Is it too much to say that Geoffrey De Beer’s entire oeuvre is a long-term, continuous performance? Even as a student, the artist knew that he would not simply produce material objects. What interests him, is rather the context in which art is displayed, distributed, and interpreted.
De Beer himself describes his art practice as a Rubik’s cube: a puzzle that never seems to get solved, because the solution is simply not at hand – at the same time, who would want the perfect solution? That would mean the end of his practice and research. The cube is a good metaphor, because it encourages us to look at the puzzle from all possible perspectives, in search of a next step in the process; in the hope of gaining new insights. There is probably no final gratification, no ultimate climax. But there will be a thought process.
Rather than thinking about the perfect presentation of a work, or the discipline it adheres (not just one), De Beer creates a context in which another context is questioned. In the past few years, his practice has shifted back to a more material approach. For a long time, his conceptual thinking seemed irreconcilable with material aesthetics, but it would seem both opposites have found a middle ground. And in these objects, mostly out of glass, his main interests have not radically changed. The performative aspect has shifted from the artist as a performer, to the audience as a participator (although one might say that was always partly the case).
His glass structures are almost never shown separately, but in changeable constellations. Working with colour schemes in variable compositions, he offers the audience the opportunity to create their own compositions inside the exhibition space – which often seems to be a source of discomfort. This experiment revolves around the psychology of aesthetics and the audience’s engagement, but also around the unwritten rules of the art world. The glass is rather secondary – it could have been any medium. Yet because of its transparency, its different possible textures, and its relative freedom from huge art historical baggage (as in the case of, for instance, bronze), it fits his intentions perfectly.
It's not about the object. Even in his more material-based artworks, De Beer never strives for an end result in itself. His work remains ‘in-between’, in that it is a search for dialogue, an experiment, a series of questions without solutions or the actual desire to find them. Rather than a satisfying aesthetic, or an artist’s fame, he seems to aim for a small disturbance in the balance of the art world, its scenery, its traditions and trends, and most of all: its characters.