From the 1st of February to the 12th of May 2013 will be presented the first comprehensive overview of Kendell Geers’s work – Kendell Geers 1988 – 2012 - at Haus der Kunst in Munich.

Curated by Clive Kellner (curator-at-large at the Gordon Schachat Collection and former director of the Johannesburg Art Gallery), the exhibition, which fills more than 900 square meters of space, examines the artistic practice of Kendell Geers, which spans a variety of media and genres including installation, sculpture, drawing, video, performance, and photography. Kendell Geers 1988–2012 traces the shift and the development of the artist’s conceptual and aesthetic language, divided into two chronological but interlinked groupings: 1988 to 2000, a period which covers his practice when he was living in Johannesburg, South Africa, and 2000 until the present, covering his move and residence in Europe.

Kendell’s biography:

Born in South Africa into a staunch Jehovah’s Witness, white, working-class Afrikaans family at the height of apartheid, Geers understood the power of faith, politics, and ideology at a very young age. He ran away from home when he was 15 to join the ranks of the militant anti-apartheid movement. From those seminal experiences as a front-line activist Geers developed a body of work that fuses the personal with the political, the poetic with the abject, violence and eroticism. In the works of this period in the late 1980s through the mid 1990s he explored the moral and ethical contradictions of the apartheid system and aimed to challenge all forms of power.

Throughout his artistic practice Geers has continuously explored and developed a visual vocabulary characterized by provocation, humor, and violence. The use of industrially produced materials and objects such as barbed and razor wire, neon lights, and glass shards indicates the crucial role of the readymade plays in his work. According to Warren Siebrits (in Irrespektivdesigned by Base)”The selection of these found objects and the process of subtle shifts of context have become the hallmark of Kendell’s artistic expression as he continues to prod and probe the darker and more sinister aspects of the human conditions”. Kendell’s goal is to overpass meaning, to subvert it rather than moralise the public or give solutions about it.

Artist’s identity:

Geers depicts himself as a “EuroAnimist,” bringing together the ancient animistic traditions from the African continent with the languages of the European avant-garde movements. Most of his art is based on his own experiences, memories, witnesses, and introspection, finally summed up within an avalanche of mythical ideas.

Kendell’s artistic sources not only refer to post-apartheid inspiration but also to global matters.

From 1988 to 2000: First step into Kendell’s work.

This part of the exhibition covers the early years of Geers’s exploration through the relationship between language and meaning. In these early works Kendell’s predominant interest is the affective power of the disruptive gesture, which cuts the indiscernible object and recodifies its meaning.

“Be it a broken beer bottle neck; a brick smashed through an empty glass vitrine; a stack of two tires inscribed with the curling lettering of a racist rhyme; a dog tag inscribed with the artist’s name, or a perspex box containing a series of identity cards of all South African political parties, Geers’s work is deeply invested in examining the codes of and language of materials and the forms they give rise to.” (Source)

From 2000 to nowadays: the spiritual jump.

At the personally symbolic age of 33 (in 2000), Geers decided to stop making art for the entire year and instead undertake a spiritual quest in search of a vision of art that would redefine his personal beliefs and his artistic practice. That year marks a significant shift in the ways the artist conceived of his work: he moved toward a poetical and animistic approach, suggesting more universal themes such as spirituality and mortality.

Geers asks more and more the artificiality of the medium between nature and culture, by breaking the rules, he builds, out of religious symbolic medium as Jesus’s cross, a kind of non-structure or subversive structure telling to the outside world: “Eros is Thanatos”, meaning that all opposites are bound to meet, to merge, to be part of each other.

Eroticism trip:

The flesh, sexuality and religion became central features in Geers’ work. Eroticism took over the other themes Geers used to deal with up to 2000.  Eroticism was actually providing him a mean to overpass boundaries of conventional language. “Eroticism is made up of a fundamental form of violence” (Irrespektiv, p. 202) and that is why Eroticism was so interesting for Geers, so did love too.

La Sainte Vierge (The Holy Virgin) produced in 2005 for the Pompidou Centre stands for Geer’s high point of Eroticism experiment.

Geers’ has always wanted to explore and shake clichés surrounding masculinity and feminity and sexual gender, in order to enlighten about ‘gender trouble’ (Irrespektiv, p.205). Every reference to masturbation is meant to remind the public how opposite meanings Eroticism is associated to, from freedom to unproductive perversion.

The installation Postpunkpaganpop (2008) that marks the center of the exhibition invites the visitor to walk upon a mirror floor through a labyrinth made out of razor mesh. What is usually used to mark a military border is transformed into a personal search for a “mystic truth”: As the mirrors reflect whatever is above as below, the spiritual sphere is connected to the earthly, the outer external material world to the inner metaphysical.

The web magazine E-Flux also speaks about it.

About Haus der Kunst:

You want more Kendell Geers ?

Have a look on Base Youtube selection:

Sculpture Fuck KG.

“politics will change the world: I don’t believe that anymore” KG.

Short view on Irrespektiv exhibit