Geoffrey Farmer: Let’s Make the Water Turn Black

Geoffrey Farmer, Let’s Make the Water Turn Black, 2013. Nottingham Contemporary. Photo David Sillitoe. Courtesy of the artist, Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver and Casey Kaplan, New York.
  • Geoffrey Farmer, Let’s Make the Water Turn Black, 2013. Nottingham Contemporary. Photo David Sillitoe. Courtesy of the artist, Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver and Casey Kaplan, New York.

Geoffrey Farmer is a unique and disconcerting voice in Canadian art. Borrowing elements from conceptual and installation art, he combines poetry and social commentary with specific cultural histories and memories. He presents these findings in a new and unfamiliar light, creating playful and visually entrancing works.

Let’s Make the Water Turn Black is his most technically ambitious installation to date. Over 70 sculptures have been constructed from found materials, salvaged movie props and discarded theatre sets which he presents as an ensemble on a large platform. Animated by computer, in an environment of changing coloured light, the population of characters are choreographed into a mechanical performance. They move slowly in response to musical compositions.

Echoing a 1968 composition by Frank Zappa of the same name, Farmer’s Let’s Make the Water Turn Black presents an improvised chronology of the six decades of the American musician’s life. Farmer sees the vast sculptural structure as a single instrument.

The soundtrack is composed from field recordings relating to places Zappa recorded and played his music. Farmer uses a “cut up” approach to the soundtrack that is related to William S Burrough’s way of writing literature, and to Zappa’s own compositional technique. It also references musique concrete, kinetic art, and the counter- culture music scene in Los Angeles in the 1960s. The computer algorithms that control the work reflect the idiosyncratic compositional forms Zappa used, making each day unique and unpredictable.

During the first week of the exhibition visitors will be able to see technical run throughs and rehearsals as the artist and crew choreograph the sculpture to the new musical compositions created especially for the Nottingham Contemporary exhibition.

This exhibition is a collaboration with Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst Zurich, Hamburg Kunstverein and Pérez Art Museum Miami.

Geoffrey Farmer, Let’s Make the Water Turn Black, 2013. Nottingham Contemporary. Photo David Sillitoe. Courtesy of the artist, Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver and Casey Kaplan, New York.
Geoffrey Farmer, Let’s Make the Water Turn Black, 2013. Nottingham Contemporary. Photo David Sillitoe. Courtesy of the artist, Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver and Casey Kaplan, New York.