Geoffrey James

Running Fence
September 2 - October 3, 1999

In the framework of Le Mois de la photo à Montréal, the Centre International d'art contemporain will open Geoffrey James' project Running Fence, on date. This exhibition of 32 large-format black and white photographs focuses on the first 14 miles of the border fence that separates the United States and Mexico, beginning at the Pacific Ocean and ending in the Otay Mountains. The photographs were intially commissioned by and presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego in 1997.

With its ironic reference to the famous project by Romanian-born environmental artist Christo, Geoffrey James: Running Fence analyzes the 'idea' of the border and explores its iconography, the border being a subject that is of extreme importance to the public as the world proceeds towards greater globalization. James has written of the project:

"[The border fence] was built by US Army Corps of Engineers in 1994, out of recycled metal landing strip - the most visible symbol of what is known as Operation Gatekeeper. Because the steel sheets are placed in the ground so that their ridges run horizontally, a man can hop over the fence with ease; and no Mexican child ever seems to be impeded from retreiving a soccer ball from US territory. The real barrier to illegal immigration from Mexico into the USA is less visible: hundreds of buried sensors linked to a central computer, nightscopes, helicopters and Border Patrol Agents in white Broncos. Early in 1997, I photographed along both sides of the fence - this strange, improvised barrier demarcating two cultures, two mentalities and two economies that are also one. I went to the border as an outsider. What I came back with can make no claim to be anything other than the astonished presentation of fact."

Geoffrey James was born in Wales in 1942 and studied modern history at Oxford University before moving to Canada. He was trained as a historian and worked as a critic and journalist before focusing full time on his photography. In the past decade his projects have addressed ancient Roman roads and renaissance gardens, utopian architectural projects of 18th century France, an asbestos mining landscape in Quebec, and the 19th century North American parks of Frederick Law Olmsted. His photographs have been exhibited internationally, at exhibitions including Viewing Olmsted at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal (1996-97 and touring); Prospect'96 at the Frankfurter Kunstverein (1996); Documenta IX in Kassel (1992) and a solo show at the Power Plant (1992)

This exhibition is organized and circulated by Presentation House Gallery of North Vancouver with the help of the Canada Council for the Arts. The opening will be held Saturday the 4th of September at 2 PM at 314, Sherbrooke St. East in Montréal.