Kendell Geers

° 1968

Born in ZA, works in Brussels (BE), lives in Brussels (BE).

Originally from Johannesburg, South Africa, Kendell Geers grew up in one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Born in a family of Afrikaners (migrants of Dutch origin), he received a Catholic education from his father after the divorce of his parents. Soon, he started resisting any form of authority, rejected the colonial past of his family at 15 and becoming an anti-apartheid activist. Forced to leave South Africa, following his refusal to do military service, he went to New York where he became assistant to Richard Prince. In 1990, when Nelson Mandela was released, he returned to Johannesburg and worked there for ten years before finally leaving his country of origin to settle in Brussels, where he eventually gained Belgian citizenship.

This personal story, that of an Afrikaner "too white in Africa and too black in Europe", has profoundly marked his work. Some emblematic pieces attest to this: Counting Out Song (a.k.a. Tyre), monumental sculptures of tractor tyres evoking lynching by fire; T. W. (Fence), barbed wire barrier blocking access to a museum; Hanging piece, a vast installation of bricks hanging from the ceiling, recalling the techniques of urban guerrilla warfare; or Self-portrait, bottle shard from a Dutch Heineken beer; or the famous video installation T.W. (Shoot), showing a frantic compilation of film sequences where the actor shoots in the direction of the viewer. As a multidisciplinary artist, Geers created objects, installations, video works and created numerous performances. He continually explores and criticizes our world in a direct way by warning against the alienation, the subversion or the obvious, that the objects, images and situations from our daily life can generate.

In the late 80s, Kendell Geers worked on the links that can be established between forms of conceptual or minimalist art and political issues. In this sense, he has fully participated in this tendency of contemporary art to reintegrate a ‘political’ content to the forms inherited from minimalism and conceptual art and which have sometimes been described by the paradoxical formula as ‘minimalism policy’. This was the case with some emblematic works, such as Mondo Kane, a square of concrete bristling with shards of a bottle; or T.W. (Showcase), quadrangular glass case, broken by a brick thrown through the window; or the work called The Garden of the Forking Paths, a vast watchtower of concrete and barbed wire. The monumental work Monument to the Unknown Anarchist summarises his anxieties: it’s a burned car, burning during the exhibition, turned over on a pedestal covered with bottle shards. Testimony of urban insurrection, it symbolises any form of revolt, whose legitimacy varies according to places, periods of history, and ruling classes. Opposed to any form of authority, Kendell Geers intends, by this symbol, to bring to light the revolt of the unknown, history’s forgotten actors, by questioning the viewer on the legitimacy of such an act.

Kendell Geers has taken part in numerous international exhibitions such as the Lyon Biennale 2005, Documenta XI, or Dyonisiaque, at the Pompidou Center. He participated in the first Johannesburg Biennale and the exhibition Hardcore. Vers un nouvel activisme, at the Palais de Tokyo. He had numerous solo exhibitions in the most important international institutions and is presently in most major international collections. In 2007, he had a major solo exhibition, organised simultaneously at the BPS22, in Charleroi, and at the SMAK in Ghent.

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