Spiral Lands / Chapter 2, 2008, installation in an educational setting with slide projection, 80 colour and b/w slides, voice over, brochure with footnotes, 50 min. Courtesy of Galerie Thomas Zander, Cologne


In the cycle of works called Spiral Lands, Andrea Geyer investigates the role of photography in the colonization and continuous appropriation of the North American continent, using the American Southwest (now Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado) as an example. Not stopping with the past, but working up through the present moment, Geyer looks critically at records, documents, stories, drawings, and photography that construct the complex history of North America and the identity of its people. Taking the context of the Navajo Nation and the surrounding Pueblos (the American Southwest) as an example, the project works itself non-linearly through different aspects of the historic encounters of first European settlers, then Euro-Americans, with this land and its people. Addressing the Western concept of “landscape,” Geyer points to the fact that visualization is and has always been a sophisticated ideological device, revealing as much of what stands behind the camera as what stands in front.

Chapter 2 of Spiral Lands consists of a slide projection with the voice-over of a lecture. This form engages the role of “the scholar” or “the researcher,” who for 150 years has fostered an ongoing fascination with this particular part of North America. Every summer hundreds of anthropologists, ethnographers, artists, and photographers travel to the Southwest to conduct their investigations into the land and local culture. Looking closer at the outcome of such investigations, one could say that in these writings of histories and identities, it is not their subjects but rather the researchers / ethnographers themselves, who—like the protagonist in fiction—hold center stage. In Geyer’s installation the lecturer in the voice-over is critically asking herself what drives the desire for this land and what enables the feeling of a right of passage. 

Andrea Geyer, born 1971 in Germany, lives and works in New York