Only Connect

How a violent collision forged Geoffrey Farmer’s fountain for the Canadian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale

By Craig Burnett

Geoffrey Farmer, The Surgeon and the Photographer (detail), 2009, paper, textile, wood, metal, 365 figures, 45×13×13cm (each). Courtesy Catriona Jeffries,Vancouver Unknown Photographer (Collision), 1955, archival photographs. Courtesy the artist Unknown Photographer (Collision), 1955, archival photographs. Courtesy the artist Geoffrey Farmer, The Last Two Million Years, 2007, mixed media, dimensions variable. Courtesy Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver Geoffrey Farmer, Notes for Strangers (detail),1989/1990, small typewriter, six typewritten notes on paper, transfer ticket, shelf with Plexiglas top, notes, 15 × 9 cm (each). Courtesy Catriona Jeffries,Vancouver

In 1990 Geoffrey Farmer started writing notes to strangers on public buses. In those days, in Vancouver, buses issued paper ‘transfers’, a time-limit punched into its thin newsprint, which enabled passengers to change buses and continue their journey. Farmer rode the bus with an old typewriter on his lap, rolled the transfers into its creaky frame and tried to write a tiny note-poem for a stranger before he or she alighted. One of them read, ‘I can see the dog…

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