NOITU(LOVE)R: many lives in a single biography
In his book «My tongue in your cheek», published for the «Palais de Tokyo» exhibition in 2002, Kendell Geers sets the beginning of his C.V. in 1652 with the declaration by the Dutch of having colonised of the Cape of Good Hope. It then goes on through various cultural, social and political stages up to the present day. He sets his elective birthday in 1968, citing the death of Duchamp, the assassination of Martin Luther King, the protests at the Venice Biennale, the French May riots, South Africa’s expulsion from the U.N., and the wounding of Andy Worhol by Valerie Solanas. His biography is a political declaration composed of historical events, cultural happenings and family history all woven together in the tapestry of his identity. Here, already, can be seen the concept of NOITU(LOVE)R, the essence of the wording he designed for Ama castle.
English is a language that allows one to delve through words and, in this case, discover love at the centre of revolution. This transliteration, however, has a semantic and symbolic significance that transcends the barriers of a dominant language. The major revolutionary discoveries in science, politics and culture are not brought to a halt the moment they occur but continue moving forward, blending into our consciences in ways we may somehow perceive, just like love between man and woman. They cannot be absorbed passively; when they are re-read, they touch you and lead you to events long past. The same happens in art.
The fact that the wording NOITU(LOVE)R was conceived for a wine cellar emphasizes on the one hand the specific transformation of wine and, on the other, highlights the everyday revolution we all conduct at home. In his work, Geers points to the continual interchange of influence between private and public, political and personal, past and present. This makes his being a white South African go beyond analysing what he was born as to triggering a broader series of contradictions that have to do with the long, accumulated history of the western world.
The fact that this wording is set in a room evocative of a Romanic crypt, red like a primary colour, but also red like blood, points us in the direction of Geers’ research; his journey through the world’s vital spots highlighting the supreme and the subjugated (private property, religion, police control, stories of violence and eroticism...).
A line, red and dark, painted with the wine itself, wrapped around the belly of a line-up of barrels resulting in the forging of a visual alliance between Geers’s wording and a product typical of the Italian countryside. But wine opens other horizons in which the idea of the divine, and the contaminations between the Greek, Roman and Christian worlds reigns supreme. Dionysus/Bacchus, the god who raised the emotional, libertarian, contradictory side of participation to heaven, was synonymous with intoxication; a state necessary so that knowledge would not separate rationalism from other forms of perception, to the point that dionysusism is the symbol of the revolutions that departed from the norm which only a god could permit. Dionysistic intoxication has many cultural roots, such as shamanistic or ascetic-Christian ecstasy, and the wine of the Last Supper becoming the blood of Christ. Similarly, dionysistic intoxication is also a part of contemporary awareness, a symbol of the many ways needed to comprehend the concepts of chaos and entropy studied by scientific rationale. At this point, the crucial question hidden in Kendell Geers’ wording emerges: is it possible to combine the idea of revolution with the emotional jolt produced by art?
Kendell has delved into the word and seen the link between revolution and love; he has dug into the letters of a dominating language, and highlighted the diversity of pronunciation. 1970s feminism and today’s no-global movements have dug deep into the symbolic, economic order, and in the personal/political, national/local dualities point to a revolution in which the diversities speak in their own languages.
On the issue of the technological revolution Heidegger commented «only a god can save us»: Kendell Geers seems to be answering that the god we need is Dionysus because if revolution and love are a single word, salvation is possible when passion and reason, and order and disorder form new alliances.
Kendell’s wording and his biography have many lives within them and, before them, have «un amor che mai non fina [a love that never dies – trans. note: citation from a 13th century Italian poem]».