Posted in Uncategorized by gvd on February 4, 2013

Plaats_79_Michael Asher

1. How did you become interested in Jef Geys’ work?

I was in Brussels in the Spring of last year (2012) and I saw two exhibitions by Jef Geys — one at Galerie Greta Meert with his drawings lining the wall; and then his exhibition at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts which featured his Women’s Questions?! project along with some older artwork. I thought these exhibitions were electric — something extremely generous and human and sensitive about all of it. And also mysterious. So I began to speak with Kim from Galerie Greta Meert and this began a series of very interesting discussions that led me to meet Jef.

2. What exactly is the importance of his artistic practice for you and for art in general?

I am still in the midst of learning about Jef Geys’s work  — and maybe this is one of the essential parts of his practice: it’s an extremely generous and open form of teaching. He has many different bodies of work but they each seem to lead into a lesson about being human in the world. For example, I think of a box he made in 1966 — called Gevoelsspeeldoos — which is filled with small objects that teach children (perhaps even blind children) to learn different sensory experiences, the difference between “soft” and “furry” and “rough”. Or his incredible projects of making hundreds of drawings in correspondence with the Ecole de Beaux Art in Paris, exploring the fundamentals of drawing and revealing the strange and beautiful ways traditional drawing is taught.  Or an amazing older sculpture he made in wood, like an abstract totem pole. On the surface of this sculpture, he wrote any new word he learned and looked up in the dictionary, so the sculpture becomes a record of his expanding language. There are so many examples — the Women’s Questions?! , the Kempen, etc, etc. Jef was a school teacher for many years. And in his practice I have the sense he is constantly learning and constantly teaching.

3. How did the exhibition in your gallery take form? How did the preparations came along (Jef Geys told us about your visit to Balen) and how was the cooperation with the artist?

Jef Geys agreed to have me visit him in Balen. He met me at the train station and we spent a day together looking at his incredible archive of work and talking and getting to know each other. Then he gave me a series of assignments to carry out in New York. It was a test, and a very exciting test. The exhibition comes from these assignments.

4. Could you describe the way the ‘4 pieces’ (Michael Asher, Dan Graham, Fukushima and mama) and the Caravan (!) are shown in the space of your gallery?

Our gallery is currently moving to a new location, so the exhibition takes place in my apartment here in New York. The four printed works related to the Underwater Museum (Dan Graham, Michael Asher, Fukushima and Mama) are on display, alongside some photographs Jef sent me that show his caravan at SIlvermeer, the site of the Underwater Museum, with these four works displayed in the caravan window. I describe this project to visitors, and then on a table I have many books on Jef Geys (very difficult to find these books in America); printed versions of the Women’s Questions?! in 12 different languages; and a large selection of his own Kempens Informatieblad. Visitors can sit and read through the documents at the table. In this way, the exhibition is like doing a bit of research. Again, teaching and learning….

5. Could you tell us something more about the posters in the streets of New York? Who took the photos and are they exposed in your gallery? Did you get any reactions to these posters?

Another one of the assignments in Jef Geys’s test was to print many copies of this poster and post it up all over New York. I did this on December 31st, the last day of 2012. It’s a beautiful poster, and people were very glad to see it in the subways and around the city, especially on New Years Eve. While I was putting them around the city, people kept asking if they could have a poster. Of course I gave it to them. I took the pictures myself of all the places where I put posters. And I have some copies still here, but the posters were really meant to go out into the street, they are not so much a part of the exhibition.

6. Is there a catalog?

There is no brochure — I prefer to introduce the work myself since it’s an intimate exhibition and it is in my home.

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