Geoffrey Farmer’s installation The Blacking Factory was comprised of three interrelated works: a prop newspaper box, a sculptural installation in the form of a large truck trailer and a film work depicting a window of the Contemporary Art Gallery shattering from an explosive concussion. With these works Farmer utilized the technological expertise of the film industry to create analogies between increasingly sophisticated mechanics of display and the artifice behind the social production of meaning and value. The truck trailer was fabricated in mimicry of those used by movie production companies—an increasingly common sight on the streets of Vancouver—and alluded to the transportation of such necessities as props, lighting systems and costumes necessary to the creation of illusions. The film work rehearsed a set piece found in a wide spectrum of Hollywood films—from action-adventure to thriller—and utilized the unexpectedness of this violent genre staple within and about the gallery to prompt reflection about the context of our perception.
This publication accompanied the exhibition The Blacking Factory, Geoffrey Farmer curated by Reid Shier at the Contemporary Art Gallery from June 21 to August 11, 2002. The publication includes essays by Nanaimo based poet and critic Peter Culley and Reid Shier, with an introduction by Christina Ritchie and a letter of apology from Geoffrey Farmer (included below). The book includes two colour posters.
Letter of Apology
Dear Contemporary Art Gallery:
I am writing this letter to apologize for the apparent reduced form of this project as compared to my previous work:
1. First of all instead of producing a stack of hundreds of prop newspapers and having them available for people to take away, I found one in the back of a prop house in a cardboard box. (See page xx)
2. I had promised to actually blow out the east gallery windows, but due to time constraints, budgetary concerns, crew expenses (Fire engine $110/hour, Firefighter $65/hour, Officer $80/hour) and permits (Fees for a hydrant permit: $160.50) I was forced to have the explosion digitally created from a still photograph at GVFX and although they did a great job in creating the effect they used blue smoke instead of the green smoke that I had asked for. (Also I had asked to blow only one of the windows out, and they blew all of them out.)
3. I also had wanted the Trailer to be full of props, sets and research material which referred to Charles Dickens (hence the name The Blacking Factory) but was unable to complete this part of the project due to a couple of factors which I can not go into here because they are philosophical and personal.
4. I was also going to hire a crew to come in and age the exterior of the gallery using Soy Sauce (an industry standard) but I was unable to get permission to do this from the Strata of the building.
5. There was some talk of having 10,000 children march through the gallery in a single line but this was deemed not feasible.
6. I had also wanted to produce the musical Oliver using the staff of theContemporaryArtGallery as the main characters but the time commitment for this was unreasonable and the willingness of the staff was an issue.
I also wanted to apologize to the staff if I seemed stiff or detached during the installation it was only a way to protect myself emotionally and psychologically as the production of this piece was very time consuming and we ran into a lot of technical problems in trying to make the Trailer look real.
I hope that we will have the opportunity of working together again in the future.