WHAT WILL KENDELL GEERS THINK OF THE CHRISTMAS TREE? THE ANSWER MAY BE FOUND IN HIS ATTRACTIVE-FRIGHTENING EXHIBITION AT M77 GALLERY
Text by Fiammetta Cesana
In this more than any other time of the year, ornaments and hangings are central in our daily. So much that now Christmas seems to mean just that, a plastic fir covered with sparkling balls and lights in every corner of the streets. Not even a global pandemic apparently have stopped us from thinking about how to best spruce up our homes and neighborhoods. In fact, keeping up the spirit is important, especially in times of crisis, but then it is also essential to stop and think about the real value we attribute to decorations, frills, to all that is superfluous creating an illusion of brilliance and completeness.
Today, we’ve chosen to talk you about a great contemporary artist, as well as animist, shaman, alchemist, punk and poet (yes, that’s exactly how he calls himself, an ‘AniMistAktivist’), who embraces the teachings of minimalism, denouncing the danger of ornaments, to upset our beliefs and ideals.
Kendell Geers, born in Johannesburg (South Africa) with European origins, changed his date of birth with May 1968 as a political and artistic act. Raised with the knowledge that his education was based on racist lies, he ran away from home at 15 taking part in anti-apartheid movements, fled the military regime that sentenced him to 6 years in prison going to London in political asylum. After a stint in New York where he worked as Richard Prince’s assistant, he returned in the 90s, after Nelson Mandela being released, to South Africa to help build the democracy of his country.
Aesthetics and ethics are two sides of a coin in his art. Geers destroys what we believe in, from popular stereotypes to ideological and cultural codes, through a wise use of materials and colors. The animist-artist, who is also a designer, musician and writer, is capable of creating places that are attractive but at the same time inhospitable and disturbing.
The title of his ongoing exhibition at the M77 gallery in Milan, ‘OrnAmenTum’EtKriMen’, derives from the 1908 book by the architect Adolf Loos, pioneer of the functionalism of modern architecture who condemned decorations as a useless, even dangerous excess.
Among various exhibited operas – from fetish and religious-wise sculptures, glass fragments piercing the wall, to paintings and prints of flowers disrupting classic art’s still life compositions – OrnAmenTum’EtKriMen seduces and frightens us with a new proposal of Geers’ 1993 installation ‘Hanging piece’, taking us to a room where clay bricks hang on loops of red ropes from the ceiling. The brick, symbol of the minimalist movement, becomes the gallows of excess, of the pomp that we used to think should cover, with fine wallpapers and low-relieves, the brick itself. In front of these hanged bricks we should ask ourselves: how many embroideries have we sewn our wrapping, the one seen by others but that nothing serves to hide inner emptiness?
Next to the bricks, the big neon from 2003 Geers’ archive dazzle us with the a series of words of warning: DANGER – TERROR – BORDER with flashing initials that so become ANGER – ERROR – ORDER. Then, to expand the experience’s intensity pushing us to reflect even more deeply and question social and individual structures we used to take for granted, is the mirrored floor, which overturns the meaning of each present element once again.
Geers’ cemetery of bricks followed by his screaming words-statements, like the blinding decorations and the huge spruce trees we see on the streets, in shops and our apartments, should make us consider if they are a useless palliative to our suffering. Looking at this superabundance of lights, we must question where the true needs of our soul reside. How can we really enlighten it?
Until January 31