Geoffrey Farmer – Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, FEBRUARY 8–APRIL 20, 2008

Geoffrey Farmer
February 8–April 20, 2008

Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Montreal, Canada

Geoffrey Farmer is certainly one of the most unique and disconcerting voices in the Vancouver art community. Borrowing elements from conceptual and installation art, he practices an aesthetics of accumulation to works that incorporate sculpture, video, performance, drawing, photography and the found object. In a tone that combines poetry and social commentary, Farmer examines history, pop culture and art history, as well as the exhibition process itself, with its fictional power and its temporal aspect.

The exhibition comprises some twenty works produced over the last fifteen years, including some new pieces produced especially for the show. Within this second group is The Idea and the Absence of the Idea, 2008. Farmer has cut out a small area of the gallery’s wooden floor, reduced it to a pulp and then used it to make a piece of paper on which he has written a quotation from Gordon Matta-Clark: “Not the Work, the Worker.” Here the artist employs a favourite strategy of his: defining the work on the basis of the process that gave rise to it.

Also featured are key works that have marked Farmer’s career, such as Trailer and Entrepreneur Alone Returning Back to Sculptural Form, both from 2002. The former refers to the cinematic in order to give form to an intense personal experience. While an art student, Farmer witnessed an accident in which a woman was struck and crushed by a semi-trailer. In the latter, the artist has developed an ongoing site specific work, reinstalled for the Musée, exploring the disintegration of identity within the working world.

Finally, a large part of the last gallery is taken up by the spectacular installation The Last Two Million Years, first shown in 2007 at The Drawing Room in London and presented here in a new form. The work consists of hundreds of images cut out from a copy of an eponymous book published in the 1970s by Reader’s Digest, which set out to sum up the entire history of humankind in a single volume. Farmer, in turn, literally cuts up history (and the encyclopaedia!) in a series of free associations that haphazardly mixes periods, cultures and regions. According to exhibition curator Pierre Landry, “The result is monumental and fragile, ordered and chaotic, serious and humorous—and extraordinarily poetic.”


Geoffrey Farmer was born on Eagle Island, British Columbia, in 1967, and lives and works in Vancouver. Through his studies at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver and at the San Francisco Art Institute, he developed a strong interest in the notions of process and transformation, as well as narrative structure. Represented by Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver, Farmer has seen his career take off meteorically in the last few years. In 2007 alone, he was the subject of a one-man show at The Drawing Room, London, with The Last Two Million Years, and took part in the group exhibitions Remuer ciel et terre, in conjunction with CIAC’s Biennale de Montréal, and The World as a Stage at the Tate Modern in London. The current presentation at the Musée d’art contemporain is his largest exhibition to date. Geoffrey Farmer is the latest in the Musée’s ongoing series of shows focusing on the leading figures in Canadian art today, which has previously highlighted such Vancouver artists as Stan Douglas in 1996, Jeff Wall in 1999 and Rodney Graham in 2006–2007.

Photography by Guy L’Heureux.