Geoffrey Farmer is certainly one of the most unique and disconcerting voices in the Vancouver art community. Borrowing elements from conceptual and installation art, he practices an aesthetics of accumulation to works that incorporate sculpture, video, performance, drawing, photography and the found object. In a tone that combines poetry and social commentary, Farmer examines history, pop culture and art history, as well as the exhibition process itself, with its fictional power and its temporal aspect.
The exhibition comprises some twenty works produced over the last fifteen years, including some new pieces produced especially for the show. Within this second group is The Idea and the Absence of the Idea, 2008. Farmer has cut out a small area of the gallery’s wooden floor, reduced it to a pulp and then used it to make a piece of paper on which he has written a quotation from Gordon Matta-Clark: “Not the Work, the Worker.” Here the artist employs a favourite strategy of his: defining the work on the basis of the process that gave rise to it.
Also featured are key works that have marked Farmer’s career, such as Trailer and Entrepreneur Alone Returning Back to Sculptural Form, both from 2002. The former refers to the cinematic in order to give form to an intense personal experience. While an art student, Farmer witnessed an accident in which a woman was struck and crushed by a semi-trailer. In the latter, the artist has developed an ongoing site specific work, reinstalled for the Musée, exploring the disintegration of identity within the working world.
Finally, a large part of the last gallery is taken up by the spectacular installation The Last Two Million Years, first shown in 2007 at The Drawing Room in London and presented here in a new form. The work consists of hundreds of images cut out from a copy of an eponymous book published in the 1970s by Reader’s Digest, which set out to sum up the entire history of humankind in a single volume. Farmer, in turn, literally cuts up history (and the encyclopaedia!) in a series of free associations that haphazardly mixes periods, cultures and regions. According to exhibition curator Pierre Landry, “The result is monumental and fragile, ordered and chaotic, serious and humorous—and extraordinarily poetic.”
Geoffrey Farmer was born on Eagle Island, British Columbia, in 1967, and lives and works in Vancouver. Through his studies at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver and at the San Francisco Art Institute, he developed a strong interest in the notions of process and transformation, as well as narrative structure. Represented by the Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver, Farmer has seen his career take off meteorically in the last few years. In 2007 alone, he was the subject of a one-man show at The Drawing Room, London, with The Last Two Million Years, and took part in the group exhibitions Remuer ciel et terre, in conjunction with CIAC’s Biennale de Montréal, and The World as a Stage at the Tate Modern in London. The current presentation at the Musée d’art contemporain is his largest exhibition to date. Geoffrey Farmer is the latest in the Musée’s ongoing series of shows focusing on the leading figures in Canadian art today, which has previously highlighted such Vancouver artists as Stan Douglas in 1996, Jeff Wall in 1999 and Rodney Graham in 2006-2007.
What the critics are saying
To be honest, when you first enter the galleries, much of it looks like something a kid might assemble with the contents of a recycling bin and some old clothes and objects. But look a little closer and this work has a wit and depth that tickles the imagination.
Christine Redfern, Mirror
The fragile, chaotic world he makes seems to hang together by a thread, and in that tension lies its charm.
Sarah Milroy, The Globe and Mail
The Last Two Million Years : le coup d’œil extérieur est sublime, le coup d’œil en détail est extrêmement touchant.
Rafaële Germain, Je l’ai vu à la radio, Radio-Canada
L’œuvre est fascinante et géante.
Marie-Christine Trottier, Desautels, Radio-Canada
Le visiteur a tout avantage à tourner plusieurs fois autour de ses installations pas tant déconcertantes que troublantes.
Mario Cloutier, La Presse
Ailleurs, cependant, de nombreux détails cultivent habilement le malaise et font du parcours même dans l’espace d’exposition une expérience semée de surprises.
Marie-Ève Charron, Le Devoir
Son installation The Last Two Million Years (composée des images découpées et placées sur des piédestaux d’un livre résumant l’histoire de l’humanité) montre son talent, sa capacité à travailler à la limite entre le majestueux et le négligeable, le puissant et le fragile.
Nicolas Mavrikakis, Voir
Presentation of the exhibition Geoffrey Farmer has been made possible by generous support from BMO Financial Group. “Art has the power to transform how we perceive life, each other and ourselves,” says Bernard Letendre, Vice-President, BMO Harris Private Banking, Québec. “From young, emerging talent to Geoffrey Farmer, one of Canada’s most exciting contemporary artists, BMO is proud to help bring their voices to the public. We believe our partnership with the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal will enable Québec audiences to discover one of Canada’s most innovative artists.”