Locked Room Scenario

Like other missed opportunities, there are always certain exhibitions that you regret not seeing – the ones you mean to visit, plan to visit, even try to go and visit – but something gets in the way. Many are forgotten, but in some cases, the in absentia can continue to haunt for years.

Locked Room Scenario scratches at these open wounds of regret. As an exhibition, it insists upon being actively pursued, but its carefully crafted content is designed to fail to fulfil – leaving you with the feeling that you have just missed out and arrived to the exclusive party just a bit too late.

Commissioned by Artangel, British artist Ryan Gander’s latest project, and largest to date, occupies an abandoned building in East London. After making an appointment, and mapping out the obscure building, you are pointed towards an open door and told to go inside.

Ryan Gander, Locked Room Scenario, 2011. Image courtesy of the artist and Artangel.

Locating anything in the near-empty warehouse involves a bit of anti-intuitive exploration. Lit rooms are locked tight. Barriers are partially in place. Doors leading to dark corridors are amongst the few open – and if you push on through the labyrinth, you eventually find something – although it isn’t exactly what you expected. Uncertainty and issues of accessibility permeate the entire space and experience of it.

Like much of Gander’s work, Locked Room Scenario is a puzzle, and you must piece together the narrative from the clues left behind.

Ryan Gander, Locked Room Scenario, 2011. Image courtesy of the artist and Artangel.

Boxes of press releases and postcards, abandoned and partially de-installed artworks, guestbooks, furniture and scraps of paper surrounding a previous exhibition Field of Meaning by the Kimberling Gallery are strewn throughout the space. Through half closed blinds you can glimpse obstructed views of the work remaining of the ‘Blue Conceptualists’. All we can see is fragments of sculptures, blurry slide projections and reflections of video screens – the denial of full access is frustratingly unfulfilling.

Ryan Gander, Locked Room Scenario, 2011. Image courtesy of the artist and Artangel.

Of course, the exhibition, the gallery and the artists have only ever been found in this particular state. The entire story has been scripted by Gander for this project, and it plays on the human desire for full disclosure – we want to know everything, even when there is nothing else to know – and at this point truths in the narrative construction begins to break down and blur.

As we know, fiction has a funny way of working itself into memory, and Locked Room Scenario quite accurately demonstrates how knowledge can be built. Within, and beyond, this warehouse in the East End, fact and fiction meet to blur the lines of reality. Everything surrounding the experience ends up being called into question – It was only after leaving that I realised the strange message sent to my mobile that morning (the number cheekily requested upon appointment booking), which I assumed was simply a wrong number and couldn’t be bothered to respond to, was actually a part of this extended script – a message from one of the members of the Blue Conceptualists:

‘I’ll wait for you in the Wenlock 10 mins before. Spencer A.’