onepeople met with Kendell Geers on Monday, 8 December at
a coffee house in the newly trendy area of Johannesburg known as Melville. The
three of us sat and talked about his work for over an hour--what was most apparent
was his absolute passion and conviction for the necessity for art to reflect and
measure the current trends, energies and realities of any given contemporary society.
dismissed the right-wing values instilled in him before leaving home at the age
of fifteen, Geers's works are performance statements (some might say radical)
that comment on the tension and strife of the world he lives in.
We attended his Guilty installation in Pretoria unprepared for the biting
frame he supplied for a traditional Afrikaans
is everywhere in the work of Kendall Geers. 'I speak of my work as interventions
rather than as works of art,' says Geers, 'as pieces . . . a piece being a gun,
a weapon.' The trajectory of Geers's interventions is often head on, its orbit
startlingly sweeping. Geers's works function as events, as loaded language games
and graphic transgressions - a brick through the Rembrandt van Rijn Gallery window,
a semen-stained Hustler centrefold, a room at the Johannesburg Art Gallery stripped
of all work and exhibited as part of the Johannesburg Biennale, labelled Title
Withheld (Boycott), a bomb warning hung on the wall of a London gallery.
the best sense of the word, Geers is the artist-as-deserter.
No law holds him in check -- or not entirely. 'Art has kept
me out of jail,' he says. The wit implicit here is everywhere
in Geers's work. He is the activist unschooled in condensus,
the 'fucked-up' son of Empire and Apartheid whose task it
is to further aggravate a disorder that knows no end. In
an essay entitled 'The Perversity of My Birth: The Birth
of My Perversity', Geers writes: 'I am an abandoned product
of a failed experiment, a hybrid of cultures and identities,
a contradiction in terms. Born into an upside-down world
at the tail end of the millennium, my only responsibility
is to this time and place.' (Sue Williamson, Ashraf
Jamal, in Art in South Africa, the future present,
David Philip, Cape Town, 1996)