It can feel as if we’re all looking for guidance these days, with an ever-negative news cycle making life feel increasingly out of our control.
For those visiting MIF this month, an offering from the gods – or in fact, the artist Ryan Gander, who is renowned for his thoughtful, philosophical artworks which challenge how we think about art and life – may provide some assistance. Gander has scattered collectable coins across the city, placing them on benches, tram seats, in libraries and on steps.
While at first glance they look like a ten pence piece, the coins are adorned with a word on each side, with the finder encouraged to use them to make everyday decisions. There are three designs in play: Speak/Listen; Solo/Together; Action/Pause. How these instructions are interpreted is of course entirely up to the recipient of the coin.
“They’re not money, they talk about different value systems…. They’re decision-making tools with a flick to help with agency,” says Gander.
The coins are in part designed to appeal to our “magpie” nature but also to encourage people to explore and pay attention to their surroundings, and think about what it is that we truly value. “In Britain at the moment, it feels to me like a sort of breaking point,” Gander says. “Our obsession with the individual and not the collective and our need for attention and money all seems quite distracting. I wanted to make a project that would bring people together through a common goal or quest … a find.
“I have this terrible feeling that we don’t look hard enough. The world outside a gallery or museum is amazing and there are many more phenomenal things in the real world outside, than the art world inside. Yet, I feel like we don’t see any of it because we are not looking. Why are we turned off?”
This theme is continued in other artworks that form part of a wider project titled Intervention Space, which include a series of billboards displayed both inside and on the exterior of Selfridges. These feature slogans including ‘Time is our greatest asset’, which is inspired by one of Gander’s father’s expressions.
There is also a vending machine in the entrance to Selfridges which is selling rocks for £10 each. “They’re just rocks,” he says. “Which in a museum is quite serious, but in Selfridges looks completely absurd. It’s like a mausoleum to capitalism or something.” Any money raised by the rocks will go to the associate artist programme at MIF.
Intervention Space takes place at the Manchester International Festival until July 16; factoryinternational.org