If You Happen To Be 2017


RYAN LEE is pleased to announce If you happen to be, an exhibition of new work by Gabriel
Lester. Lester combines elements of music, experimental cinema, literature, and architecture
to create immersive environments with stories to tell. If you happen to be includes two such
spaces. The first presents a series of low-resolution LED panels displaying films of near-extinct
animals and the habitats in which they can be found. Lester, however, does not confine the
animals to the natural world. The internet-sourced footage he employs indicates various places
that these animals exist. Okapi, for example, not only live (at least for the time being) in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo, but also in cyberspace as images, symbols, and brands for
online consumption. This multi-dimensional yet threatened existence is reflected in Lester’s
distorted imagery; these creatures fade in and out of presence, imperiled and infinite depending
on the context.
This precariousness of being is reflected in the exhibition’s title. If you happen to be implies
both casual, coincidental presence and profound, elemental existence; it is simultaneously
living as action and living as accident.
Questions of presence and absence resurface in Nevada, the second component of this exhibition.
Nevada confronts the viewer with a floor to ceiling modular wall. Carefully selected objects
that correspond with the individual stories combined in Nevada’s multilayered narrative occupy
each compartment. Guided by light and sound, the viewer navigates the histories of a series of
anonymous characters that find themselves locked out of the world they used to inhabit. In an
effort to escape the parallel world in which they have come to dwell, each character attempts to
understand the nature and cause of their own existence. Considering personal memories and
local histories of migration, mining, gambling, nuclear test sites, and mysterious locations like
Area 51 and the Nevada triangle (an area in the California-Nevada desert where numerous
aircrafts have vanished), Lester’s Nevada probes the tensions that link the seemingly distinct
characteristics of this place to a number of characters looking for a way back to a life they have lost.