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Geoffrey Farmer's "A way out of the mirror" floods the Canada Pavilion
Geoffrey Farmer, A way out of the mirror, 2017. Installation view at the Canada Pavilion for the 57th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia, 2017. © Geoffrey Farmer, Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Francesco Barasciutti.

VENICE.- After an intense period of study and creation, Canadian artist Geoffrey Farmer has emerged with a presentation for the 57th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia that interweaves diverse stories of collision and reconciliation.

“Geoffrey Farmer is a wonderful choice to represent Canada at the Biennale Arte 2017, which coincides with the 150th anniversary of our country's confederation,” said Marc Mayer, Director and CEO of the National Gallery of Canada – the commissioning institution for the Canada Pavilion. “His new work is unlike anything he has created before or anything ever presented in this pavilion. Farmer has entered new creative territory with this extraordinary installation.”

The Geoffrey Farmer exhibition was commissioned by the National Gallery of Canada and produced in partnership with the Canada Council for the Arts. The Canadian representation at Biennale Arte 2017 is made possible through the generous financial support of Presenting Sponsor Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and Major Sponsor Aimia. Other support was generously provided by the Canadian Artists in Venice Endowment, the Government of British Columbia, the Joy Thomson Fund, and the philanthropic support of over fifty families and individuals through the National Gallery of Canada Foundation. The art galleries Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver, and Casey Kaplan, New York, offered valued assistance to the project.

Simon Brault, O.C., O.Q., Director and CEO, Canada Council for the Arts, said: “Canada is present at the 57th Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia through some of contemporary art’s boldest artists. Their work offers the world a window onto the issues, challenges and concerns that define Canada in 2017. They provoke conversations that resonate worldwide, on our current human condition – both as a subject of apprehension and hope.

“At RBC, we recognize that supporting the arts encourages a culture of creativity and innovation, in our communities across Canada and around the globe,” said Wayne Bossert, Deputy Chairman and Head, Ultra-High Net Worth Clients, RBC Wealth Management. “As a proud presenting sponsor of the Canadian Pavilion at the Biennale Arte 2017, we are committed to championing the art and artists that will bring audiences together to educate and inspire.”

A way out of the mirror began with Farmer’s discovery of two unpublished press photographs dating back to 1955 that depict a collision between a train and a lumber truck driven by his paternal grandfather. 71 brass planks, reminiscent of the lumber that was scattered at the scene of the accident, are part of the work. Other elements, including 3D-printed sculptures cast in aluminum and bronze, tell stories ranging from the relations between Italy and Canada after the Second World War to the artist’s own familial trauma, of luminaries Kathy Acker and Allen Ginsberg, and of Inuit teenagers residing in Cape Dorset, Nunavut.

Water is a powerful connector in Farmer’s presentation and links imagery to the flow of liquid, from the “fountain of knowledge” to the constant “livestream of images” we are familiar with today.

Kitty Scott, the Carol and Morton Rapp Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario was selected by Farmer to curate the 2017 Canada Pavilion. “Farmer opens up and transforms the Canada Pavilion into an outwardly facing fountain courtyard: the water of A way out of the mirror translates a surfeit of emotion and discharges it in spurts and drips as tears, ejaculate and sweat,” she said. “It is at once a monument and an anti-monument that memorializes individuals and stories in a gesture of generosity and inclusion.”

Titled to reference the emotive writings of beat poet Allen Ginsberg, A way out of the mirror presents a new way of experiencing the Canada Pavilion, in which the architectural history of the building is entwined with the installation itself.

The presentation takes place on the 60th anniversary of the construction of the Canada Pavilion, just as the building undergoes a major $3M restoration. The Canada Pavilion, restored to its original 1957 design, will be officially unveiled at the Biennale Architettura 2018.

Karen Colby-Stothart, CEO of the National Gallery of Canada Foundation, said: “Geoffrey Farmer has surprised no one in creating a masterpiece at the Canada Pavilion – at the complex mid-point of deconstruction and restoration. We are so deeply indebted to our loyal corporate supporters, RBC and Aimia, our small army of deeply committed philanthropists across Canada and the extraordinary new partnership with the Canada Council for the Arts–all of whom have made this project possible.”

An illustrated catalogue, distributed by Mousse Publishing, accompanies the exhibition. The publication features a glossary of terms compiled by Geoffrey Farmer and Kitty Scott.

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