Article excerpt

Geoffrey Farmer's video The Fountain People, 2008, consists of footage of a fountain located in front of an escalator, most likely in an upscale shopping center. While waiting for some narrative to commence, and perhaps for the titular characters to appear, one must make do with the banal sight of spouting water, the dull glow of lights underwater, and the sedating stream of Muzak. In the accompanying installation, the two typewritten pages affixed to the wall provide little interpretive guidance but allude to strange aquatic forces that covertly watch, surround, and transform in ways analogous to the workings of a pervasive culture industry; according to these texts, the more folks ingest and bathe in this replenishing source, the more powerful "they" (presumably the fountain people) become. Despite its deadpan reductiveness, the work summons a number of associations, perhaps the strongest being to Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove and its narrative of a communist conspiracy to fluoridate the bodily fluids of the American people.

A suitable introduction to a mid-career retrospective, organized nonchronologically and with wit by the museum's Pierre Landry, The Fountain People provides a glimpse of the homogeneous, packaged, and polished cultural landscape--extending from malls to museums--that the artist has interrogated in myriad ways over the past two decades. Widely in evidence in Montreal was Farmer's fondness for, and inventive use of, provocatively humble and ephemeral materials, as seen in Enterpreneur Alone Returning Back to Sculptural Form, 2002, a sprawling sculptural installation in which packing, cleaning, and office materials are intricately and whimsically arranged and that, although only one of many works shown here, encapsulates his concerns. …


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