Fillip 5 — Spring 2007

Geoffrey Farmer, <em>For Every Jetliner Used In An Artwork…</em>

There Is a Horizon
Colleen Brown

In all of Geoffrey Farmer’s continually shifting installations, a visit to the gallery on any particular day would be a visit to a completed work. Although the exhibitions are in constant flux, open gallery hours are moments of stationary display. The completion is similar to the compositional whole of a carefully selected film still. Farmer acts just outside of the viewer’s direct experience while the gallery is closed. Some of his actions, intended for the camera, explore the physical possibilities of objects. The recordings of Farmer on video are limited to limbs entering the frame or as an off-camera animating force. Evidence of other actions can only be accessed by witnessing the daily expansion and contraction of the exhibitions. Successive alterations of these works offer a direct expression of time not often afforded to matter.

The exhibition began with a minimalist appearance. The opening view of a whole object was constructed from a section of a commercial jet abstracted by removing the exterior fuselage in order to expose its serial construction. The plane had been used as a film set that Farmer found, long abandoned, in a barn located in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia. Farmer used only the section of the jet most familiar to travellers: the passenger cabin with its rows of seats, tray-tables, luggage holds, and windows. A platform raised the set to waist height. From the rear of the plane, where the tail would have been, a long view down the aisle of seats was exposed. Raising the floor of the plane provided a view of the cabin from a low and unfamiliar angle. A close look at the set gave the impression of revealing secrets of filmmaking and planemaking. Although I relish having movie magic undone, I do not actually want to know about plane magic. I prefer to continue to think that real planes are held together with magic bolts, not the real bolts I could see all too clearly from my low view into the plane.

Plane anxieties range from niggling thoughts of technological hubris to persistent visions of crashes and explosions. Plane anxiety is about expansion. Even if travellers have overcome these fears, they must embark knowing that they will inevitably arrive at their destination with parts of themselves persisting in a different time zone. The cabin holds its occupants in stasis, muting the forces at work outside, while the plane brings two distant points side-by-side. Foreign geographies and cultures that are physically and cognitively distant become very close to us in time. Through air travel, private and collective panic attacks comingle with spatial and temporal liberation.

Farmer’s first act in investigating the plane was to begin draping the exterior hull with coloured strips of fabric that functioned as festive camouflage. The cut-up strips obscured the shiny technology, weighing down the jet and transforming it into a softened, lumbering mass. In the video, Farmer obscured his own form in the same way, disappearing into the background of the larger lump that described the scale of the plane. As the exhibition continued, the fabric that had also invaded the plane’s hull was removed and the set was carefully swept. Many small gestures that were played out in the cabin of the aircraft were recorded on video. In one sequence, a broom and Farmer (shot from the waist down) were partners in a dance. The monitor displaying this video was positioned so that as I watched it, I could look past the monitor to the set being recorded by the camera. I was standing where the camera had been. The set in front of me had advanced to a different stage in the installation from the time that the video was shot. There was a displacement between a stationary, three-dimensional present, to a moving and framed two-dimensional past.

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Image: Geoffrey Farmer, For Every Jetliner Used In An Artwork… Courtesy of the artist

About the Author

Colleen Brown received her BA in Psychology from Simon Fraser University, her Diploma of Electrophysiology from the British Columbia Institute of Technology, and her BFA from Emily Carr Institute. Brown has exhibited work at the Helen Pitt Gallery, Artspeak, and Tracey Lawrence Gallery, Vancouver, and SKOL, Montréal.

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