This is a selection of the artwork made by Geoffrey Farmer for the last Documenta 13 in Kassel, Germany.
Shadow puppets made from “Life” Magazine from 1935 to 1965
Geoffrey Farmer creates installation-based artworks using combinations of a broad range of elements, including: drawing, photography, video, sculpture, performance, and found materials. Farmer’s work offers an exceptionally subtle take on the legacies of minimalist and postminimalist art. Minimalism emphasized the artwork’s ability to instill in the viewer a powerful sense of their own presence; Farmer’s work begins with this idea of the art gallery as a site of phenomenological experience.
Postminimalism represents a refinement of minimalism in the way it emphasizes the role the gallery context plays in creating the meaning of an artwork. Farmer adds to both traditions by focusing on the contingent nature of meaning itself, especially emphasizing its fragile and elusive nature. Contingency in Farmer’s art extends to the strategies he devises to foster a self-reflexive engagement with his work. Whereas minimalist artists, such as Donald Judd and Dan Flavin, were said by art critic Michael Fried to theatricalize the gallery-going experience, Farmer uses the idioms of theatre and performance as analogies of the process of meaning construction. This places him within the international trend, in which “installation art is a theatrical set without a stage play to give it meaning.” For instance, Farmer’s piece Hunchback Kit (2000-7 at the Tate uses a hard shell case with custom foam insert to house props for the staging performances of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Farmer creates the art exhibition as a set of components made available for the viewer’s interpretation. In this process, he casts himself in the role of the ‘artist’, continuing to add to and transform an exhibition during the time it is on view. In For Every Jetliner Used in an Artwork… (2006), for instance, Farmer presented a video in the exhibition of himself working to alter an installation during the night while the show is closed. By explicitly portraying the exhibition as being ‘in process’, Farmer ensures that “a degree of openness and instability is built in to his work.” According to Mark Clintberg writing in The Drawing Room, London for Canadian Art International Farmer’s work The Last Two Million Years(2007), takes the ephemerality of time as its theme, making small delicate sculptures from the pages of an Encyclopedia. Creating hybrid figurative objects out of disparate historical time periods, Farmer undoes the fixity of museological display and the agreed sequence of historical events.