Geoffrey Farmer on his new Haunted House Installation

Canadian Art
Sep 25, 2013 1:05PM

Vancouver artist Geoffrey Farmer—this year’s $50,000 Gershon Iskowitz Prize winner—recently had solo exhibitions at the Migros Museum in Zurich and the Barbican in London. This week, he returned home to Canada, opening one of his largest installations yet at the Art Gallery of Alberta. Taking the form of a haunted house, The Intellection of Lady Spider House is an unprecedented collaboration between Farmer and 11 other Canadian artists, including Valérie Blass, Julia Feyrer, Hadley + Maxwell, David Hoffos, Brian Jungen, Tiziana La Melia, Gareth Moore, Judy Radul, Hannah Rickards and Ron Tran. Here, in an email interview, he tells us more about the work and its origins.

Leah Sandals: You came to international prominence with works like The Last Two Million Years, which transformed a found book into a sprawling and philosophical installation. How does it feel to now take on the task of making a multi-artist exhibition for a space as large as the one at the AGA? How are the strategies the same or different from the ones used in that previous work?

Geoffrey Farmer: There is a scene in the movie The Shining when Jack is looking over the maquette of the hedge maze. The hotel where the hedge is located and where this scene takes place is itself called the Overlook.

I have thought about this, the concept of the overview in relationship to my interest in making a work like The Last Two Million Years. Reader’s Digest, the book’s publisher, was both trying to shrink, condense and categorize our understanding of history while at the same give a ridiculously broad overview of it. Photography innately has the ability to miniaturize the world, and in doing so allows for the creation of a visual language that can then be organized into various categorical groupings.

The process for this exhibition was similar. Like the scene with the maze maquette, we created a model of the gallery at the AGA, and the objects of the exhibition were photographed and shrunk into the scale of the model so that they could be arranged.

LS: Your installations have often had an eerie or uncanny quality in the past, but this exhibition is more explicit in positioning itself as a kind of fun-fair haunted house. Why? How did you arrive at this concept?

GF: Haunted house walk-throughs are constructed in the form of a labyrinth. They create a space where it appears that there is the possibility of getting lost. They are constructed as a form of exhibition-making, using tableaux vivants, sculptures, still lifes and performances.

I had spoken to [AGA curator] Catherine Crowston about my earliest memory of exhibition-making, which was the construction of a haunted house for neighbours when I was 13. I wanted to come home and take the time during the summer in Vancouver, with friends and artists I respected, to explore this type of exhibition-making.... Read more

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