Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Geoffrey Goes to Venice

Regardless of what artists put out in the world, the media who meet with them too often focus on their artworks as reflections of their personal lives. You hear this all the time on CBC Radio,  particularly when it comes to books. Just the other day I heard Q host Tom Power turn a musician's new album into a discussion of that musician's cancer odyssey.

This is partly why I find Geoffrey Farmer's proposal for the Canadian Pavilion (pictured above, top) so intriguing. Rather than provide information on what his installation will look like (a fountain? a pumping station? a sculpture garden?), he offers the media a family story concerning a traffic accident (pictured above, bottom) that occurred around the time the pavilion was built.

Anyone familiar with Farmer's work will know that what he begins with is often unrecognizable when compared to what ends up in and around the gallery. And even then it keeps changing, not just because the artist is an inveterate tweaker, but because we change, too.

Farmer has spoken of the influence of Donald Allen's New American Poetry (1960) on his practice, and you can see it in two of the anthology's better-known poems -- Frank O'Hara's "Why I Am Not a Painter" and John Ashbery's "The Instruction Manual". A line from another New American Poetry participant provides Farmer with the title of his installation. "A way out of the mirror" is from Allen Ginsberg's "Laughing Gas" (see excerpt below):

A way out of the mirror
was found by the image
that realized its existence
was only...
a stranger completely like myself.

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