Kendell Geers

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The Art of Throwing Stones at Art

South African artist Kendell Geers became an outspoken opponent of the Apartheid politics in his country in the early 1980s. Most of his work mirrors the sometimes shocking, always direct language of the political activism Geers employed in his early years. In one of his works, he declared his birthday to be in May 1968, as a gesture of solidarity and an alignment of origin. His works can take a variety of forms, from performances to video installations or photography, but in their directness they always force the viewer to relate to them, either positively or negatively. Geers lives in London and Brussels.
Since the late 1980s, Geers has worked constantly, often in controversial ways, on a connection between conceptual and political art. In brief interventions, performances that sometimes last for years, full-scale public actions, and large installations, Geers has created a broad spectrum of symbolic and concrete actions, which can be understood not only as gestures of direct political resistance, but also as attempts to appropriate conceptual traditions of modern art.

Characteristic of his methods is the work Untitled (ANC, AVF, AWB, CP, DP, IFP, NP, PAC, SACP/ 1993-94). On July 19, 1993, the day on which a member of the Inkathas Freedom Party (IFP) was killed during the unrest before the first free, democratic elections in South Africa, Geers decided to join every South African political party. The work officially ended on February 7, 1994, when the ultra-right Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) issued him a membership card. Documented in the comprehensive collection of different membership cards, the work refers to Geers’ personal involvement in politics, which was not without personal risk since the parties considered each other “enemies.” It also illustrates the fundamental double bind of Geers’ own conflicted cultural ancestry as a descendent of colonial rulers, which, despite his anti-apartheid activism, re-inscribes the role of the oppressor in his biography.

In other works, Geers conveys this direct involvement to the observer by developing potentially dangerous or difficult situations. In "Title Withheld (Brick)" (1994/96), in which Geers threw a brick through the window of an art gallery, the act of vandalism becomes a transformative act of performance; a brief action has created lasting consequences for the architecture of the exhibition space, which can be physically experienced. For "Title Withheld (Deported)" (1993/97) Geers erected an electric fence charged with 6000 volts across the showroom, which prevented visitors from entering part of the exhibit. His most recent video installations often employ film sequences of people screaming or shooting, repeated in short loops at booming volume ("Title Withheld (Shoot)", 1998/99; "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea", 1999; "Title Withheld (Scream)", 1999). His contribution to Documenta XI consisted of the photo series "Suburbia" (1999), which documented the safety precautions taken in private houses in Johannesburg, “where people protect themselves by creating jails in which they willingly sentence themselves to a lifetime of imprisonment and call it freedom” (Geers). For an exhibition in Vienna in 2000, Geers hung bright orange body bags onto the walls of the museum, and for the exhibition "Hardcore" in Paris (2003), he covered soccer balls with the rubber masks of current political leaders like Bush, Blair, Arafat, and others, offering visitors the chance to play with them in a white cube displayed in the museum. For or a recent exhibition in San Gimignano, Italy, Geers covered the sculpture of a crucified Christ with the red and white chevron tape usually used to block roads and constructions sites ("Title Withheld (I.N.R.I.)", 1995-2002) and placed a big white cube of concrete covered in glass shards in the center of the gallery. As always in his works, Geers opts for direct engagement with the viewer and aims to create situations which emphasize their immediate political connotations despite the risk of failing as aesthetic objects or artworks.
Author: Christian Rattemeyer

Bio

*1968 in Johannesburg, South Africa, lives in London, Great Britain, and Brussels, Belgium

Works

Articles

Published Written,
2000
Jerome Sans, “Landmines in the Gallery,” (interview), Trans>arts.cultures.media, no 8, 2001 Ruth Kerkham, “There’s a Bomb in This Exhibition: Kendell Geers Charged,” Parachute, no. 99, 2000 Okwui Enwezor, Octavio Zaya, laMoving In,lv Flash Art, January-February, 1996 Candice Breitz, “Why Have There Been No Avant-Garde African Artists?”, Atlantica, no. 11, 1996 Okwui Enwezor, “Occupied Territories: Power, Access, and African Art,” Frieze, January, 1996

Articles by Kendell Geers

Published Written,
2000
Articles by Kendell Geers Kendell Geers, “The Horror, The Horror,” Stopping The Process? Contemporary Views on Art and Exhibitions, Helsinki: NIFCA, 1998 Kendell Geers, “Third World Bites Back,” Art Ventilator, Johannesburg, September, 1994 Kendell Geers, “Art as Propaganda Inevitably Self-Destructs,” Art From South Africa, Oxford: Museum of Modern Art, 1990

Group Exhibitions (Choice)

Exhibition / Installation
2005 "Lichtkunst aus Kunstlicht“, ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany "War is Over”, Galleria d´Arte Moderna, Bergamo, Italy "8. Biennale de Lyon 2005“, Biennale Lyon, Lyon, France "inSITE 2005“, inSITE, San Diego, USA "Les Grands Spectacles“, Museum der Moderne, Salzburg, Austria "Daumenkino“, Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf, Germany "Ten Year Anniversary Exhibition”, Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, Great Britain "Strange, Familiar and Unforgotten“, Galerie Erna Hecey, Brussel, Belgium "Photography Exhibition“, Lohaus Stella Gallery, Antwerp, Belgium "Dionysiac“, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France "10 Years 100 Artists”, Bell-Roberts Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa "Art in the Age of Terrorism”, Southampton City Art Gallery, Southhampton, Great Britain "Stock Zero – opera“, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Bucharest Romania "Terminal 5“, JFK airport, New York, USA 2004 "Camoufleurs“, Kunstverein Springhornhof, Neuenkirchen, Germany "Democracy was Fun“, White Box, New York, USA "Die Zehn Gebote“, Deutsches Hygiene-Museum, Dresden, Germany "Not Done! Het Kunstenaarsboek”, Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, Antwerp, Netherlands "Art 35 Basel 2004“, Art Basel, Basel, Switzland "O.K. America! / Peter Noever”, Apexart, New York, USA "Art Frankfurt 2004“, Art Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Germany ".ipeg bild.ton.maschine“, Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, Germany "Cremers haufen“, Westfälisches Landesmuseum, Münster, Germany "Barraque D´Dull Odde / Opera Video”, Galleria Continua, San Gimignano, Italy "Transcultures”, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens, Greece "Miedo // Fear“, Galería Pepe Cobo, Sevilla, Spain 2003 "A Fiction of Authenticity - Contemporary Africa Abroad”, Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis, USA "Biennial Istanbul 2003”, Biennial Istanbul, Istanbul, Turkey "Black President”, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, USA "2nd Biennial Göteborg 2003”, Biennial Göteborg, Göteborg, Sweden "M_ARS - Kunst und Krieg“, Neue Galerie, Graz, Switzerland 2002 "documenta 11“, Documenta, Kassel, Germany "To Actuality ... Work in Process” ARGE Kunst, Bozen, Italy 2001 "2nd Berlin Biennial 2001“, Berlin Biennale, Berlin, Germany "Marking the Territory“, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland "The Short Century”, Museum Villa Stuck, Munich, Germany "The Short Century”, House of World Cultures, Berlin, Germany 2000 "The Sky is the Limit”, Taipei Biennial, Taipeh, Taiwan "VideoBrasil”, International Electronic Art Festival, São Paulo, Brazil "Positions Attitudes Actions”, Foto Biennale Rotterdam, Rotterdam, Netherlands "Home”, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, Australia "Micropolitiques”, Le Magasin, Grenoble, France "South Meets West”, Kunsthalle Bern, Bern, Switzerland 1999 "Zeitwenden”, Kunstmuseum Bonn, Bonn, Germany "Traffique”, SMAK, Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Gent, Belgium, "Power”, Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst, Leipzig, Germany "Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin 1950s-1980s”, Queens Museum of Art, New York, USA "Following and to be Followed”, Le Consortium, Dijon, France 1998 "City Canibal”, Bienal de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil 1997 "Alternating Currents”, 2nd Johannesburg Biennial, Johannesburg, South Africa 1995 "Outside/Inside”, 1st Johannesburg Biennial, Johannesburg, South Africa "Aperto, Corderie dell’Arsenale”, La Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy

Solo Exhibitions (Choice)

Exhibition / Installation
2005 "Hung, Drawn and Quartered”, Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, USA "Satyri:Ikon“, Galleria Continua, San Gimignano, Italy 2004 "Kendell Geers“, MACRO, Rom, Italy "Hung, Drawn and Quartered”, CAC Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, USA 2003 "Kendell Geers“, Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, Great Britain "The African Exile Museum - Kendell Geers”, Migros Museum, Zurich, Switzerland 2002 "Kendell Geers - Grenzgänger“, Luis Campaña Galerie, Cologne, Germany "Kendell Geers - Sympathy for the Devil“, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France 2001 "Where Angels Fear to Tread“, Delfina Studios, London, Great Britain "Televisionaries”, Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany "Timbuktu”, Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Vienna, Austria "Kendell Geers - Where Angels Fear to Tread”, Delfina Gallery, London, Great Britain 1999 "States of Emergency”, Wiener Secession, Vienna, Austria 1998 "Guilty”, Fort Klapperkop, Pretoria, South Africa "98.3”, ArtPace, San Antonio, USA 1997 "Memento Mori”, de Vleeshal, Middelburg, Netherlands 1996 "Black on the Inside”, Galerie Metroplex, Johannesburg, South Africa 1995 "We are Johannesburg Artists and Nothing More”, Michaelis Art Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa 1993 "Threshold: The Exhibition”, Everard Read Contemporary, Johannesburg, South Africa 1988 "Box Theatre”, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Projects

This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.

The Short Century

Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa

(18 May 01 - 29 July 01)