Kendell Geers, The internal experience, from breaking in to breaking out, by Christine Marcel
Identity, roots and the self-portrait
The question of identity is a key into the work of Kendell Geers. Family, social, religious, artistic and historical factors all contribute to my definition of his practice. He has never given up struggling against an inherited identity, continually defining himself in relation to this legacy. The word “identity” is generally understood as that which characterises a person. Yet it derives from the late Latin “identitas”, from classical idem, meaning “the quality of that which is the same.” In philosophy, “identity” designates the nature of that which is permanent. My intention is to use the term to refer to what a person permanently carries within, that is, his/her roots. According to the Nietzschean expression, roots retain that which they already are while forming new, unpredictable, traceries. With this in mind, it is possible to speak of radicalism in relation to Geers. He returns to his sources, taps into fundamental principles, and pushes them to the furthest reach of their consequences, fully encapsulating the meaning of the word “radical”. Thus, the French has taken on the English meaning. Roots, sources and radicalism are the emotive terms buried beneath the concept of identity.
Many see Geers' work through their own frame of reference. People brought up in the West, with only a superficial awareness of the context in which it developed, often interpret the dimension of identity, those roots which are both the determiner and subject of the work, according to inappropriate criteria. This gives rise to either an infatuation with, or a rejection of the work. Both reactions find their origin in a case of mistaken identity. For those who are attracted by the rule-breaking aspect of the work, marked by violence, provocation, sexuality and pornography, the mistaken identity derives from the allure of the recent fashion for trash and the over-exposure of the sexual which has invaded the media. This brittle superficiality is a far cry from the harsh reality I discovered in 1996 when I first met Kendell Geers in Johannesburg. At that time, South Africa was known as a country in which a rape occurred every four minutes. In a ludicrous twist during the same year, a woman on a beach was arrested for wearing a monokini. Violence was everywhere. In the city centre, I witnessed cars smashed with bricks, men chased by gunshots in broad daylight and people being attacked. In Soweto, shanty-towns worthy of an apocalyptic vision of the European middle ages churned in unspeakable misery and chaos.
Viewers who reject Geers’ work outright because of its direct and provocative violence usually have no idea what real violence is. They interpret it as too ‘simple’; an easy solution. Personally, I find his work simply agonizing. What makes the work relevant is not only that fact that it provokes, breaks taboos and crosses boundaries. That would indeed be a very brief exercise in sensationalism. Such work does not stand a chance against the realities of everyday life. What makes Geers’ work fundamentally important is the complexity of layers of meaning concealed behind its apparent simplicity. It is precisely this illusion of straightforwardness that gives the work its strength as it belies the multiple meanings and references from which each piece is constructed. These are sometimes critical and seldom without a certain occultism which is unlikely to be perceived by those who are unfamiliar with the hermetic tradition of spirituality. The unique quality of his work stems from his incorporation of the question of personal identity alongside the great myths of the past and the present. Geers’ work has roots in the most ancient of civilisations and stretches across time into contemporary western society. He often includes links to Christian parables through the use of themes like: good and evil, guilt and forgiveness, the thief, the myth of love, etc. His broad scope also takes on the mythology of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, from salvation art to the myth of the museum of modern art.
Henceforth follows an initial investigation into what defines personal identity, prior to exploring how this can be connected to the great myths. The work begins in 1988. Six years before, at the age of sixteen, Geers ran away from home and adopted the name Kendell, rejecting his Afrikaans identity (descended from the Dutch colonisers) as Jacobus Hermanus Pieter Geers, with the nickname of Koos. During that period of the apartheid regime, martial law, also known as a ‘state of emergency’, held unconditional sway in the land. In an attempt to escape conscription by the South African Defence Force, Geers attended the University of the Witwaterstrand for four years. After this, he opted for exile in the United States where he worked as Richard Prince’s assistant. His upbringing until that time had been based on a strict, Christian morality which went hand in hand with a overpowering collective denial of the history of the colonisation in South Africa by both the British and Dutch after the end of the eighteenth century. As a young man, Geers found himself faced with the collapse of the apartheid system. This is generally seen to have ended in 1990 with the release of Nelson Mandela. The collapse of the previous regime undermined the previously contradictory twin pillars of Geers’ background: Christian morality and the denial of colonisation. Geers proceeded to become actively involved in the contemporary history of his country, initially as an activist journalist and, a short while later, as an artist attempting to rebuild an identity with a heritage he had already completely rejected. At the time I met him he had received death threats because of a number of his works, particularly UNTITLED (ANC, AVF, AWB, CP, DP, IFP, NP, PAC, SACP) from 1993/4. This was a piece in which the young artist obtained diverse political identities through joining a variety of parties. Geers provided evidence of his duplicity by displaying the membership cards from the different groups as an artwork. As a result, he gave his address to no one and acted like a man under a suspended sentence; someone who was guilty by birth.
Rejection and identity have been stumbling blocks for Geers since the inception of his work. I refer to both the rejection of identity as well as the rejection of oneself because of one’s identity. Geers’ biography, which he has turned into a work of art, presents the story of a young man who ran away from home and found nothing but closed doors. These factors have allowed him to define himself as a reject from the start, although not without a measure of enjoyment. The upper case letters TW, which are generally found in the titles of his earlier work, stand for Title Withheld (or title rejected) are a form of censorship he toyed with a great deal while establishing his practice.
The question of identity is explored in his earliest works through the combined use of imagery and naming. In 1988, Geers produced a small work entitledBrick, consisting of a photocopy attached to a brick. The latter is a mundane found object that is both a source of heat in the hearth and a dangerous weapon. The text is taken from a brief newspaper article reporting that a family of six died of smoke inhalation in a domestic fire. Only the name of the police officer is mentioned while the victims remain anonymous. Thus, the artist’s memorial to the nameless family highlights the double death of the victims; in real life but also in the newspaper’s failure to acknowledge their identity as individuals. The white line around the brick is identical to that drawn around the body of a dead person prior to an official police investigation. A person familiar with Western art museums may well associate this with the barrier erected to protect installations. The placement of the central object adds another layer to the interplay of connotations in the work. If the viewer wishes to read the text, he/she is obliged to kneel and therefore pay his respects to these stolen identities in the position associated with prayer and supplication.
In the same year, Geers produced his first self-portrait, June seventy-six, referring to the time when the 1976 Soweto riots were horrifying the world. Geers was ten years old. The work consists of the photograph on the artist’s birthday in which he poses with a young crocodile in his arms. This personal image echoes another photograph from that point in South African history which is famous for its tragedy; that of little Hector Peterson who died in the Soweto riots (1) being carried in his sister’s arms. Geers thus defines himself as being guilty of continuing to live on in the face of horror. As he wrote in 1995, the perversity of his birth hallmarked the birth of his own perversity; (2) a perversity, or rather a desire to pervert, which has never ceased to drive him forward.
1993 marked the return of South Africa to the Venice Biennale since the country’s participation had been terminated in 1968. In the same year, Geers produced Title Withheld (Kendell Geers). The work consists of a chain with two metal pendants, one displays the title, the other the date: “May 1968”. Thus, the object signifies the artist’s identity as a prisoner, hostage to both his personal history and that of his country. Geers chose to modify the incarcerated prisoner’s identity chain to blend with his own, thereby echoing the manner in which he changed his own forename and date of birth. He replaced the latter with 1968, a year during the Paris riots which also bore witness to the death of Marcel Duchamp and the publication of “La Société du spectacle [The Society of the Spectacle]” by Guy Debord. These artists were tutelary figures for Geers. His self portrait is embedded with references to the history of art and politics, demonstrating the layering process which has remained a constant in Geers’ work to this day. He continues to provide a number of semi-transparent angles of meaning from which the work can be approached. Title Withheld (Kendell Geers) can only be sold on auction after the artist’s death. This element of the piece suggests that Geers wished to symbolically separate himself from the commercial art circuit at the time through this work, thereby allowing it to retain its personal implication for the duration of his life. Geers is deliberate about making this work difficult to consume and take possession of. Such politics of production are in accord with the aesthetic of rejection he has cultivated from the early stages of his career.
Self Portrait is his third self-portrait, produced during his six-month stay at the Villa Arson in Nice in 1995. At that time the artist felt exiled and isolated. This was the first of Geers’ works which had great impact on me on the occasion of our initial meeting in 1996. I see it as a major work of his early period, asMondo Kane is for the 2000 phase. The original self portrait consisted of a fragment of a glass Heineken bottle (a beer that comes from Holland) alongside a photograph of the artist’s family. It was destroyed in the famous TWA 800 theft which occurred when the work was being shipped from New York back to Johannesburg. Geers proceeded to remake twelve copies of the piece. Due to the manner in which the bottle was broken, it was impossible for any of these to be identical. They are therefore copies without an original, quite the opposite of the claim of the beer’s label to being: “The original quality”. The broken glass is also evocative of urban violence due to such objects commonly being used in street brawls. It also refers to a form of escapism through its other potential function of a pipe for marijuana. This self-portrait therefore suggests a broken and fragmented identity, ‘imported from Holland’ and recycled; a cheap identity which was destroyed in a mysterious terrorist-related event, the truth of which can never be known. Geers also takes on the shattered identity of the stereotypical Afrikaner, not answering questions, refusing to provide an original to match the copy and resorting to violence at the same time as searching for ecstasy in a form of soothing release.
Every year since that point, Geers has produced a self-portrait. Sometimes this is ‘masked’, as is the case with the blown lasses of Kocktail which were made from a mould of the artist’s penis. These glasses were appropriately used for champagne tasting at the “Dionysian”, exhibition in the Pompidou centre in 2005, a period when Geers was exploring Dionysian and sexual compulsions with an ironic sense of gaiety.
Among the primary characteristics of his initial identity as an Afrikaner is the fact that Christianity and Christian morality have stood as basic reference points for the artist. This applies even when they have been smashed to pieces in an uninterrupted sequence of explosions and shattered glass. A work like Hanging Piece from 1993 was inspired by the “terrorist” acts at that time considered normal in the rural areas of South Africa where suspended rocks were used to smash the windows of cars on the motorways. Such work sets the tone for this ongoing theme.
Guilt and prohibitions provide a central core to a body of work which appears determined to destroy violations and restrictions. Theft and even rape were the key words behind Geers’ interventions and installations right from the start. Real or potential robbery lies at the heart of a number of works, thereby reflecting the everyday reality of a South Africa in chaos. The briefcase in Title Withheld (Briefcase), 1993, suggests both terrorism to come, in the form of a voluntary desertion, as well as a form of release. The keys in Potlatch of 2004, are an invitation to theft. They tempt the viewer by providing the means with which the secret corners of the museum can be penetrated and the masterpieces that reside there repossessed. The original version of this piece was conceived for the New York collector Jeanne Greenburg. The house keys for her home in the opulent area of New York’s Upper East Side were displayed beneath the luscious Magrittean inscription of: “Do not duplicate”.
The theft of art is another recurring theme which encourages a shared frisson between artist and spectator. Title Withheld (Stolen), 1994, suggests that either a work has just been stolen, or that it could have been. Thus, only its stand remains in its place, providing possible meanings through the use of absence.
Title Withheld (Stolen idea) consists of an exact replica of a work by Gabriel Orozco, a ball of clay rolled on the ground. This in turn is a distant echo of a piece by Michelangelo Pistoletto entitled Scultura da passeggio, 1966-1995,(3) which was made from pressed newspaper on which the Progetto Arte had been printed and carried around the streets of Turin during a public performance in 1966. Thus, a double theft takes place and a simple idea gets taken up by a number of artists, asking questions concerning fluidity, movement, translation and exchange in a huge artistic copyshare which once again throws into question the notion of artistic and intellectual property. After love is another work produced on the basis of another. In this case, LOVE, made in the late 60s by Robert Indiana. Various versions of Geers’ version of the piece, using the lettersB/O/M/B were made in blue and green, then in red and black (the colours of anarchy) in 1996. The original work by Indiana itself once inspired the General Idea group in the eighties.
With complete awareness of his actions, Geers also calmly “lifted” Daniel Buren's system of stripes when packaging religious statues in alternately red and white striped adhesive tape. This tape is also used in South Africa to indicate a hazard or no-go zone for the public. It may well communicate a similar message to art lovers of the original stripes of the BMPT leader.
Pursuing its radical quest, Geers’ work went through a major turning point during the years 1998-99. After his initial ten years of practice, the artist began to exhibit on the international circuit at an accelerated pace at the same time as exploring new media. He developed a repertoire of processes, forms, themes and obsessions which have their roots in his first ten years, but expand towards an approach which is less reliant on the legacy of conceptual language. The latter had been based on research from international art magazines rather than from first hand experience of exhibitions. This is the inevitable result of working in an Africa which had little interest in contemporary art during the artist’s first decade of professional practice. Geers plunged further forward, tapping into the roots of the collective unconscious and the most basic human drives, striving to create environments which immerse the viewer in as much dread as perverse seduction. In order to achieve this he continued to explore taboos, meshing them together with video and sound. T.W. (Shoot) from 1998/9 marks a definitive turning point. The facing screens that make up this piece compels the viewer into an explosive loop of gunshots montaged from Hollywood shooting scenes. This was followed by Blind man’s bluff which was produced for the Vienna Secession.
In 2000, Geers withdrew temporarily from the art circuit, following his pieceTruth or Dare (Jan Hoet). Jan Hoet, considered to be an icon of contemporary art due to his fame as a curator and also his position at that time as the director of the SMAK in Ghent, was beaten by a dominatrix as part of the artist’s project. The work was first shown in an exhibition inaugurated by the Queen of the Netherlands. The sound of the curator’s cries are incorporated into the installation through the use of old military speakers from the second World War. Thus, the role of the city of Arnhem from major conflict in the past can be located at the symbolic helm of this absurd cluster of outdated equipment. This moment marks a pinnacle in Geers’ trajectory; a point of no return within the logic of political provocation. It also performs an efficient U-turn, directing the work towards his previous period of production, but at the same time enabling all references to be rearticulated and unified. After the intense period of reading and research that followed this piece, Geers fell back on the fundamental questions which are essential to art. His interest in the question of the object returned, although this time he strayed from the confines of Duchamp’s nominalist legacy of language. He attempted to free himself from the matter of pure representation and politics in order to incorporate his art into a wider reality. Geers’ research extended to the history of religion, penetrating as far back as that of Ancient Egypt, where the pagan and the spiritual are articulated. He was particularly influenced by creation myths evoking the masculine and the feminine.
Geers proceeded to immerse himself in the occult philosophy of the sixteenth century, in particular that of Giordano Bruno, John Dee, Athanasius Kircher, Eliphias Levi, Papus and above all Cornelius Agrippa, the great rebel of the Renaissance in search of the “secret of secrets”. Geers also appears to have dabbled in the work of Rabelais, in which he found echoes of his own fascination with humanism and esotericism touched with humour and irony. The work produced for the Lyon Biennale, Declamation of the Nobility and Pre-eminence of the Female sex, pays homage to a work by Agrippa, who, according to Geers, could have met Rabelais in Lyon (a city where he lived for four years). As a magician striving to bring together ‘the elemental’, ‘the celestial’ and ‘the intellectual’, Agrippa was also famous for his highly Rabelaisian jokes, like calling his dog Mademoiselle.
Geers’ research came to an end when he discovered the work of the Acéphale group, formed by Georges Bataille, Michel Leiris and Roger Caillois, wherein their shared interest in politics and contemporary anthropology, as well as their taste for the occult, were united. Giving the impression of attempting to rebuild his identity on a deeper level, Geers immersed himself in spiritual matters as much as he had in politics, making an effort to join his mixed heritage of Christianity with African myths and culture. The African tradition, deeply animistic, opened further doors concerning the object and physicality for the artist. Although he identifies himself more with European culture, Geers reinforced his interest in objects such as the African mask which he had worked with in South Africa at the time of his Self Portrait.(4) According to African tradition, the mask only receives its full value when it is worn as that which the object represents is less important than the fact of its functionality. The mask should be used and evident residue is necessary to bear witness to this. The idea of use above that of representation became central for Geers. The matter at hand was to reach beyond the question of representation and language.
His first work created after this period of turning in on himself, Terrorist’s Apprentice, 2002, consisted of a functional object: a single match displayed beneath a Plexiglas cover within a huge, darkened hall inside the Palais de Tokyo. This object had not yet been used and therefore has the potential for a willing participant to perform an act of vandalism by setting the match alight. This is in fact more or less what happened on the day of the private viewing of the show. A visitor broke the original glass lid which then had to be replaced with Perspex for the reopening of the exhibition. With this piece, Geers unleashed the full force of his “black” irony. A tiny object was displayed in a disproportionately large room. Furthermore, he insisted that visitors remove their shoes and also that the display etiquette usually reserved for masterpieces was utilised for the installation, complete with plinth, stand, spotlighting, lavish carpets and black velvet curtains. Through the exaggeration of this piece, the artist gives the impression of wanting to be done with museum codes and conditions once and for all and return to the subject of compulsion itself. He proceeded to move towards another form of illumination.
Beyond Eros and Agape
The flesh, sexuality and religion simultaneously became central themes in Geers’ work. So too did love. Eroticism developed into a crucial preoccupation, overwhelming previous concerns with social and political violence which had characterised his practice up to 2000. It provided a tool that enabled him to continue his mission of reaching beyond the boundaries of conventional language. Eroticism is made up of a fundamental form of violence. In “L’Erotisme” [Eroticism], Bataille wrote: “Essentially the world of the erotic is the world of violence, the world of rape…” where: "…the most intimate state of being, the point where the heart disappears…” is reached. (5) Geers continues his exploration of the question of guilt, but this time via the flesh. His work revisits ancient museum collections without paying any heed to the limitations of a chronological perception of art. Conventional time ceased to exist for him and, even more than before, he refused to follow the irreversible arrow which defines him. The work Present Tense, a digital watch turned upside down, bears witness to his indifference towards the regular progress of things. The reversing principle is a constant for Geers; an artist for whom the truth has many faces. This would explain his recent neon works in which he takes pleasure in turning words around to make them say the opposite of what they mean. This depends on whether he flashes all the letters or only a select few. BE :LIE :VE, Lie declares his neon work attached to the outer wall of Villa Medicis in Rome, facing Saint Peter’s cathedral. Such works suggest that Geers aspires to freeing himself of language and reaching the emotion beyond the word. Similarly, he seeks to move from love to desire.
Since 1994, with the works Title Withheld (Night Porter) and Title Withheld (Obsession), Geers has produced work deeply connected to eroticism. The former is an extract from the film The Night Porter where actress Charlotte Rampling is seen naked to the waist, bowing her head before a German officer whose cap she has put on. Obsession depicts a Calvin Klein advert with a horizontal view of a naked, young Kate Moss being used as a tray for cutting lines of cocaine, complete with the inevitable rolled up banknote and credit card that are associated with the drug’s ritual. In this piece Geers could be seen to be toying with the impressions of a male homosexual surrounded by sex, drugs and money. He utilises pornography in Title Withheld (Hustler) from 1993, where a giant poster of “Hustler’s Honey July 1993”, showing a masturbating woman, is spattered with the artist’s sperm and discreetly folded into a smaller version in the first of the artist’s Argot Catalogues.(6) The magazine that was the source of the poster was banned in South Africa at the time. The depiction of a naked woman, along with topless sunbathing, was prohibited. In this example Geers is exploring clichés surrounding masculinity, femininity and sexual gender in order to introduce ‘gender trouble’ (to take the title of the work by Judith Butler).(7) The porn poster reveals the masculine power of the penis, a theme revisited in the performance Kocktail wherein it is criticised and lampooned as is the case in a number of his works. In Toilet piece from 1993 for example, he switches the icons for “Ladies” and ‘Men’ in the museum toilets.
At the Parvis in Albi, 2004, Geers presented his erotic holy virgins. These masturbating female figures taken from pornographic magazines, were inspired by the heresy of the Cathar Christians which the Albi district had born witness to. Sexuality was considered a means of liberation for members of the sect. In stark contrast to this, Christianity has opposed masturbation since the time of Onan who, in the Bible, is the prototype of unproductive perversion.
Together with Patrick Codenys, the musician from Front 242, Geers also produced a Dionysian workshop in Courtraix. This was inspired by the activities of the Acéphale Group and their fascination with ritual sacrifice, where a furious unchained Eros is seen surrounded by women inaugurating violence in a naked dance.
Geers produced La Sainte-Vierge [The Holy Virgin] for the Pompidou Centre in 2005 as the high point of this experiment. The installation incorporated his earlier holy virgins in a homage to the La Sainte-Vierge by Francis Picabia. The works themselves look like an ejaculation of ink. In keeping with his working philosophy, the masculine is not left behind, as is evident in the Ecce Homoseries of drawings, structured along similar lines to those the masturbating female nudes. (8)
What is the meaning of love? Without being sentimental, Geers is seen to ask this question repeatedly in his work. This form of questioning is intimately connected to that of the language from which he strives to free himself. While describing the impact of words and their inherent danger, Geers rejects their authority. This is a theme he shares with William Burroughs, to whom he makes constant reference, particularly the book Electronic Revolution. (9) Geers writes that: “Language is a physical force which has a literal effect on our bodies, it predetermines the relationship with the world in which we live. Even our emotions are not free to the extent that we use the same word (Love) to describe what we feel for our mothers, our fathers, our girl(/boy)friends, our dog, pasta, ice cream and the colour red.” (10)
Contemporary language often confuses Eros with agape. Geers makes fun of the Cupid and Venus myth as he did with that of the male heterosexual. Title Withheld (After an Allegory with Venus and Cupid), 1993, consists of an ejaculation onto a reproduction of the mannerist masterpiece by Bronzino (the original is housed in London’s National Gallery). In a second version, a teddy bear carrying a heart is also covered with sperm. Thus, Geers mixed pure love with sexuality, Eros and agape, in an ironic bond.
Geers is also concerned with exploring the meaning of the verb ‘to love’. The opposition between Eros and agape dates back to the New Testament which is famous for celebrating the former to the detriment of the latter. Love from the heart and erotic love create a polarity to be found in all languages from all eras. For example, Kant places pathological love in opposition to practical love. Our period has chosen to use the same word for both meanings (‘love’ in English, ‘aimer’ in French, ‘lieben' in German), although the distinction is still apparent.
Geers attempts to bypass this opposition with the aim of reducing it to a single dimension. This echoes Freud’s conclusion that desire was the sole source of both passionate and spiritual love. Jacques Lacan states that there is a circulation between love and desire from the start: “Loving means giving what you don’t have…” and “…you could say that the dialectic of love, as developed by Diotimus, finds what we have tried to define as the metonymic function in desire.”(11) He wrote this in Le Transfert [The transfer] while in the process of analysing Plato’s Banquet believed to have been written around 360 B.C.E.
Thus, Geers explores the eroticism of the body but also that of the heart, never forgetting divine eroticism. This presents an internal experience in the Bataillian sense: A desire for a mystical experience from which even the object disappears and also a longing to merge and emerge in an eradication of limits.
In The Lovers, 1998-99, two red and blue emergency lights silently commune on a shared plinth. “The movement of love carried to the extreme is a movement of death,” described by de Sade is expressed in this installation which swings between a merging of Constantin Brancusi’s Kiss and the universal communication of mortal danger. In the theory of love expressed by Plato through Diotimus (in his dialogue with Socrates from The Banquet) it is in fact Eros who is named as the powerful daimôn. However, he awakens divine enthusiasm. Eros is also seen as the counterpart of initiation into the great mysteries. Such a work further keys into the poetic desire of the Muses, also illustrated in Plato’s Phaedrus which connects horror with desire.
In an overall analysis, Geers’ work is not so very far from the orgiastic mysticism of Saint Teresa as expressed in the Bernini statue at Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome. This is clear in a work like After Love which refers to the limitations of what we understand as being love. The word reproduced in place of ‘love’ is ‘bomb’. An explosive device can also be a mystical experience, as the artist expresses in the mysterious star-shaped form of House of spirits from 2005. (12)
Geers uses violence as a matter of course, exploding bombs and taboos, often employing the aid of his characteristically black sense of humour. I recall the embarrassed surprise expressed by some of the gallery goers during the performance of Kocktail once it became clear that the glasses they were drinking champagne from had been moulded on the artist’s penis. Some viewers even stole the glass, suggesting that the artist succeeded in provoking a symbolic desire for phallic possession in those men and women alike. However, identifying a taboo is not necessarily sufficient information with which to produce a good work of art (although there is no shortage of artists who follow this self indulgent path in an exploration of their own obsessions). What is achieved in this work is that the penis in its static, glass state loses its power. Viewers are confronted with the desire to take possession and use it as a vessel, as is also the case with the female sexual organ. Thus, Geers instigates further gender trouble. If the artist incorporates the strategies of the contemporary world, that of the journalist seeking top secret information, the psychoanalyst facing Jan Hoet with the question of power through sadomasochism, the art thief, the terrorist and the hacker simulating the misuse of a computer, it is so that he can dismantle them more effectively and better penetrate their mysteries. He takes them apart to discover something other than physical violence, thanks to the primordial violence of eroticism he discovers in the Mysteries. There is a sense of procedure that could be called Plutonian (if speaking in Jungian terms were acceptable) in the symbolism of the ancient gods which is reflected in this artist’s progress. Creating and destroying, experiencing limits and taboos, exploring the mysteries of life and death through sexuality and eroticism, revisiting ritual … this is the internal experience of Kendell Geers as expressed in his work which stretches beyond the biographical conditions surrounding his birth. This particular point in the artist’s practice is definitive of a trajectory from the initial breaking in (rejection-theft-rape) to the current breakout which has its roots in a new definition of love: The release of a soul seeking to rejoin its original source.
Christine Macel, curator of the MNAM Pompidou Centre, is head of exhibitions and an art critic. She has been teaching for five years at the Louvre School. In 2007, she organised the exhibition Airs de Paris at the Pompidou Centre and the Eric Duyckaerts Art Gallery in Belgium for the Venice biennale.