Geoffroy, Thierry

Guest Author of September 2012

Thierry Geoffroy, otherwise known as the Colonel, is a French artist based in Denmark whose practice can be seen as a critical vis á vis with the material and metaphorical infrastructures of the international biennale system.
The ongoing project Biennalist follows the perpetual rerun of biennales in different venues and copes with their curatorial and educational statements. Its meticulous investigations employ a palimpsest of different platforms and media, from irruptions into the public space to a capillary presence on the Internet. Lowering to a literal meaning the symbolical and poetic intentions of each biennale, Thierry operates in a paradoxical and grotesque realm, which reveals a certain inconsistency of the contemporary art scene. For the ZKM exhibition The Global Contemporary (2011-12), Geoffroy has been commissioned to travel to Athens and investigate the announced political aims of the 2011 biennial. (Link to the project) Geoffroy’s video and interventions highlighted the shift between the biennial’s critical discourse and the actual environment, a context of deep economical and societal crisis. During the opening days of dOCUMENTA 13 Thierry Geoffroy plant his tent in front of the Fridicianum, the exhibtion main traditional venue. Shortly after he has been joined by the members of the Occupy movement – already invited by the simultaneously running Berlin Biennale. Unlike the Occupy community’s (officially welcome to camp in Kassel), Geoffroy’s tent has been removed, leading the skeptical artist to further questioning. The following essay presents the Colonel’s reflections on an exhibition which rests on a compromise between outspoken ideals and practical benefits, poetic premises and marketing strategies. He hence wonders Should the next dOCUMENTA be curated by a tank?

The next documenta should be curated by a tank

At the Hauptbahnhof visitors can relax at the café and contemplate
the view of one of Kassel’s most active weapons factory (dark building in the background)
without knowing what it is (even though, war and conflicts are one of d13’s main topics ).

Kassel is more known globally as the city of weapons, than the city of documenta, and this is NOW in September 2012.

Instead of hiding it like documenta does now, let’s try to see if a win-win situation between these two global enterprises could make sense and see if we could marry them officially as they sometimes have a surprising proximity despite some discrete relationships.

The artistic proposition here could be called:
The next documenta should be curated by a tank.

Tanks from Kassel are very precise, no details are forgotten and the whole planet is queuing to buy them. Some of those war machines (the most popular now) are specially designed to fight urban riots, they are sold everywhere without discrimination, also to dictatorships. The most recent customers include Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar, who in fact want to protect themselves against uprisings.
As potential curators, we can say that tanks from Kassel have an enormous expertise in geo-politics. They not only know about today’ s world conflicts but also about the war that is bound to start tomorrow. This knowledge should be extremely useful, especially when considering that documenta is starting to export its brand and savoir-faire in war zones such as Kabul.
2000 people are employed in this small town, shaping a real community. Some of the weapons factories are only a 10-minute walk from documenta’s main exhibition venues. One of the Krauss Maffei factories is even a point of contemplation from the outlook of the relaxing café terrace after a visit at the Hauptbahnhof ’s most vibrant shows (many art works there are about wars and conflicts).
As navigation (Führung) is one of documenta’s obsessions, a tank will prove to be an ideal partner. Tanks already make use of the right global networks and contacts, making it easy to find new sponsors or reinforce partnerships with the previous ones.
Panzer “Puma” or “Leopard” are also designed for extreme mobility and precise interaction in urban life: one of the aims of the contemporary. They must also have been thinking about “Öko-Feminismus,” especially the one that will be used in Saudi Arabia.

Global format and savoir-faire to export

Documenta has become a model of expertise and savoir-faire: The mega art event, the kind of Vatican of the contemporary is now traveling globally, preaching its knowledge and expertise on “destruction – reconstruction.” There is a mission to be fulfilled in war zones like Kabul, peace and goodwill seem to be the main motivation – at least in press releases. The “contemporary” is being transported like a miraculous “eau de Lourdes” with the capacity to solve and cure . Documenta has become a Disneyland-like or “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” format, documenta is more than an art show now; it is a solution to the world’s problems and miseries. Going to this sort of export, requires very good networks, especially in conflict zones, it also requires a very good knowledge of geo-political and financial fluxes. Arnold Bode (not to be mistaken with August Bode // Beide Bode I know!!!) would probably be happy that the experiment he conducted in Kassel could be a world model with enormous exporting potential. The commercial concept of destruction-reconstruction is actually the smartest concept ever found to create prosperity for those in need.

Extreme distance and the secret of the proximity

Kabul is far away, but the magic of the contemporary succeeds in building bridges, a win – win, situation and a fifty-fifty balance.
Documenta succeeded in creating a proximity with history, it also succeeded in bringing to a huge audience: EMOTIONS. dVisitors (documenta visitors) can feel nearly as if they were in a war. They feel touched and shaken like kids experiencing a ghost ride at Disneyland. Most dPilgrims are at the border of crying, moved by all these four dimensional emotions provoked by videos, sounds, the choice of site, visuals etc. At different places, art pilgrims can reflect on genocides and murders that Kassel sometimes was involved in. They can climb back in history on the location where for example deportation happened. The audience is invited to imagine and dive deep into themselves with iPod and headphones or being grabbed in a machine gun fire work in the park. Wars and conflicts are nearly brought to life, right in the middle of the dVisitor’s body. The realism of the abstract is striking and Sony must be so jealous with their old-fashioned playstation consoles. Art in Kassel makes you feel it stronger.

We are transported far in time and place, but we forget about the actual proximity. Only a 10-minute walk from “The Brain” (at Fridericianum) we can see the first weapons factory with its own railway station on August Bode Boulevard. Train stations in Kassel are charged with a sad moment in history. This one (different than the one used as an exhibition venue) is so close, so real, so much in use NOW that we can imagine the exploding conflicts coming in the future. We can imagine the tanks being produced, we can hear them, we can imagine the guides from Kassel traveling with them to teach how to fire them. In closing our eyes, we can even imagine the scenarios of their use in a womens’ rights repressing regime. By the physical proximity we can feel stronger emotions; breathing the same air as those weapons make you feel it MORE, more than at documenta’s official exhibition spaces. The effect is stronger, because it is happening NOW and even because the scenario has not happened yet, we can feel part of the secret. It is happening, it will happen.
We are not in the past (the contemporary art space) but in the tomorrow.
Being next to the weapons’ production, we cannot say anymore that “Oh! We did not know”.
The feelings of walking next to those downtown factories are so powerful that it is almost unreal, so unreal that no one talks about them. Like a city high on special drugs, no one wants to talk about them – not the locals that often lie about them, pretending they moved after the war, not the art consumers or producers that honestly do not know. To be in Kassel is like to be living in Twin Peaks.

In a way I understand the silence, this is much too strong and the normal contemporary crowd will be hurt if they knew. They are indeed sensitive people. The silence is established because of the secret.

Thierry Geoffroy, “Can art be in advance of the broken arm ?” ink on paper 15×22 cm

Can art be in advance of the broken arm ?

Contemporary art at documenta (13) is very antique, some kind of flea market, with albums, relics, memories and a past bad conscience but no surprise: The contemporary is always like that. It cannot or has refused to include a proper stage to show today as today.

Today is too strong and today can be intervened in it. For example, if genocide were exposed in time, we all would agree that we would run to do anything to stop them . We don’t want the “Oh! We did not know” to happen again. The contemporary has to become ultra-contemporary if it has to be in time, not a flea market.

The contemporary is like the cavalry in Lucky Luke,

CAVALRY [fr. cavalerie]

In our days the artist always comes too late.
Like the cavalerie in Lucky Luke.
Too late to save the family from the massacre.
Too late when the cows have died from an epidemic.
Too late.
Art can only make a statement of its incapacity to be on time.
Art = Retard.
Retard means delay in French.
Art always comes after.
When the genocide has been done.
When the icebergs have been melted.
When the innocent have been tortured.
Art = Retard.
Art is only contemporary of the injustice already done.

The contemporary is not useful in terms of impact, the contemporary is depressing, sad and frozen in the “cannot-do-anything-sorry-to-be-too-late”, the contemporary cannot do anything else than cry.

If a tank would curate the next documenta, we could at least have knowledge of the coming conflicts; we could even be “in advance of the broken arm.” We could be in time and try to stop the massacre, have the right tools at the right moment at the right place to avoid catastrophes.

But for this we need to be informed (or less scientific), listen to our intuition.

In order to be in advance of the broken arm, we need to avoid distractions from the entertainment industry(?), have a break from the constructed emotions playing yoyo with us. We must make an effort to have a vision of the “now” and the “may-happen-tomorrows.”

We feel it is necessary to spend time crying about history because we expect to learn from it so it does not happen again, so that we can then avoid the “Oh! We did not know, if we knew, we would have stopped it”... of course, of course. But let’s do it, not only learn from the past, but also work in the present.
We don’t cry about history in art shows because of voyeurism and cheap emotions but for becoming better people, more accomplished humans.

Navigation and ranking of where to go, what to see and what to think, getting a bank to select what not to see.

Documenta (13) tells us through press conferences and its advertising campaign that the contemporary needs navigation and navigation tools to find the art (probably due to the sponsors), which the banks (such as Sparkasse ) have designed with them. Navigation tools (Führung) for smart people with smart phones so that the public does not get lost and is guided to experience when, where and how long. Cadence and selection against the dérive. Probably the latter, the same dPublic will know where to invest its money (as we know, banks also have solutions for that).

The win-win cooperation between the art and the Sparkasse designing those tools together seems to be very logic.

Tanks with their expertise of precision tools, will be even better partners.

By having the next documenta curated by a tank, documenta will increase expertise in navigation technology.


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