THE SURGEON AND THE PHOTOGRAPHER | GEOFFREY FARMER
Paper cutouts, fabric strips, metal rods, and wooden decorations, the figures created by Geoffrey Farmer present themselves as intriguing and complex three-dimensional collages.
The Surgeon and The Photographer is the title of the enormous installation made by the Canadian artist, consisting of 365 marionettes, ideally one for each day of the year, each different from the other. Calling them marionettes may not be etymologically accurate if we solely considering the object, it can be an appropriate definition when viewed conceptually. Although the common structural characteristics are fulfilled, the fundamental and decisive element of strings, used for manipulation, is absent. What is manipulated is not the figure itself but, through that, the mind of the viewer, suddenly immersed in a rich and heterogeneous cultural atlas.
Skillfully blending images and ideas through the technique of collage, Farmer’s intention is to investigate the issue of reproducibility of photographic images and the representation of reality, always through images.
The title The Surgeon and The Photographer is inspired by an essay by Walter Benjamin in which the roles of a painter and a cameraman are analyzed – related, respectively, to those of a magician and a surgeon – as well as their methods of representing reality, which are diametrically opposed: while one works on the completeness of a scene, the other plays with its fragmentation. The difference between the images obtained by the two is abysmal. What Farmer pursues with his research and the complex installations he creates, is to maintain both methods, seeking a fragmented composition and finding it in the technique of collage. The composition of this apparent conflict is not exhausted in the complexity and quantity of the figures but in the completeness of each one, reassembled, autonomous, and independent.
The result is a calendar composed of 365 small artworks to observe, analyze, and deeply explore.
The Surgeon and The Photographer, 2009
Paper, textile, wood, metal, 365 figures, each approximately 18 x 5 x 5 in. (45 x 13 x 13 cm). Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Photo: SITE Photography. Courtesy Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver. ©