Geoffrey Farmer: The Surgeon and the Photographer at the Barbican

By Culture24 Reporter | 08 April 2013

Exhibition preview: The Surgeon and the Photographer, The Curve, Barbican Centre, London, until July 28 2013

An image of various collage hand puppets
Geoffrey Farmer, The Surgeon and the Photographer (2009–13) (detail). Paper, textile, wood, metal. Purchased with funds from the Jean MacMillan Southam Major Art Purchase Fund, Phil Lind, Vancouver Art Gallery Acquisition Fund, Canada Council for the Arts Acquisitions Assistance Program and the Michael O'Brian Family Foundation. Photo: Rachel Topham, Vancouver Art Gallery© Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery
In 2009, hotly-tipped Vancouver artist Geoffrey Farmer heard word that a famous second-hand bookstore in the city would be closing.

He moved swiftly, acquiring hundreds of books and then, perhaps unsurprisingly for someone described by the New York Times as being “fairly obsessed with the sculptural possibilities of photographs”, turning them into 365 snipped hand puppets.

“The bookstore resembles a ruin,” he says, calling it “lawless” and “a labyrinth of book piles and collapsing pyramids.”

“While flipping through a book there I had a simple thought about its relationship to my hand. I thought perhaps this relationship might also apply to the images it contained. That is when I started to construct the hand puppets.”

The hyper-real resulting population forms a series of processions across the length of the 90-metre Curve. Each character, though, remains distinct and mysterious: the more you look, the more surprises you discover within this mini-world.

Farmer takes the roulette randomness of John Cage, Merce Cunningham and Marcel Duchamp as his inspiration. Appearing in the Barbican’s current season dedicated to Duchamp, this is the first time it has been seen outside of north America.

  • Open 9am-11pm (12pm-11pm Sunday). Admission free. Follow the gallery on Twitter @BarbicanCentre.
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