hadn't caught up with that, so she was having very complex ideas, but struggling to find the words to communicate them. And because she was getting slightly frustrated with trying to communicate these complex thoughts, she would often pause and get frustrated. It would end up with her using the words I, I, I” almost as if she was playing for time, to try and find the right vocab to express the way she was feeling.

The second mouse is quite telling of an era where everybody wants to tell a story and everybody wants attention, and everybody wants to speak. But most of the time, people actually don't have anything to say. Of course, this was the other way around with Penelope. She had lots to say, but was struggling to find the words. When I watch this now, I feel a sort of sadness for the mouse in its struggle to find the words. — Ryan Gander

2000 year collaboration (The Prophet), 2018

"You can be anything you want if you put your mind to it! But your achievements mean nothing if they are not of your own making."

The first of this trilogy of mice works was a small, light brown animatronic mouse that had broken through the wall... and delivered a speech. My nine-year-old daughter Olive repeated after me in a recording studio, a script that I'd written. The speech was a re-writing of an original script by Charlie Chaplin from The Great Dictator from 1940... I rewrote that speech from a sort of post-simulacrum perspective — in that I imagined a future in 50 years time where humankind had denounced technology and put away their forms of enhanced communication, and done away with accelerated capitalism and growth society...

In ancient cultures and civilizations, like if you look at Aboriginal societies in Australasia, they had 250 languages, most of which are now extinct. But none of those languages had a word for past, present, future or time. Those were civilizations that lived in a state of stasis where the objective was to survive and not get less and not get more. So I wrote this speech from that perspective, a sort of after the simulation era, and into an era of stasis. — Ryan Gander

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