Reading List

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Text, Image and Geoffrey Farmer

In October I went to the Istanbul Biennial - a big art exhibition in Turkey's largest city. Spread across two hangar-like buildings, you need stamina and plenty of chewy Turkish coffee to get through it all.

It is huge.

We spent five hours there. By the end, I felt kind of ill. Knackered. And somewhat empty of feeling.

I guess if art plays with your senses, it's not surprising you involuntarily shutdown after a while at these shows. You can only do justice to so many of the artists. You want to see them all. But can't give energy to every piece. I find I just want to be outside, away from everyone and everything, and even further away from artists' interpretations of the world.

But with time (thankfully!), the noise (and pain) disappear and you're left with the bits that moved you.

Geoffrey Farmer's collage sculpture Pale Fire Freedom Machine is the installation that has stayed clearest in my mind.

Consisting of two hundred or so magazine pictures of people, objects and buildings, Farmer had curated a flash of his mind. Or our minds.

Image credit: Raphael Goldchaim courtesy of Mousse Magazine

For me, the room suspended lingering, floating, media-ed images of a regular modern day. With photos fixed on small sticks and mounted on tiny blocks, the arrangement made visible unpredictable links we make when we let images settle. Naked figures next to a collection of chairs. Bomb clouds next to African masks. And despots alongside teapots, and the like.

What I loved, was the experience of walking around the 2D images... to inspect the text on the other side.

Did Farmer leave to chance what was on the reverse sides of the images? References to 9/11 on one photo suggested he didn't.

In fact the longer you stayed in the room, the more you felt obliged to tackle the text. Sometimes taken from an article related to the image, sometimes not. But always giving authenticity to the idea that the images had come from a magazine or newspaper you or I might have read. And always shifting your take of the image on the other side, and those around it.

As I work up ideas for publishing and installing something around postcard messages, Farmer's work is useful. As is, a piece written by Roland Barthes on the tensions between text and image; how one steers our reading of the other. If you're interested, I've tracked down an online copy here... The Rhetoric of the Image.

For sure, any installation would be worthless if it didn't make use of both sides of the cards. And seeing what Farmer pulled off, the challenge of displaying two-sided objects like the cards has become more an inspiration than a problem. Which I had seen it as for a long time.


  1. I'd like to see it as well, could you give me link to a much larger of those pictures above?

  2. Hi

    Here's a couple of links to a few more images...



  3. You are so sweet! And congratulations!!!

    It is an honor when you participate in PFF. I enjoy reading your entries every time. Thank you for the time and research you put into it. I am So very grateful. Have a lovely weekend, and happy PFF!