Shown for the first time in its completed form, Geoffrey Farmer presents The Surgeon and the Photographer for his first major exhibition in a UK public gallery. Constructing 365 hand-puppets from book images clipped and glued to fabric forms, Farmer populated The Curve
with this recently completed puppet calendar. In 2009, on rumour that a well known second-hand book store in Vancouver would soon be closing, Farmer acquired several hundred books, which he used to create the collaged forms. The figures are arranged in small and large groups, suggesting crowds or processions, portraits of days and months through the 90-metre long space. The Surgeon and the Photographer opens in The Curve on 26 March 2013.
Geoffrey Farmer said: The bookstore in Vancouver resembles a ruin. It is lawless, a labyrinth of book piles and collapsing pyramids. One day while flipping through a book there I had a simple thought about its relationship to my hand. I thought perhaps this relationship might also apply to the images it contained. That is when I started to construct the hand puppets.
At the end of the gallery, Farmer projects a newly commissioned, computer-controlled montage, Look in my Face; my name is Might-have-been; I am also called No-more, Too-late, Farewell
. The montage is comprised of selected whole images, before being cut to construct the figures. The images are matched to a sound library and organized by both chance and predetermined categories.
Jane Alison , Senior Curator, Barbican Art Gallery , said: I am delighted that Geoffrey Farmer is presenting this poignant installation for the first time outside North America. Drawing on the radical and playful legacy of Dada and Neo-Dada, The Surgeon and the Photographer is a perfect addition to our Barbican-wide cross-arts season Dancing around Duchamp.
Inspired by the important yet unfinished project Memory Atlas by cultural theorist and art historian Aby Warburg, The Surgeon and the Photographer is part of a trilogy of works including The Last Two Million Years (2007) and the recent Leaves of Grass (2012) exhibited at dOCUMENTA(13), featuring images cut from a Readers Digest encyclopaedia and LIFE magazines, respectively. The title of the work refers to a part of Walter Benjamins seminal essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction in which the magician is compared to the painter and the surgeon is compared to the cameraman.
Farmers process-orientated approach, which is both intuitive and research-based, draws on storytelling, dreams, popular culture, literature and theatre. His work is influenced by the sculptural, collage and assemblage traditions of Hannah Höch and Robert Rauschenberg as well as the element of chance as employed by John Cage, Merce Cunningham and Marcel Duchamp.
Geoffrey Farmer was born in 1967, in Vancouver, British Columbia. He started his studies at the San Francisco Art Institute and graduated from the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver in 1992. Farmer is part of a prominent community of artists based in Vancouver, including Stan Douglas, Ian Wallace and Jeff Wall. He has had recent solo exhibitions at Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT), Los Angeles (2011), The Banff Centre, Alberta (2010) and Witte de With, Rotterdam (2008), among others. Forthcoming exhibitions include a solo project at the Migros Museum in Zurich this May and a major exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2014. He is represented by Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver, and Casey Kaplan Gallery, New York.