Geoffrey Farmer. The Power Plant, Toronto. 24 September to 20 November 2005.

Geoffrey Farmer: A Pale Fire

Immediately I’m concerned with the waste of useful furniture, can’t it be put to a better use than being burned in the name of Art?

The moniker of Art takes an object out of its context, removing its use value only to re-present it for us to read its use value back in. The real-world object is neutered (bad/wrong word, suggests sexuality is overriding meaning), the Art object becomes the paradigm of the real.

That’s all well and good, but so what? If the artists activity involves wastefulness, they invite censure from a social/environmental point-of-view. Does an aesthetic bonus outweigh a social penalty?

Certainly this piece engages with some contexts, the artist is said to have an “interest in the latent potential of the gallery as a site for social engagement”.

…the work is advertised as a political action – a sit-in. Here, rather than burning logs in Imbert’s fireplace, furniture is used as fuel. The furniture is amassed in an installation that is slowly transformed through the progressive dismantling and combustion of its individual pieces. Each day these pieces of furniture are set alight using a broadsheet with politically related texts and manifestos.

While the metaphor engaged here of the sit-in could be interesting, the surrounding, ‘real-world’ consequences of the enactment of that metaphor are ignored. I also think it is misplaced to imagine ‘the gallery’ as an effective place for social engagement. My main concern, though, is that the pieces political aspirations are overshadowed by its material reality. And that material reality is a nihilistic waste of resources.

UPDATE 22/2/06: You know, maybe I was being a little harsh on Geoffrey Farmer. I guess the piece is just trying to elicit a response, get a reaction (which it succeeded at). But, if this work wants to be judged as effective politically or socially and not just aesthetically then it has to accept the consequences for meaning inherent in those discourses.

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Geoffrey Farmer. The Power Plant, Toronto. 24 September to 20 November 2005. by escdotdot is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International