Geoffrey Farmer and Gareth Moore

Salzburger Kunstverein, Austria

For their collaborative installation A Dark Switch Yawning, Neptune Skeletons Thronging, Black Bucket Prolonging, World Turtle Longing, Sink Plug Wronging (2017), Geoffrey Farmer and Gareth Moore have assembled various objects and sculptures in a shallow, walled pool of water, which occupies the majority of the gallery. Some sit, partially emerged; others float. With the objects dimly lit by low-hanging lanterns and the walls and floors of the space painted a deep blue, it is permanently night. This darkness amplifies the space’s single discernable sound: the constant dripping of fountains into the pool.

Submerged in the water are whale ear bones, which are plentiful in the fossil record and trace cetacean existence from sea to land and back to sea once more. More contemporary objects include a shard of a dinner plate, a wizened houseplant and a take-away cup of coffee, attached, leaf-like, to the limb of a tree. Trousers made of fish leather, seemingly beset by rigor mortis, stretch atop a chair, while a Styrofoam imitation of a concrete slab floats adrift. Absence coexists with presence in the head of a taxidermy duck, peering from behind a totem-like pole, as well as in a pile of 600 Thai coins, emptied from the stomach of a sea turtle that swallowed them but didn’t survive the surgery. A separate turtle appears in the form of a bronze sculpture, a reference to an anecdote in Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time (1988), wherein a lady refutes the structure of the universe by claiming that the world sits on the back of a giant tortoise. Beneath that, she says, is an endless stack – ‘turtles all the way down!’.

web_7_farmer_und_moore.jpg

Geoffrey Farmer and Gareth Moore, A Dark Switch Yawning, Neptune Skeletons Thronging, Black Bucket Prolonging, World Turtle Longing, Sink Plug Wronging, installation view at Salzburger Kunstverein, Austria, 2017. Courtesy: Salzburger Kunstverein

Geoffrey Farmer and Gareth Moore, A Dark Switch Yawning, Neptune Skeletons Thronging, Black Bucket Prolonging, World Turtle Longing, Sink Plug Wronging, installation view at Salzburger Kunstverein, Austria, 2017. Courtesy: Salzburger Kunstverein

Together, these found and conceived objects form a cosmos so pointedly arcane and hysterical that it can be nothing short of biographically-informed. As with Farmer’s earlier works, such as Leaves of Grass (2012), for which he plucked and juxtaposed photographs from 50 years’ worth of Life magazines, this installation proposes a decontextualized reordering of history that merges past and present into something new. Works drawn from previous installations – such as Into the Water (In His Leather Breeches) (2008-12), Moore’s abovementioned chair and fish leather construction – underline the cyclical and generative nature of both artists’ practices. Thus, to enter the imaginary site proposed by the installation is to accept the authors’ own minds as an organizing frame – one informed by the specifics of their experiential biographies.

web_6_farmer_und_moore-1.jpg

Geoffrey Farmer and Gareth Moore, A Dark Switch Yawning, Neptune Skeletons Thronging, Black Bucket Prolonging, World Turtle Longing, Sink Plug Wronging, installation view at Salzburger Kunstverein, Austria, 2017. Courtesy: Salzburger Kunstverein

Geoffrey Farmer and Gareth Moore, A Dark Switch Yawning, Neptune Skeletons Thronging, Black Bucket Prolonging, World Turtle Longing, Sink Plug Wronging, installation view at Salzburger Kunstverein, Austria, 2017. Courtesy: Salzburger Kunstverein

Funny, then, that the installation relies little on personal history. (The most intimate narrative comes in the form of a cannon, which was gifted to Farmer by his uncle and subsequently converted into a sculpture.) In fact, the ethos of Farmer and Moore’s sprawling assemblage might be to include everything, because anything can become source material. The underlying subject matter, whether a commentary on religion or humankind’s exploitation of nature, is secondary. Because the gallery is so dimly lit, viewers assume a position similar to that of the artists as passive, detached observers – one that is further abetted by the shrine-like atmosphere of the pond, which encourages a certain indifference and the acceptance of all things. But to be able to choose and exclude seems to be a fundamental prerequisite to being an artist, and therein lies the necessary illusion of assuming any worldview, the terror of attempting to make meaning at the macro scale. In the pool, Hawking’s tortoise, holding up the world, sits next to the giant plug referenced in the installation’s title: Sink Plug Wronging. The world as we know it may end at any time.

Main image: Geoffrey Farmer and Gareth Moore, A Dark Switch Yawning, Neptune Skeletons Thronging, Black Bucket Prolonging, World Turtle Longing, Sink Plug Wronging, installation view at Salzburger Kunstverein, Austria, 2017. Courtesy: Salzburger Kunstverein

Helen Chang is a writer based in Vienna.

Issue 190

First published in Issue 190

October 2017

Most Read

The punk artists’s invasion of the pitch during the Croatia vs. France match reminded us what Russia’s new ‘normality’...
In further news: Brexit voters avoid arts; New York libraries’s culture pass unlocks museums; Grayson Perry-backed...
If artificial intelligence were ever to achieve sentience, could it feasibly produce art? (And would it be good?)
The punk activist-artists have been charged with disruption after they charged the field during the France vs Croatia...
27 educators are taking the London gallery to an employment tribunal, demanding that they be recognized as employees
In further news: Glasgow School of Art to be rebuilt; Philadelphia Museum of Art gets a Frank Gehry-designed restaurant
Highlights from Condo New York 2018 and Commonwealth and Council at 47 Canal: the summer shows to see
Knussen’s music laid out each component as ‘precarious, vulnerable, exposed’ – and his conducting similarly worked from...
Nods to the game in World Cup celebrations show how dance has gone viral – but unwittingly instrumentalized for...
‘You can’t reason with him but you can ridicule him’ – lightweight as it is, Trump Baby is a win for art as a...
Anderson and partner Juman Malouf are sorting through the treasures of the celebrated Kunsthistorisches Museum for...
From Capote to Basquiat, the pop artist’s glittering ‘visual diary’ of the last years of his life is seen for the first...
‘When I opened Monika Sprüth Galerie, only very few German gallerists represented women artists’
Can a ragtag cluster of artists, curators and critics really push back against our ‘bare’ art world?
In further news: German government buys Giambologna at the eleventh hour; LACMA’s new expansion delayed
Gucci and Frieze present film number two in the Second Summer of Love series, focusing on the history of acid house
Judges described the gallery’s GBP£20 million redevelopment by Jamie Fobert Architects as ‘deeply intelligent’ and a ‘...
Is the lack of social mobility in the arts due to a self-congratulatory conviction that the sector represents the...
The controversial intellectual suggests art would be better done at home – she should be careful what she wishes for
Previously unheard music on Both Directions At Once includes blues as imposing as the saxophonist would ever record
In further news: Macron reconsiders artist residencies; British Council accused of censorship; V&A to host largest...
In our devotion to computation and its predictive capabilities are we rushing blindly towards our own demise?
Arts subjects are increasingly marginalized in the UK curriculum – but the controversial intellectual suggests art is...
An exhibition of performances at Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warsaw, unfolds the rituals of sexual encounters
An art historian explains what the Carters’s takeover of the Paris museum says about art, race and power
Artist Andrea Fraser’s 2016 in Museums, Money and Politics lifts the lid on US museum board members and...
The Ruhrtriennale arts festival disinvited the Scottish hip-hop trio for their pro-Palestinian politics, then u-turned
The Baltimore’s director on why correcting the art historical canon is not only right but urgent for museums to remain...
Serpentine swimmers complain about Christo’s floating pyramid; and Hermitage’s psychic cat is a World Cup oracle: the...
The largest mural in Europe by the artist has been hidden for 30 years in an old storage depot – until now
Alumni Martin Boyce, Karla Black, Duncan Campbell and Ciara Phillips on the past and future of Charles Rennie...
In further news: po-mo architecture in the UK gets heritage status; Kassel to buy Olu Oguibe’s monument to refugees
The frieze columnist's first novel is an homage to, and embodiment of, the late, great Kathy Acker
60 years after the celebrated Brutalist architect fell foul of local authorities, a Berlin Unité d’Habitation apartment...
The British artist and Turner Prize winner is taking on the gun advocacy group at a time of renewed debate around arms...
The central thrust of the exhibition positions Sicily as the fulcrum of geopolitical conflicts over migration, trade,...
The Carters’s museum takeover powers through art history’s greatest hits – with a serious message about how the canon...
The 20-metre-high Mastaba finally realizes the artist and his late wife Jeanne-Claude’s design
‘What is being exhibited at Manifesta, above all, is Palermo itself’
With the 12th edition of the itinerant European biennial opening in Palermo, what do local artists, curators and...
In the age of Brexit, why Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to return the ‘stolen’ Parthenon marbles has never been...
The curators seem set to ask, ‘how civilized is the world’s current state of affairs?’
US true crime series Unsolved takes two formative pop cultural events to explore their concealed human stories and...

On View

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

April 2018

frieze magazine

May 2018

frieze magazine

June - August 2018