Leaves of Grass by Geoffrey Farmer

The installation questions the dominance of visual over-stimulation in modern culture.

Canadian artist Geoffrey Farmer’s current exhibit of work is a huge three-dimensional collage, reminiscent of a theatrical play rather than a static installation.

Currently on show at Germany's Neue Galerie, Leaves of Grass is displayed along a corridor – its seemingly endless work stages an immense show of shadow puppets. The first impression is that of a randomly assembled mass of faces, animals and objects. With a horror vacui effect, each of the images looks as if competing with the others for the front of the stage.

On closer inspection, the work reveals the complexity of Farmer's practice. All the images are taken from the iconic American culture and identity magazine LIFE, between five decades (1935 to 1985). Among the over 16,000 paper silhouettes, the viewer can recognize celebrities mixed with anonymous faces, objects of everyday use and technological items.

While the title refers to poet Walt Whitman's most celebrated collection, Farmer's impressive installation is not  a celebration of American identity. On the contrary, by transforming pop imagery into staged narrative questions he highlights the dominance of photography in shaping cultural history.

Leaves of Grass can be seen at the Neue Galerie in Kassel, Germany, until 31 December as part of dOCUMENTA (13).

Photos by Anders Sune Berg, courtesy of Geoffrey Farmer.

Neue Galerie
Schöne Aussicht 1 
34117 Kassel
Germany

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