Issue 9 - Ryan Gander & Europa

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Quick Overview

+ Deck of cards
+ Orange, Green, Purple, or White
+ 9" x 14" insert
+ Released winter 2009

Issue 9 is by visual artist Ryan Gander and design collective Europa. It consists of a package of parallel playing cards (cards printed on both sides), an insert poster with an explanation of the project, and instructions for a game of parallel blackjack. The issue comes in four different colors (orange, green, purple and white); however, the cards in all four packages are the same.

What I am alluding to is…

I have recently been obsessed with the 1980s cinematic masterpiece ‘Back to the Future’. The narrative entails a teenager becoming lost in time travel and visiting his family before his own birth in 1955. There is a moment in the film where the main character Marty McFly, played by Michael J. Fox, begins to vanish whilst performing on stage at his mother and father’s graduation prom. His slow fading in and out of being is an effect of his mother and father’s actions. They are writing and re-writing Marty’s future in his presence in the past.

My interest in this scene is its entailment with the idea of a Multiverse. Presently at least once in every waking hour I am imagining alternative parallel realities for myself. Every decision, movement, gesture, comment, and action I make spins off into infinite possible actions. The relationship between cause and effect, in my mind, has gone out of control. ‘What if’ scenarios are a perfect subject for a well-fueled imagination, but what about a parallel reality in the present? Not just one that we can project in the future arising from a catalyst in the present, but … what if you were to be looking in the mirror and your reflection began to laugh back at you, or walked away from you to leave you standing gazing into an abyss that was once your being?

I had the idea to make a double-sided pack of playing cards years ago. Back then they were cards with just two backs, because as a child I’d thought the numbered sides were merely decorative. My only use for a standard pack – but one I took seriously – was to construct houses of cards, for which the card has no front nor verso side and is engaged with more as an object than two images back to back. I never made a mock-up of a double-front nor a double-back pack. Nor did I even actually imagine how a double- sided pack would be used or what the effect would be. I just wanted to see it exist, physically hold it in my hand, not as a visual joke but as an interesting anomaly. An anomaly that would develop it’s own methodology and history with time, by it’s owners and users.

A friend told me of a Roald Dahl children’s book ‘The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar’ in which a greedy tycoon uses meditation to equip himself with the powers to see through objects with the intention of cheating casinos by seeing through playing cards. The image from this narrative is a wondrous one. Last year I made packs of double-fronted playing cards as part of a project with Christian Rattemeyer. The packs arrived, they were distributed in accordance with the remit of the project, they disappeared and I was left with two packs. I gave one away and opened the other. It wasn’t until some months later, whilst attempting to invent games with the four friends who are now responsible for this publication, that the implications and possibilities of the idea became apparent. The aesthetics of their usage are subtle and it often goes unnoticed by onlookers that the cards are different from a normal pack. In addition there is an alternative way of shuffling the pack where the cards are flipped over as well as being mixed in order, there is even the possibility to play a game with yourself in the mirror. The invention of the new games came quickly and unpretentiously, but aside from all this…

These cards have become a bit like a medicine for me. A medicine for my concern with those points of divergence between my living history and a speculative alternative history. I can now see the two realms at once. Two games, yours and the verso game, an additional game waiting to be played, in another time or space. A mirrored world, a unheralded parallel reality in the present reality that we know.

- Ryan Gander


Ryan Gander’s complex and unfettered conceptual practice is stimulated by queries, investigations or what-ifs, rather than strict rules or limits. For example, what if a child’s den of sheets were remade in memorialising marble (Tell My Mother not to Worry (ii), 2012)? What if all the pieces in a chess set were remade in Zebra Wood, so that neither side was entirely black nor white (Bauhaus Revisited, 2003)? Gander is a cultural magpie in the widest sense, polymathically taking popular notions apart only to rebuild them in new ways – perhaps by refilming the same ten-second clip 50 times over, as in Man on a Bridge (A study of David Lange), 2008. Language and storytelling play an overarching role in his work, not least in his series of Loose Association lectures or in his attempt to slip a nonsensical, palindromic new word, ‘mitim’, into the English language. Occasionally his ludic concepts drift into more bodily, relational challenges, especially in This Consequence of 2006, that involved the unsettling presence of a gallery owner or invigilator dressed in an all-white Adidas tracksuit, with an additional sinister red stain embroidered into the fabric. Invitation and collaboration are also at the heart of Gander’s fugitive art – whether he’s exchanging fictionalised newspaper obituaries with an artist-friend or taking pictures of people looking at pictures at an art fair – although arguably every solipsistic action he takes merely holds up yet another mirror to his ceaselessly voracious mind.

More information on Ryan Gander can be found here.  


Europa was formed in 2007 by four graphic designers; Mia Frostner, Robert Sollis, Paul Tisdell and Rasmus Troelsen (Rasmus then left Europa in 2009 to move to Copenhagen). Graduates of the Royal College of Art, Europa have designed books, posters, graphic identities and exhibitions for clients such as Architecture Foundation, Design for London, General Public Agency, Ryan Gander, Somerset House, Tate and Victoria & Albert Museum. Some of Europa's working relationships have come as a result of an agreed exchange of labour. These have been documented here:

Europa have taught and lectured at institutions such as Architectural Association, Camberwell College of Arts, Chelsea College of Art & Design, Danish Design School, IASPIS, Limoncello Gallery, London College of Communication, Scandinavian Design College, University of Brighton, University of Portsmouth and Winchester School of Art.

For more information on Europa visit

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  • "These cards have become a bit like a medicine for me. A medicine for my concern with those points of divergence between my living history and a speculative alternative history. I can now see the two realms at once." - Ryan Gander

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