Title of publication: Prolifération
Name of artist: Geert Goiris
Editor: Roma Publications (Amsterdam)
In cooperation with: Le Musée de Bagnes, Le Châble
Design: Roger Willems
Year of publication: 2014
Edition size: 300 copies
Book Size: 240 x 310 mm
Number of pages:  64 pages + print
Price: € 51,89
ISBN: 978 94 91843 21 1

We can't talk about Geert Goiris's new work without taking a few steps back to Mauvoisin Dam, Val de Bagnes, Switzerland.

Built in the fifties, this impressive infrastructure creates a spectacular artificial lake surrounded by mountains. Beyond its primary function of producing electricity, it protects the population from natural disasters - with a retaining wall of 250 metres (1)-  such as those occurred in the sixteenth century due to Glacier Getro and particularly in 1818, when 20 million cubic metres of water flooded the entire valley below.

It's in this incredible framing the Flemish artist goes for the first time in July 2013, taking inspiration in the making of Prolifération (2)Then, about a year later, back again to present the resultant work at the Triennale of Contemporary Art Valais 2014. An artist book is published concomitantly to the exhibition, containing 30 unpublished images made by Goiris during his travels to Germany, Belgium, Bolivia, France, Lanzarote, Namibia, Norway, United Kingdom, Russia, Italy and, of course, Switzerland.

Thanks to the teachings of masters like Hamish Fulton (3)  or Robert Smithson (4), Goiris is aware of the fact that an image can't compete with experience. The photographs presented by the artist are free of any linear narrative, descriptive of a specific location, as to echo instead the sensations felt during the inspections, in an attempt to give back a collective memory, this time related to Mauvoisin Dam.

"My images refer to familiar fictions. Simultaneously, they register authentic locations. The fusing of fact and fiction is precisely the fracture that I intend to conserve". (5)

At first glance, the result of this journey strikes with dizziness, restlessness and tension. In just a word, Sublime. Labyrinthine trees pulled apart from their context, strange rock formations, artificial urban objects, extensive mountain landscapes, singular light phenomena wrapped in mist, dead birds, frozen surfaces, gaze absorbed individuals. A concert of elements working together to build a dystopian world, away from the more traditional futuristic fantasies and, on the contrary, alive and well in our time. A sign that Goiris, like other artists, sees dystopia in the time we live in, of contemporary reality.

In this regard, comes to mind the novel by Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz, Derborence (6), where there are constant references, direct or indirect, to a "falling mountain", possibly the same mountain that in Geert Goiris' images could be about to fall or has already fallen. All is shown to us looks like a timeless fragment, where danger and threat blend with peace and hope, and where it isn't clear if man will be dominated by nature - melancholic as the characters of  Lars von Trier's film (7) - or, in harmony with it once again, is simply disoriented and intent in a hypothetical rebirth.

Are we the victims or the accomplices of a continuous proliferation?

Within the book, glossy pages revealing the original images of the work alternate with matte pages, where some of the 30 photographs are sparingly repeated, cropped and enlarged, as to bring out new details and once again, confuse. The instinct is to play with the book, flicking through it repeatedly back and forth, trying to savour the initial experience lived on site by the photographer, part perceptive and part fictitious.

  1.  The highest in Europe. 
  2.  From French, indicates an excessive growth, a force above average.
  3.  An Image Cannot compete with an Experience, Norwich, University of East Anglia, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, 1999.
  4.  "A Sedimentation of the Mind: Earth Projects" in Collected Writings (ed. by Nancy Holt)Los Angeles and Berkeley, University of California Press, 1996.
  5.  Geert Goiris, With all due intent, catalogue of Manifesta 5, San Sebastian, Actar, 2004.
  6.  Written in 1934 and first published by Editions Grasser & Fasquelle in 1936. A simple village chronicle, sprinkled with supernatural beliefs, of events that took place two hundred years ago in Derborence, a site geographically close to Mauvoisin.
  7. Melancholia, Lars von Trier, 2011.