Galerie Ron Mandos proudly presents Voetstoots, the first solo exhibition of Kendell Geers in the Netherlands in over two decades. Internationally acclaimed for his politically engaged work, Geers investigates themes such as colonialism, power structures, activism and his personal background as a white South African. In Voetstoots, he explores the links between colonialism and modernist languages.
Artist statement: Running voetstoots and kaalgat through the museum
This exhibition is called Voetstoots after the Afrikaans word meaning ‘sold without guarantee at the buyer’s risk’. It literally means ‘push by foot’, because the car you are buying might be sold without an engine. What you see is what you get.
History is written by the winner with the blood of the defeated. But as winners are defeated by time and perceptions change, so too do histories get rewritten. In every textbook, white South African history begins in 1652, when Jan van Riebeeck sailed into Table Bay. He raised the Dutch Flag, declaring the land theirs. I am pushing back against history: South Africa was not DISCOVERED by Van Riebeeck, the country was always there. The true story of white South African history begins in 1647 when a Dutch ship was wrecked not far from Robben Island. The survivors noted that the local Khoikhoi people were generous hosts and so the seeds were sewn for colonial invasion.
The Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, lined with colonial trophies, recently understood that many of their titles might be offensive. History is being rewritten as a portrait once known as The Little Negress is now Young Woman with a Fan. The longest word in Dutch however cannot be renamed. HOTTENTOTTENTENTENTENTOONSTELLING refers to the exhibition of Khoisan tents - despite the historical fact that no such thing existed. The pejorative word haunts Dutch language and culture like an illegitimate demon tied up in the attic.
The very same values, morals and principles that defined the colonial enterprise and apartheid, also shaped European culture and modernism. Voetstoots takes avant garde languages and repositions them in an age of political examination. Where does colonialism end and modernism begin? When Picasso wrote ‘L'art nègre? Connais pas’, was he in denial or running voetstoots and kaalgat to the Musée de l'Homme?
Instead of art being a weapon of the revolution, I have made the revolution a weapon of art. And there is hope, because ‘Art Changes the World, One Perception at a Time’.
Kendell Geers, September 2018
This is a shortened version of the artist statement. The full text is available on request.
About the artist
Born into a working class Afrikaans family at the height of apartheid, Kendell Geers quickly found himself fighting on the front lines of activism. From his experiences as a revolutionary, he developed a practice that holds ethics and aesthetics to be sides of the very same coin. Solo exhibitions include Haus der Kunst, Munich, DE; Art Basel, CH; and Palais de Tokyo, Paris.
Geers participated in group shows at institutions like the Venice Biennial, IT; MAXXI, Rome, IT; Documenta, Kassel, DE; The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, US; Shanghai Biennale, CN; MACBA, Barcelona, SP; Yale University Art Gallery, US; Garage, Moscow, RU; and The Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, SP.