ABOUT THE EXHIBITION

Voetstoots | Kendell Geers

Galerie Ron Mandos, Amsterdam

Galerie Ron Mandos proudly presents Voetstoots, the first solo exhibition of Kendell Geers in the Netherlands in over two decades. Internationally acclaimed for his politically engaged work, Geers investigates themes such as colonialism, power structures, activism and his personal background as a white South African. In Voetstoots, he explores the links between colonialism and modernist languages.

Artist statement: Running voetstoots and kaalgat through the museum

This exhibition is called Voetstoots after the Afrikaans word meaning ‘sold without guarantee at the buyer’s risk’. It literally means ‘push by foot’, because the car you are buying might be sold without an engine. What you see is what you get.

History is written by the winner with the blood of the defeated. But as winners are defeated by time and perceptions change, so too do histories get rewritten. In every textbook, white South African history begins in 1652, when Jan van Riebeeck sailed into Table Bay. He raised the Dutch Flag, declaring the land theirs. I am pushing back against history: South Africa was not DISCOVERED by Van Riebeeck, the country was always there. The true story of white South African history begins in 1647 when a Dutch ship was wrecked not far from Robben Island. The survivors noted that the local Khoikhoi people were generous hosts and so the seeds were sewn for colonial invasion.

The Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, lined with colonial trophies, recently understood that many of their titles might be offensive. History is being rewritten as a portrait once known as The Little Negress is now Young Woman with a Fan. The longest word in Dutch however cannot be renamed. HOTTENTOTTENTENTENTENTOONSTELLING refers to the exhibition of Khoisan tents - despite the historical fact that no such thing existed. The pejorative word haunts Dutch language and culture like an illegitimate demon tied up in the attic.

The very same values, morals and principles that defined the colonial enterprise and apartheid, also shaped European culture and modernism. Voetstoots takes avant garde languages and repositions them in an age of political examination. Where does colonialism end and modernism begin? When Picasso wrote ‘L'art nègre? Connais pas’, was he in denial or running voetstoots and kaalgat to the Musée de l'Homme?

Instead of art being a weapon of the revolution, I have made the revolution a weapon of art. And there is hope, because ‘Art Changes the World, One Perception at a Time’.

Kendell Geers, September 2018

This is a shortened version of the artist statement. The full text is available on request.

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ABOUT Kendell Geers

Born in May 1968, Johannesburg, South Africa
Lives and works in Brussels, Belgium

Born into a working class Afrikaans family during the height of Apartheid, Kendell Geers quickly found himself fighting a Crime Against Humanity on the front lines of activism and protest. Running away from the military regime and a six year prison sentence, he escaped to London in 1988 as a political refugee. In 1989 he moved on to New York where he found employ as Richard Prince’s full time assistant. Following the release of Nelson Mandela, Geers returned to South Africa in 1990 to help build the new democracy.

From his strong experiences as a revolutionary, he developed a psycho-social-political practice that held ethics and aesthetics to be opposite sides of the very same coin, spinning upon the tables of history. In his hands, the discourse of art history is interrogated, languages of power and ideological codes subverted, expectations smashed and belief systems transformed into aesthetic codes. The raw energy of a Punk attitude is blended with the visceral visionary philosophy of poets like Rimbaud, Blake and Burroughs in an uncanny cocktail of unexpected contrasts.

A European by descent, an African by birth, Kendell Geers work embodies the contradictions of his identity, being both Animist and Mystic, Shaman and Alchemist, Punk and Poet. The warp of popular culture is woven into the weft of poetry, painting, literature and ritual. He uses experience to colour perception, spiritualising matter and materialising spirit, mocking tradition like an iconoclast whilst celebrating history like a Medieval Monk.

Believing that art is as political as it is spiritual, Kendell Geers’ varied practice cannot be simplified, cannot be reduced to cliché or fashion. Working as an artist, musician, designer and writer, his strategies are without compromise because he believes that “Art changes the world – one perception at a time.”

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