Dans le monde réellement renversé, le vrai est un moment du faux.              (In German)
Guy Debord
(In a really topsy-turvy world, the true is a moment of the false)

Technomads, anti-apparatuses and other imponderabilities.

by Inka Schube.Sprengel Museum Hannover.2002  

Thierry Geoffroy/Colonel is a Frenchman (b. 1961) living in Denmark. In one of the TV clips that he produces for Danish television he did a description to camera of what he saw on a walk through Copenhagen. In an off-camera introduction he says that the city is a free place existing somewhere between dream and reality, a place where you can do anything and art is everywhere: we see him looking into a shop window with a toilet bowl in the display, and leaving a church that has been converted into an exhibition venue.
He finds art in a central public square as well: the armed forces are arranging a Happening. They are demonstrating their weapons and applying dummy injuries and wounds to passers-by, the children as well as the adults. The stranger feels he should encourage the local tourist board's efforts. He lets himself be made up as well - "shooting holes that look real" - and passers-by look at him in considerable amazement. Thierry Geoffroy/Colonel realizes that he has become visible to people who are hurrying past: "It looks very real. You can fool everybody." Some of the soldiers are amused and come up with some shop-talk about the calibre used and the severity of the injuries. A bit later, with his make-up removed again - like a sociologist, he carefully labels and stores away the dummy wound as a sample of reality - he now feels that he is the "invisible man", reduced to "l'air de Paris". The camera watches people going through glass doors before him then unintentionally letting them go so that he bangs into them.
Our performer is now bothered about visibility again: he dresses up in a pink-striped steel helmet, a Second World War exhibit, with "Look at me! Can you see me?" crudely painted on it. Kitted out with this, he says the same words to passers-by in one of Copenhagen's central boulevards.
No one wants anything to do with him. At best, people grunt a short "No", turn away, or even run off. The stranger is disturbed by so many people trying avoid him.
Thierry Geoffroy/Colonel's logic means that he has to turn to a "public service" again - as he did to the army previously - if he is going to be visible. This time he uses television. He poses, equipped with a conspicuously ridiculous dummy microphone, with other fans behind a reporter who is commenting on a football match live. Here the film goes back to the broadcast TV pictures and cuts them in with the spontaneous scenes in the city street. T.G./C. sums up, towards the end of the film, whose action can only be described in excerpts here: "Pink is Live - Rose Selavy".

This episode is one of the 'viewers' hits' from the series of 20 short films that Thierry Geoffroy/Colonel has made for the Danish TV station DR1 since 1999. It has been constantly repeated. Strangers come up to the artist in the streets of Copenhagen and greet him with quotations from these films.
In art galleries, Thierry Geoffroy/Colonel presents the clip complete with the opening and closing announcements, in other words placing it firmly in the context of television. He also displays, in a gilded frame, the 9mm dummy wound he took off and kept. It is similar in outline and graphic structure to wounds in photographs of nuclear explosions.
There are linguistic and visual references to the work of Marcel Duchamp in this work. Alongside them, Thierry Geoffroy/Colonel succeeds here in particular in demonstrating the 'ontological ambiguity of media images' (Anders) amazingly simply and effectively. He addresses the difference between event and portrayal, and also the difference between fiction and reality. Reality appears as an analogy with its media portrayal and vice versa. Sitting in front of the television, the viewer is caught up in an image-rhetorical ellipse that is turning in all directions. The only truly cathartic outcome is provided by implicit laughter about the absurdity of the situations the performer creates, which in their turn seem to follow the absurd logic of the found reality constructs.

"Visibility" is, like the 19 other films, a kind of node in the artist's previous work. Many of the rhizome-like stands of his oeuvre come together here. Thierry Geoffroy/Colonel's permanent interest in tourism themes as a synonym for an approach, however structured, to the Other, the alien, is expressed, and so is his examination of military thinking and its omnipresence.
'Visibility' also demonstrates the artist's approach, which is always sociological. He collects facts, apparently without prejudice, arranges experiments and takes 'samples' that he then presents to complement the semi-documentary material, as 'real objects', as physically tangible pieces of evidence.

Thierry Geoffroy/Colonel administers an almost unmanageable archive of text, image and sound documents, crates and cases full of newspaper cuttings, tape transcripts, questionnaires, C-prints of his own and other people's photographs, employees' identity cards, printed T-shirts, coats with photographic collages, fake press passes and press pictures of works of art that he has collected along with these. They are found objects and products of over 15 years of examining how technically produced images function in the mass media and the possibilities open to the individual for penetrating, occupying, deciphering and appropriating them. They are what he calls his "oculist witnesses", and they are also evidence of constant attempts to encourage his fellow human beings to deploy their critical potential against the interpretative power of public images.  In every exhibition, different segments of this archive, always selected according to different categories, are tipped against the walls and on to the floors of each particular space.
But exhibitions are just one of the many contexts the artist operates in - it could just as well be radio, television, a sports or rock festival, a scientific conference, a techno party on a bus or in a club, or a fashion show.

Thierry Geoffroy/Colonel is a technomad in the world of images. He swims against the tide with a child's affective, uncensorious delight in discovery. He asks obvious questions, using this unpretentious approach to rock the boat in terms of things that are usually taken for granted, presenting these as existentially pretentious and overbearing. He uses the programmes provided by image evaluation organizations to present these very programmes.
Thierry Geoffroy/Colonel holds Duchamp's gaslamp up to the waterfalls, rivers and ponds of the flood of media images. He is a sociologist of the everyday, a tramp in every kind of public communication by image, a squatter in the realms of the property administrators, a guardian on the border between private and public. You have to fill in a visa application if you want to undo the buttons on the coats in his touring exhibitions. Colonel's private pictorial worlds are carefully looked after inside them - photographs and texts copied and sewn on to fabric.
The artist's archive seems like an accumulation of media rubbish: as though shaped by detestation of things that are valuable, whose price is assessed as being too high. But on closer examination, it is possible to detect precious features of what is important to the individual in these banality dumps. They are produced by a dense network of intellectual reflection. This is fed by critical discourse about visual evidence and also by the rich resources of sociological study, above all by French authors, of media reality. Marcel Duchamp and Daniel Buren effortlessly become brothers, and the fathers, Vilem Flusser, Pierre Bordieu and Jean Baudrillard are somewhere in the background. Thierry Geoffroy/Colonel's work seems to offer a real visual version of Henri Lefebvre's concept of space production as a dialectical connection between the results of spatial-material practices based on perception, of mental and ideological interpretations and of emotional and psychosocial connections and relationships.
In fact the Colonel is self-taught, apart from a few years he spent as a medical student. The anti-authoritarian intellectual freedom this engenders emerges in the form of social impetus: the artist is looking for popularity in the service of communication without hierarchies, that does not seek to create hierarchies. Almost anywhere is the right place for a disturbance. No context is safe from him, from critical questioning. One of his exhibitions on 1996 was called "Placed in context - thrown out of context": Thierry Geoffroy/Colonel collects images, sometimes at enormous speed. He cuts, twists, turns, folds and moves them, watches how this changes them, sums up, categorizes and then observes the categories at work. He feeds the images back into the media channels and presents their modifications as mutations of meaning.

But there is one thing that Thierry Geoffroy/Colonel never does, even in the photographic collections of self-presentations by tourists and immigrants: he never denounces individuals in his image behaviour. He always addresses the image-political context the behaviour is rooted in,
So the fact that the artist constantly refers to his own biography, to the military and colonial surroundings of his early childhood, is less the expression of a desire to create artistic and biographical myths as a demonstrative way of taking the work back to individually experienced history.
For example, when Goodie is brought into play. Goodie is a man without a name whose private picture-archive Thierry Geoffroy/Colonel bought in a flea-market. He is a character who reveals the ambiguity of existence. Here we have the public figure, a man without qualities, a good citizen in the office from nine to five, a husband and family man. And there we have a human being with his private longings, his individual foibles and passions that can only be lived out with the camera as "oculist witness".
When Thierry Geoffroy/Colonel gets Kendo fighters at a rock festival to compete wearing photographs from both of Goodie's lives on their backs, and when he asks the third group involved to present their personal appearances in a similar way, this is no more and no less than a symbolic struggle between the private and public pictorial status of individuality. When he paints blue helmets - or has them painted by the exhibition organizer - on all the soldiers appearing in newspaper pictures, this is a demonstratively symbolic act of poetic and ironic peace-making. When he includes the attendants in an exhibition (this too is a symbolic social act) and asks them to make aeroplanes out of the newspaper pictures of the armed forces and military activities every day and launch them into the exhibition space as "flying humanitarian strike forces", this is an intervention, triggered in the simplest way, into the indifferent anticipation of history in its mass-media version. When he offers toilet bowls for sale in free papers and gives the telephone number of the leading Duchamp expert in these advertisements, then this - as a symbolic act - is mediation between thing and image, between reality and fiction.
Thierry Geoffroy/Colonel operates at precisely this interface between things and their modes of appearance, and when he does this in the White Cube of the museum, then this is no more and no less than a specimen case within the spectrum of social image-practice.