Locked Room Scenario

Locked Room Scenario was a project by Ryan Gander produced by Rob Bowman. Impetus for the project grew from the artist’s interest in a process of suggestively linking different ideas and images (for example, in his performance lecture ‘Loose Assocations’) and a discussion about ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ books. Rob invited Ryan to develop these ideas for Artangel. This led to a proposition to create a project that would offer visitors an adventure in which encounters might be linked together to create a unique, invented narrative.

Rob was responsible for driving this project forward from the outset, collaborating with Ryan to develop ideas and form, and overseeing its production and delivery. He led the process of securing site, negotiating pro-bono use, managing key relationships with stakeholders, local authority, neighbours and partners (cultural and non-cultural) and Ryan’s commercial gallery, Lisson and financial and team management. He managed in-house and freelance production coordinators, freelance project and installation managers, and on-site crew and specialist fabricators. He also oversaw the coaching of live participants (the so-called ‘plants’) and the supervision of front of house staff, in which roles a dangerously blurry line between performance and engagement had to be carefully choreographed.

At the centre of Locked Room Scenario was a group exhibition of fictional artists, curated by Murray Jay Siskin. This took place in a building that could plausibly be a gallery but with inaccessible display spaces. Artworks would be visible through windows, on CCTV monitors, or described on interpretation and marketing. Around the locked exhibition would be a ‘zone of uncertainty’; while it might be obvious that the interior housed a fiction, it would be less clear where the fiction ended, what was staged, and what was real. Psychologically or through physical encounter—and more often than not through a combination of both— the artist’s intention was that the experience should seem to pursue visitors as they left.

Gander invented in excess of one hundred individual devices and artworks that were fabricated by the production team and and inserted in and around public spaces. The project was extended in other ways, too, creating a mesh of on-line (and off-line!) encounters that was unusual for an Artangel site project. This included misinformation, writing, comment, and social media presence on the internet, personal encounter and rumour, advertising, and text messages and emails. Some devices were targeted at visitors before, during or after a visit. Some were seeded elsewhere, more often encountered by those with no prior knowledge or insight into the project. Inasmuch as they still exist on the internet — and searching for the curator and fictional artists leads down many rabbit holes — the project continues to be publicly available.

Artangel’s archive contains links to press reviews and documentation of the public programme and written commissions for the website. An excellent film by Frederico Urdaneta produced by Seb Emina (below) captures the project’s hoped-for sense of uncanny; the idea of a detail that you glimpse only in the last frame but which turns out to be meaningful.

Walk Through by Federico Urdaneta


Project Information

Name: Ryan Gander, Locked Room Scenario (2011)
Role: Producer / Head of Production

Commissioning Producer: Artangel
Production Manager: Tobias Fisher
Production Coordinator: Sinead McCarthy
Site Construction: DMF  / Broa Sams