Fotograf Magazine

Thierry Geoffroy / Colonel

The Man with Well-trained Awareness Muscle

Unsettling questions and statements written on camping tents that are placed in the gallery or in public spaces have become one of the trademarks of the artistic dialogue with which Thierry Geoffroy addresses his audience. As with many other of his live, participative activities, all these appeals and attempts at communication aim principally to refine the critical awareness of all recipients

The sudden all-encompassing state of crisis and its attendant rewriting of social paradigms was probably a much greater shock to our daily lives than the acute threat of viral infection alone. The world of contemporary art was equally taken aback and paralyzed for a time. And although the artistic community has since begun to search out new paths for the possibilities of its continued existence, we will have to wait a long time for real answers and solutions. Looking at the work of the Danish-French artist Thierry Geoffroy, known as “Colonel,” one cannot help but ask just how surprised he was by this shocking situation. Already in one of his many interventions into gallery institutions, realized in the Mannheim Kunsthalle, he set up a tent with the words “The emergency will replace the contemporary” near Manet’s famous painting The Execution of Emperor Maximilian. After a short search, I found out that, indeed, he had already used this specific format during this year’s crisis as well, as a way to intervene in a public space in Copenhagen, where tents were put up with signs such as “Institutions have to prepare for emergencies” (in front of Copenhagen’s closed National Gallery), or “Can we reopen without being open?”

Generally, within the broad frame of his work in the physical activity such as running along with a discussion, or field of institutional criticism, the artist tirelessly deals with the Emergency Room project, implemented in a number of the question of how to keep sharpening critical thinking and the ability to respond to an acute situation—whether it’s in an event format called Awareness Muscle using a collective physical activity such as running along with a discussion, or the Emergency Room project, implemented in a number of different gallery institutions, stimulating participating artists’ ongoing cooperative creative processes and, moreover, their ability to react quickly to the current situation. In this respect, his social projects are mostly organized and distributed in the form of “television format,” that is, on the basis of a license agreement determining the exact organization of the event, its architectural design, and the rules of the game. The artist himself categorizes his work, in connection in fact with Beuys’s activist understanding of social sculpture, as so-called “Format Art,” that is, as various “formats” whose meaning is determined by their structure. Although many of his favorite activities are out of the question during the current crisis, such as the collective “Critical Run,” in which a discussion takes place about current cultural, social and political issues, or the traveling activist platform “Biennalist,” implemented as a discussion reflection in a series of biennials or documents, with his latest pieces Thierry Geoffroy only confirms that his work has prepared him more than well for the critical state of recent months.

THIERRY GEOFFROY is a Danish-French artist based in Copenhagen whose work explores the possibilities
of critical reflection of not just modern art, but also fundamental social topics. His activities, which operate in the domain of institutional criticism, are characterised by their aim to actively involve audiences or other participating artists.

VIKTOR ČECH is a critic, theorist and curator of contemporary art whose main fields of interest include performative tendencies and interdisciplinary connections in the current artistic situation. He is a lecturer at the Department of Art Education of the Faculty of Education at Charles University in Prague.


Viktor Čech