Spatializing Character: on the Work of Geoffrey Farmer

Rosamond, Emily. 2009. 'Spatializing Character: on the Work of Geoffrey Farmer'. In: A Measure of Place: Space in Text and Context. McGill University, Canada 5-7 February 2010. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

This paper takes as its point of departure contemporary installation artwork which, through its excessesive materiality, inclusion of text, theatrical use of space, and use of “character-like” presence, is amenable to a quasi-literary reading; it might be playfully viewed as a sort of “spatialized literature.” Vancouver artist Geoffrey Farmer, for instance, makes complex installations which often allude to novels, and adopt a quasi-narrative logic to propel their conceptual motion. Writings on his work have noted this literary affinity by drawing it into relation with literary theory – for instance, Bakhtin’s concept of the chronotope, or “space-time” in a literary work, and Barthes’ “Death of the Author.” Without literally depicting sculptures of figures, Farmer’s works evoke extraordinarily complex oscillations between several different sorts of quasi-characters: figures of the worker, objects-as-characters, quasi-faces, material evidence of a character’s action, machines that become actors in the space.

How and why do Farmer’s works “spatialize” character? What might they have to add to an understanding of character that requires a distinctly spatial treatment? To unpack these questions, I will consider Farmer’s installation A Pale Fire Freedom Machine (2005) as it relates to both a spatialized conception of character, and, in the inverse, to the character of space itself. I will view this work through a series of spatial/conceptual lenses: the chronotope, the Klein Group diagram and its role in the generic conception of space in sculpture, and what I will call the force of event in these works (and to unpack the latter, I will work with the Deleuze-Guattarian concept of the conceptual persona). I will argue that in Farmer’s works, the “characters” at play are spatial actors: entities who perform an act by changing the properties of space itself, in all its physical, social, gendered, ideological, and playful, emergent aspects.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


Geoffrey Farmer

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures


1 December 2009Accepted
7 February 2010Completed

Event Location:

McGill University, Canada

Date range:

5-7 February 2010

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

16 Jan 2019 16:48

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 17:05


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