Geoffrey Farmer – The Surgeon and the Photographer at the Barbican
Born in Vancouver, Farmer graduated from the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in 1992. His latest project constructs hybrid identities to resemble Dadaist photomontages through three dimensional collage, in which five decades of civilisation are put on display in one space.
Upon entering The Curve, the viewer is struck by a procession of figures catching the light. The works are the assemblages of images sourced from second hand books, now transformed into communities of hand puppets, playing on the evolution of culture. Deities and shamans, most of which carry staffs, are juxtaposed with contemporary elements such as a modernist chair or a tin of Van Camp’s Improved Pork and Beans.
The sounds of whistles and a plane can be heard in the distance, but the meandering nature of the space hides the source. Farmer’s figures are mesmerising and their placements serve to captivate the viewer, acting as a protest or even an army. He plays the surgeon as photographer, delving into the realities of human civilisation and, as Walter Benjamin wrote, “penetrates deeply into its web”.
At the end of the exhibition the viewer is faced with Farmer’s newly commissioned video projection: a montage of eclectic images. Some reflect the harsh realities of civil unrest while others focus on the tranquil experience of viewing art. These are harmonised with the same sounds from before, as well as the click of a camera shutter and the cutting of a pair of scissors.
Although an element of magic might exist in his hand puppets, Farmer draws attention to the realities of a world viewed through the camera. It is art as distraction: a construction of images to deter the viewer from the destruction that comes with civil unrest.
This theatrical exhibition and Farmer’s crude creations will have you reconsider the importance of art and its elegance. Unsettling, captivating – well worth a visit.
Photos: Jamie Shaw
Geoffrey Farmer – The Surgeon and the Photographer is at The Curve, Barbican Centre from 26th March to 28th July 2013, for further information visit here.