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Geoffrey Farmer: The Blacking Factory

Contemporary Art Gallery
Vancouver, BC • Jun 21-Aug 11

The Blacking Factory
Geoffrey Farmer, Model, The Blacking Factory (2002), [Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver BC, Jun 21-Aug 11]
The work of contemporary Vancouver artist Geoffrey Farmer is interesting and difficult at the same time. What appear to be sets of props and costumes are not quite history; not performances; not entirely art; and neither political nor clearly narrative.

In each of his exhibits, Farmer provides a sort of “kit” of effects for re-staging historical events. Yet the installations are without narrative or social commentary. In earlier sets, like the one he created for the Ghost of Christmas Future, or his Hunchback Kit – the latter an exploration of Victor Hugo’s Notre Dame de Paris – his displays seem almost devoid of passion by comparison to their titles and referents. He straddles a line between refusing to tell the stories and yet going to a great deal of trouble to suggest them. In this struggle we might read the ambivalence of post-modernism: one that creates “doubles” rather than mirrors.

Farmer explores the life and times of the early 19th Century British writer Charles Dickens in his new installation. The work is based on the period of Dickens’&Mac226; early life when he was obliged to enter the child labour force. The installation takes the form of a stage-like set, with displays of related props, images and video works. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue by Nanaimo poet Peter Culley.

© Mia Johnson


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