Geo Wyeth at Shimmer

Artist: Geo Wyeth

Exhibition title: Chapter 3: In Need of a Memory Bank by Geo Wyeth

Curated by: Shimmer (Eloise Sweetman and Jason Hendrik Hansma)

Venue: Shimmer, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Date: May 7 – September 9, 2021

Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Shimmer, Rotterdam

On 4 June Chapter 3: In Need of a Memory Bank by Geo Wyeth is comes into the full being at  Shimmer. Wyeth goes into the walls and down into the pipes of the building, creating a dense and atmospheric environment for Muck Studies Depart. by layering sculpture, sound, paintings and performance. Wyeth’s works are a synthesis that thickens, expands, and queers the very space of sound itself.

The exhibition space is painted in muddiness with two watercolour floor plans installed handily to indicate where we have been and will go. Stars that stink, shine on the plan and on the ground. In need of a Memory Bank is connected to Wyeth’s close colleague Gellinoxious van WickleBunz of Muck Studies Dept, a city agent of low-lying water areas. In their work, they are “looking for stars out of what stinks” that is made of mud, water, metal, gas, ass, rocks, coins, extractive industry, deep coloniality, and sensual expression of belonging. As a department, Muck Studies is a constellational body employing inherited diasporic/American funk and folk poetics, and techniques of investigative journalism. With Wyeth, we will find, that the process of city-making is more complicated than writing parameters of “simple” codes. City-making is the complicated, messy mucky muddy form of creating identity.

Initially starting with Juice Helmet (2016) as both headgear and installation, the exhibition begun to drip, drop and dwell in the pipes of the building, seeping into the groundwater. An audio work can be heard from the walls, taking us back outside where a radio transmission meets us, intervening and diverting our attention to the water, to the muck. A transmission mingles with the port of authority airwaves, with the right frequency we can tune in. On certain days, weather permitting, Juice Helmet will be worn by Wyeth and we will walk, run, gather in the port. A poem is improvised and a song is sung.

In Need of a Memory Bank by Geo Wyeth is the third chapter in World as Lover, World as Self which is inspired by environmental activist, and Buddhist philosopher Joanna Macy. World As Lover World As Self turns to contemporary art to help us to “relinquish our separateness” and take account of the “residue” of the world that we think we know. Our exhibition does this through the concept of ‘defamiliarization’ as a means to “turn the familiar strange” to redefine the self and our subsequent community.  Defamiliarization is an influence in the Wyeth’s work,  evident in the artist’s growing array of avatars and characters to step with oneself, outwards, and into the world.

Defamiliarization, or aesthetic distance, is a literary and artistic technique coined by Russian Formalists during the outbreak of the 1918 flu pandemic. According to the formalists, the technique uses language in a way that ordinary objects are made to be reconsidered, that what is in front of us might surpass our assumptive narratives. It is a process of transformation through language to change perception. It is urgent. How can bodies, technologies and modes be taken outside of predefined cultural presumptions in order to de-categorise? To shapeshift, to morph, to glimmer, to shimmer. In this program, we estrange, not to create a ‘foreign’ or ‘other’ but to radically rethink community, to engage with the World as Lover, and as Self.

Geo Wyeth has shown work at the New Museum, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, MoMA PS1 (Greater New York 2016), Dutch National Opera, Triangle France, Anthology Film Archives, The Kitchen, TENT (Rotterdam), Arsenic (CH), Biquini Wax (CDMX), LA MoCA, New York Live Arts, The Studio Museum in Harlem, Boston ICA, La MaMa Theatre, Human Resources, The Pyramid Club, Joe’s Pub, and many others. They are co-founder of the queer social space Tender Center (Rotterdam, NL). They have composed music for the narrative shorts Happy Birthday Marsha!, Atlantic is a Sea of Bones, Salacia, and The Personal Things (all directed by Tourmaline), as well as numerous videos of other contemporary artists. Wyeth was in residence at the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten for the years 2015-2016 in Amsterdam, and currently teach at the Dutch Art Institute (DAI) and the Willem de Kooning Akademie where they focus on embodied tactics of performance, storytelling, and remembering. Wyeth was funded by the Amsterdam Fonds voor de Kunst in 2017, and the Mondriaan Fonds for research on jazz history, extractive industry, and swamp studies in New Orleans in 2019 through the Deltaworkers Residency. They are currently in residence at the Textiel Museum (Tilburg, NL). Wyeth was nominated for the Dolf Henkes Art Prize (2021). They live and work in Rotterdam, NL next to the Maas River.