Andrew Gannon: Prince of Lightness

As part of PRODUCT at Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, Andrew Gannon presents the results of his recent residency there. We chat to him about the fine art of performance and how much is 'just enough'

Feature by Adam Benmakhlouf | 30 Jul 2013

Textual description with deadpan conciseness accompanies a clean line drawing. Andrew Gannon’s work is economical. He summarises his practice with the questions: “How much can be taken away from something without taking away from it? How can I get the art that I make to be really, really light?" Answer: he removes all excessive elements and makes work that is close to being nothing.

In the most literal sense, he precariously balances his five planned performances for PRODUCT on these "light" foundations - admitting he hasn’t managed the proposed Standing on the Skirting in all Corners for more than six minutes before falling over. Gannon approached the ESW residency that this show follows "with the full intention of using the space. All the work was to do with being in the studio." Faithful to his pared down ethos, he kept the studio completely empty. Production thus amounts to obsessive subtraction, until the point of “just enough.”

Though this strategy is evident throughout the work he plans to include in PRODUCT, it's most obviously expressed in the work in which Gannon stands legs spread apart in his studio - as well as its no-nonsense title, Standing Work. It’s risky work, and not just because he might actually fall flat on his face. Having deliberately decided a set of circumstances that allows for works that “might work or fail or change, what they’re really going to be” is unclear until they actually happen. But as it’s the showcase of a residency rather than a regular exhibition, a little fluidity is expected, and he’s making the most of this. In Gannon’s ideal world, the works will go as planned to an extent, but “will be better by something else happening,” but he has “no way of knowing what it’ll be.”

An instance of this shifting of the work into a new direction took place while Gannon was making Work with Newspaper. As he was "lying on the floor, face covered with newspaper,” his immediate sense of the piece was that “it was funny; it was ridiculous." Complicating this view of the work, Gannon's friend instead associated it with the organisation of dead bodies in sports stadiums after genocidal atrocities: often only the faces are covered. By pushing work as close as possible to being nothing, Gannon potentiates these moments of surprise: the shock when “almost nothing” so spontaneously substantiates itself into something so heavily associative.

As well as this concern with lightness, Gannon's work continues to return to a reflexive interest in the documentation of performance work. In PRODUCT, each of the five performances corresponds to one of five sets of prints that will be exhibited during the show. Gannon classifies the prints as somewhere between proposal and just drawing: “The prints present the performances as what they are: quite simple actions, stupid or absurd or seemingly very slight little things.” They are intended to present more immediately the difficulties of documenting performance work. That as soon as you add in duration, people, it becomes temporal and complicated by things you wouldn’t have imagined. These simply-produced drawings make no claims to being authoritative original work.

Providing just enough information about the performance, the posters could be teasing invitations to remake the work: passive spectatorship isn’t provided. During his cutbacks, he’s disposed of any residual artistic privilege or authority to shape or narrow the experience of his work. He’s a bit of a chancer, and that’s always exciting.

PRODUCT is at Edinburgh Sculpure Workshop 3-17 Aug 2013