Thomas Geiger: The Great Relief
The Great Relief is Thomas Geiger’s third solo exhibition at SPERLING. Two new series of works come together that deal in very different ways with territorial markings in public space: The photographic work Some Great Europeans has its origin in a performance created in November 2018 as part of the Performance Biennale in Chandigarh (India). Chandigarh is the first planned city in post-independent India, designed by the French architect Le Corbusier. As such, it is permeated by the modernist visions of Europe: scientific rationalism, efficiency, and a belief in social improvement through design. In front of the museum, also designed by Le Corbusier, Geiger built an improvised brick pedestal. Visitors were invited to select an image from a series of photographs, all of which show public statues of some “Great Europeans”, and interpret it on the pedestal.
In this work, Geiger deals with his own role as an artist and poses the question of what artistic and intellectual import can look like in the post-colonial age. Together with the participants, he creates temporary monuments in which the ephemeral human being is at the centre rather than the object that survives. The short gestures and attitudes of the participants become a fragile but all the more lively antithesis to the static and solid monumentality of modernism in the background and statues in general.
The work is a continuation of Thomas Geiger’s performative and sculptural practice, which finds its place in the intermediate realm of private/institutional and public spaces and usually includes visitors directly. This results in shifts that question our perception of these spaces as well as our own role within them.
The sculpture series Corners for Relief, which emerged from Geiger’s preoccupation with “being allowed” and “having to” in public space, also moves at this interface - and quite specifically with the question: Where can one go when one has to? What do you do when you’re not allowed?
Urination is an essential biological function that has been subjected to strong social control.. But to maintain this control is more difficult for some than for others. For many people, the increasing disappearance of public toilets is an enormous problem. If you are not a man (who is able to find his “public toilets” in numerous places in the public space or to declare the place a toilet) or in perfect health, enormous mental energy is required if the next toilet is not just around the corner.
The Corners for Relief are small corner-shaped sculptures reminiscent of urinals - a comparison that suggests itself, because they are the modelled forms of popular peeing corners from public space. Peeing corners may be a result of the lack of public toilets, but they still owe the fact that man can. If you like, corners for peeing belong to a male system of representation in public space. They share this quality with the statues of the “Great Europeans”, for even historiography and its visible representation in the form of statues and monuments is “marked” above all by male heroes.
Thomas Geiger, born 1983 in Germany, lives in Vienna. Geiger’s artistic practice focuses on performative and sculptural approaches at the interface between public- and private/institutional spaces, seeking contact with different forms of public. His projects such as Kunsthalle3000 or The Festival of Minimal Actions can be considered stages for collaborations, dialogue and confrontation. Recent exhibitions and performances include Kunstverein Langenhagen, Museum Tinguely (Basel), La Construccion (Guatemala), Despacio (San José), Fondation d‘entreprise Ricard (Paris) or Thank You For Coming (Nice).