Critics’ Picks

View of “Every Letter in the Alphabet,” 2009–10.

View of “Every Letter in the Alphabet,” 2009–10.


Geoffrey Farmer

1875 Powell Street at Victoria Drive

November 15, 2009–November 14, 2010

Geoffrey Farmer’s yearlong project Every Letter in the Alphabet, 2009–10, examines two of his aesthetic preoccupations: language and performance. Farmer opened a storefront for the piece, which was commissioned by the city of Vancouver as part of a series of public artworks in conjunction with the 2010 Olympics. Farmer in turn commissioned twenty-six language-based works by twenty-six different artists, and the projects range from spoken-word performances to posters or signs, while the storefront acts as a public space and reading room. Each of these commissions, as one might have guessed, stands in for one of the twenty-six letters of the alphabet. Jeremy Shaw, for example, reprinted promotional posters from Expo ’86, the World’s Fair that Vancouver hosted in 1986. These reproductions were exhibited in Every Letter along with a vitrine displaying the fair’s mascot, Expo Ernie. Other events that have taken place as part of the project include specifically commissioned performances, magazine launch parties, and simultaneous readings of seven translations of Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot.

Every Letter hovers among a series of recognizable contemporary art tropes but never lands on any—it is neither an artist-as-curator project nor a relational work. The storefront becomes a site for whatever language-based works may be presented, which recalls another thematic element of Farmer’s work: the representation of performance. As such, Every Letter is ultimately a space that makes for an unlikely but compelling work.