Thierry Geoffroy wants you to question the structure of the biennale and to reflect on apathy During the next three months, conceptual artist Thierry Geoffroy opens a ‘headquarter’ at Sabsay, where he challenges the visitors’ ability to question the structure of the biennale and reflect on apathy. Unfolding as a dynamic exhibition questioning the two art events, Documenta and the Venice Biennale 2017, before and while they happen, the aim is to stimulate debate and critical thinking.
For decades, artists have questioned the canvas, the medium, and the structure of the museum. It has been part of the artistic practice to break, burn, and make holes in canvases, and many artists have challenged what can be shown in museum institutions. Thierry Geoffroy goes further and questions the biennales and other cultural managed events.
“Now the biennales are becoming the top of the structure and have more power than museums. They become powerful monsters. As an artist – instead of breaking or burning the canvas – I question the structure of the biennale,” Geoffroy explains. To him, it is necessary to include these continuously growing art events in the discussion.
“In his work he follows Marcel Broodthaers in many ways – in continuing making a criticism of art. His artworks are criticism of institutions and larger structures in the art world. These large events have a status quo and are hardly ever questioned,” Masha Sabsay, founder of Sabsay, says.
According to Geoffroy, biennales such as Documenta and the Venice Biennale create a state of apathy – even though the purpose is said to be the opposite: To make people reflect, take action and create change. Taking the themes of the biennales seriously, Geoffroy’s exhibition questions the established structure in order to contribute to the debate, which the staged art events wish to generate.
“If their mission is to debate the problems of the world and where the world is going – then it is not a joke but an important subject. I think it is important to question the structure of it. What is behind it? Around it? And how does it affect the world?” Geoffroy says and adds “if people see too much of the same thing, they stop reacting.”
It is, yet, not everything Geoffroy believe he can say out loud, if he should in fact stimulate debate and critical thinking: “I see Documenta as the top of the contemporary art scene – the people who go to Kassel are the top of the intelligence – so if you criticize it in any way, people won’t listen to you. In order to make people question the structure, my strategy is to be sympathetic. Otherwise no one will listen,” he says.
Geoffroy sees the exhibition at Sabsay as a headquarter for the questioning of the structure, as it will be a place to prepare, make strategies, document, and eventually evaluate. The exhibition will change in different steps before and during Documenta and the Venice biennale.
Geoffroy wants the show to be as ‘ultracontemporary’ as possible, meaning that through a changing presentation of artworks, the exhibition can and will adjust to the now at any time: “Emergency replaces the contemporary. The time it takes to make artworks and an exhibition, it is already too late… it will be about something that has already happened,” he states.
“This is also connected to why I believe biennales are dangerous… often in delay they take our attention to the past. It can be a kind of diversion as meanwhile dysfunction and emergency happen beside us in the present,” Geoffroy elaborates.
“We are excited in taking part in something that is not fixed, but evolving. There is a degree of unpredictability. We have an idea of how it will look in the beginning, but I have no idea how it will end,” says Sabsay.
Geoffroy works with a wide variety of mediums – ranging from drawing and painting to installation and video – which will be seen in the exhibition. The medium is, however, secondary to his objective: “The esthetic and the medium is a solution – it is less important. What is important is to make people question the structure,” he says.
Thierry Geoffroy (b. 1961) – also known under his artist alias ‘Colonel’ – is a French conceptual artist, living and working in Copenhagen, Denmark. He has worked on questioning established structures since 1989. Since then, he has published six books and his artworks have been included in several international museum collections.
Sabsay opened in May 2016 and is located in Central Copenhagen. According to Sabsay, the space is eager to show art that moves the boundaries and challenges the visitors’ conception: “Colonel is different kind of artist compared to what we have shown until now. It is also the first time we have a dynamic exhibition at the space,” she says.