Vancouver Art Gallery
7 x 10 in
Illustrations: 406 colour
Author: Geoffrey Farmer
The Surgeon and the Photographer profiles all of the 365 figurative components of Geoffrey Farmer's seminal installation of the same name. The book reproduces all of the sculptures, comprised of fabric bodices onto which photographic reproductions of faces, artworks, animals, signs and various other appendages have been added.
Scaled according to the human hand—the same hands that handle the coffee table books from which these images were sourced—these puppet-like figures create an immense cast of surreal characters, a cross-cultural slice of humanity that has paused, as if to consider the next gesture in the grand theatre of history. Individual descriptive texts—compiled from an equally vast array of sources, including Farmer’s own writing—extend the artists’ methodology of collage and appropriation from the visual realm into the literary.
In book form, the cut-out images are brought full circle: from original object to published reproduction, then to re-arranged object, and finally to another photograph—continuing in an endless play of re-representations. The book’s title refers to Walter Benjamin’s famous 1936 essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” wherein Benjamin assesses the growing anxiety around the aura of the art object in the growing presence of mass reproduction technologies.