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AGO to debut new work by 2013 Gershon Iskowitz Prizewinner Geoffrey Farmer

Viewers are invited to sleep among automated sculptures with sound and light choreographed for the Henry Moore Sculpture Centre

TORONTO — Acclaimed contemporary artist Geoffrey Farmer, winner of the 2013 Gershon Iskowitz Prize, will debut an automated sculpture work in the Henry Moore Sculpture Centre at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) from July 5 to Sept. 7, 2014. Comprised of a series of scripted vignettes, Every day needs an urgent whistle blown into it uses moving sculptures, viewer’s resting bodies, sound and light to create theatrical moments that will punctuate each day.

Born in Vancouver, Farmer is recognized internationally for his bold approach and ability to blend poetry, performance and social commentary into large-scale immersive works. At dOCUMETNA 13 he exhibited 16,000 figures cut from 50 years of Life magazines. He is currently touring a large computer-controlled artwork about the life of Frank Zappa.

Designed specifially for the AGO’s Henry Moore Sculpture Centre, Every day needs an urgent whistle blown into it, incorporates that space—with its skylights and artworks—into the atmosphere and mise en scène of the piece. Inspired by a line of poetry by CAConrad, the installation explores the multiple meanings of the sentence. Featuring both figurative and surreal forms, the various sculptures that comprise the whole, take turns performing, sometimes moving in time to music and at other times reciting texts, singing or moving in silence. Constructed as a variation, the work develops in a repetitive fashion over the course of the day, with the vignettes projecting onto Henry Moore’s large sculptures. Contributing to the installation’s dreamlike atmosphere, visitors are invited to recline, rest or sleep on a series of platforms in the space. This rest is a precarious one, as the various vignettes compete with each other for attention, creating at times a cacophony of noise and light.

“Geoffrey thinks of his sculptural installations as a single instrument,” said Kitty Scott, the AGO’s curator of modern and contemporary art. “Every day needs an urgent whistle blown into it is constructed from the spectator’s own body as well as various materials, texts and methodologies that may seem at odds with each other, but are framed and conceived as a singular work.”

Farmer was announced as the winner of the 2013 Gershon Iskowitz Prize at the AGO in June, 2013. The award, which is presented annually to an artist who has made an outstanding contribution to the visual arts in Canada, includes a $50,000 cash prize and a solo exhibition at the AGO. According to Gershon Iskowitz Foundation President Thomas Bjarnason, “the partnership between the Iskowitz Foundation and the AGO allows us to shine a spotlight on exceptional Canadian artists, such as Geoffrey Farmer. This exhibition will afford AGO visitors an opportunity to experience his creative process.”

Geoffrey Farmer will give an artist talk at the AGO on July 2, 2014. Tickets are on sale now. For more details please visit

AGO members receive free admission to Every day needs an urgent whistle blown into it. More information on the benefits of AGO membership can be found at

Geoffrey Farmer (b. 1967, Vancouver, lives and works in Vancouver) has a forthcoming retrospective at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2015. Recent solo exhibitions include Leaves of Grass at dOCUMENTA (13), Let’s Make the Water Turn Black at the Kunstverein in Hamburg (2014) and The Grass and the Banana Go for a Walk at Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver, (2014).

The Gershon Iskowitz Foundation was established in 1986 through the generosity of painter Gershon Iskowitz (1921 – 1988). Iskowitz recognized the importance of grants to the development of artists, acknowledging that a grant from the Canada Council in 1987 enabled him to formalize his distinctive style. Iskowitz’ works are in public and private collections across Canada and abroad. The AGO is home to the artist’s archives, which include early works on paper, sketchbooks and memorabilia, and it holds 29 paintings by Iskowitz spanning 1948 to 1987 in its collection. At the 20 year mark of the Prize the Foundation formed a partnership with the Art Gallery of Ontario to raise awareness of the importance of the visual arts in Canada, including a solo exhibition of each Prize winner’s work at the Gallery. Among the 27 previous recipients of the prize are Vera Frenkel, Betty Goodwin, General Idea, Stan Douglas, Françoise Sullivan, Shary Boyle, Brian Jungen, Michael Snow and Kim Adams.

With a collection of more than 80,000 works of art, the Art Gallery of Ontario is among the most distinguished art museums in North America. From the vast body of Group of Seven and signature Canadian works to the African art gallery, from the cutting-edge contemporary art to Peter Paul Rubens’ masterpiece The Massacre of The Innocents, the AGO offers an incredible art experience with each visit. In 2002 Ken Thomson’s generous gift of 2,000 remarkable works of Canadian and European art inspired Transformation AGO, an innovative architectural expansion by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry that in 2008 resulted in one of the most critically acclaimed architectural achievements in North America. Highlights include Galleria Italia, a gleaming showcase of wood and glass running the length of an entire city block, and the often-photographed spiral staircase, beckoning visitors to explore. The AGO has an active membership program offering great value, and the AGO’s Weston Family Learning Centre offers engaging art and creative programs for children, families, youth and adults. Visit to find out more about upcoming special exhibitions, to learn about eating and shopping at the AGO, to register for programs and to buy tickets or memberships.

April 5, 2014 – July 20, 2014: Francis Bacon & Henry Moore: Terror and Beauty

Aug. 23, 2014 – January, 2015: Alex Colville

Oct. 18, 2014 – Jan. 11, 2015: Michelangelo

Contemporary programming at the AGO is generously supported by the Canada Council for the Arts.

The Art Gallery of Ontario recieves additional operating support from the City of Toronto, the Canada Council for the Arts and generous contributions from AGO members, donors and private-sector partners.


For press inquiries, please contact:

Andrea-Jo Wilson; News Officer, AGO Communications
416-979-6660, ext. 403,

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