Geoffrey Koetsch is an interdisciplinary artist who is interested in how new developments in the cognitive sciences affect our understanding of human identity and the physical body it exists in.
In 2008, Koetsch curated an exhibition at the Laconia Gallery in Boston entitled Mind Matters which presented the work of contemporary artists who are turning to neuroscience for inspiration and source material (three of these artists were featured in last month’s gallery and podcast here).
Koetsch is currently a professor at the Art Institute at Lesley University where he teaches advanced sculpture and courses in asian art and culture. His work has been shown in over 80 local, regional and national exhibitions and he has received over 20 awards and commissions. His work was the subject of a PBS Special Report on Theater of Kinetic Sculpture in 1987 and is currently housed in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum, The Danforth Museum, Franklin Furnace Archives, the National Institute of Design, Abmedabad, India and the Fine Arts Academy in New Delhi.
I spoke to Geoffrey recently via telephone about his work and his thoughts on the dialogue between art and science. You can listen to the interview below, and scroll down further to see images of Geoffrey’s work and read his artist’s statement.
NOAH HUTTON INTERVIEWS GEOFFREY KOETSCH:
The work titled KOETSCH AND CHU: IN/BETWEEN was a collaborative project between myself and Jeremy Chu, a Singaporean artist and photographer of Chinese descent. Jeremy and I engaged in what we called a “visual dialog” with the goal of deepening our interpersonal understanding and bridging our gap in age, race, and nationality. Jeremy Chu is Singaporean of Mandarin Chinese descent–I am an American of Anglo-Saxon descent. He was 30–I was 65. Yet on an artistic and intellectual level we were “connected.” And we were friends.
Jeremy and I met about 20 times over the course of this project. To each meeting we brought a specific theme to explore together verbally, and then we would go to our studios to create a visual response to the discussion. We talked about such things as childhood memories, “universal” archetypes such as the maze and the labyrinth, and various other symbols and metaphors.
In ‘IN/BETWEEN” the two seated figures are identical, symbolizing our common humanity. They sit in the lotus position, a symbol of mental concentration, and they hold objects representing childhood memories.
One figure holds a net made of red rubber bands rolled on a spindle. It was created by Jeremy and represents the web of his Chinese ancestry. Enmeshed in the net are photographs of his Chinese grandmother, the matriarch of the family. the net was made of a particular kind of red rubber band sent from Singapore that Jeremy had played with as a child. The smell and red color evoked fond memories. Our collaboration was, for Jeremy, part of a larger inquiry into personal identity. The net was originally created for Jeremy’s performance titled “The Fisherman’s Net: A Journey Towards Reconciliation” (Boston, 2003). The second figure holds a ball of my favorite childhood toy: G.I. Joes. I played “shoot ’em up” until I was 13, well past the gunplay age for most boys. But as an adult, since putting aside toy soldiers, I advocate for peace and international understanding.
In one of our conversations, we focused on the maze, one of Jung’s “universal” archetypes. For us the mazes represent the attempt of two people to “find their way to one another.” “Koetsch’s Maze” came from the collision of a decorative Chinese dragon motif and a 1920’s era European modernist architectural design. It shows the strong affinity I have always had for Asian culture, Asian art, and Asian spiritual systems (I have at various times and with varying levels of intensity practiced Buddhism and Vedanta). I don’t have any idea where this affinity came from, but the very first time I traveled to Japan I felt very much at home. “Chu’s Maze” was developed from the lattice pattern of a traditional Chinese window frame. It reflects Jeremy’s search for patterns and structures connected to his Chinese ancestry.
– Geoffrey Koetsch