Geoffrey Farmer – Untitled (12th Istanbul Biennial), SEPTEMBER 17–NOVEMBER 13​​, 2011

Geoffrey Farmer
Untitled (12th Istanbul Biennial)
September 17–November 13, 2011

12th Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul, Turkey

Geoffrey Farmer, born in 1967 in Eagle Island, Canada. Lives in Vancouver, Canada.

Jens Hoffmann (JH): Pale Fire Freedom Machine was originally presented at the Power Plant in Toronto in 2005, is that correct?

Geoffrey Farmer (GF): Yes. As the name of the gallery suggests, it is located in a renovated powerhouse, with one of its prominent features being a large smokestack. While doing some initial research I accidentally pasted “fireplace” and “revolution” together in an online search, and came across a fireplace designed in France by DominiqueImbert. He called it his “revolutionary fireplace” because it was designed in 1968 and also because it can rotate to face any point in the room. There was a picture of it installed at the Guggenheim in New York. It was only after we had ordered the fireplace that I discovered it was part of a 1996 installation by Xavier Veilhan titled Le Feu. A friend of mine had just given me Vladimir Nabokov’s book Pale Fire, which revolves around the interpretation of an unfinished poem whose author has died under mysterious circumstances. The reader is never sure of the sanity of the narrator,  or if he might actually be the author of the unfinished poem. The title itself refers to the Moon stealing the light of the Sun.

JH: How did all of this actually enter into your work?

GF: The development of the work became the work. We burned the furniture on which the viewer was supposed to sit, to produce soot, which was then made into ink. The ink was then used to produce a printed text piece that came from  a found note.

JH: Where did the note come from?

GF: At first we collected abandoned wooden furniture from the streets. Originally just chairs, but then I  was given some old desks. This note was inside one of the desks.

JH: It sounds so simple when you talk about it. I have never actually seen the exhibition and only know the installation from images, in which it looks massive.

GF: There needed to be enough furniture to burn for a month, so the entire gallery was filled with wooden furniture, which I organized into different categories of historical influences and uses. The fireplace was in the middle. To the side were two workstations, one to break apart the furniture and another that we used as a print shop.

JH: You rarely present a work in the same way twice, and most of the time you continue working on your pieces after they have been seen for the first time. This is very uncommon in today’s art world.

GF: My work can transform dramatically from exhibition to exhibition as it develops, but also because it is often physically comprised of elements from its environment. I like having the ability to reevaluate and revise my work. I prefer that it be seen as incomplete or unfinished.