The work featured in Darkroom is a black-and-white 16mm film entitled Tarantism (2007, 6:31 min). It is inspired by a belief, popular in southern Italy in the Middle Ages, that a bite of the tarantula spider could be cured by frenzied dancing. The pace of the dance that lasted for several hours or even days got more and more furious towards the end. Subsequently, the cure developed into tarantella, a folk dance for couples danced to the accompaniment of a tambourine. Many composers, choreographers, poets and writers have drawn inspiration from this theme, creating their own versions of tarantella over the course of the past few centuries.
In Tarantism, Joachim Koester (b. 1962) returns to the roots of the medieval belief. Every dancer in the work has an individually choreographed part with precise instructions, even though the dance seems completely uncontrolled with obsessive spasms and convolutions. The work is silent, all that can be heard in Darkroom is the sound of the film projector that gains in effectiveness as the work progresses. What is happening in the body and the mind?
Koester is interested in the unknown and uncharted areas of the human body, as well as the metaphoric ability of photography to build bridges between the material and the immaterial world. When preparing his new works, Koester does very thorough background research. He reads about the topic, travels to authentic sites, and seeks out the routes that historical persons have walked. As a counterbalance to careful planning, he then lets events and places take the lead, he gives way to associative play. The topics of Koester's works have included historical persons such as Immanuel Kant and Bertolt Brecht. Also the fictive Dracula has provided inspiration for a piece. Koester likes to explore the different experiences people have of different urban or natural places. How have these places changed? Have people changed? Koester has also studied how people under the influence of drugs describe their experiences. The purpose of his explorations is to discover what things affect our body, and how our mind experiences them.
Joachim Koester has shown his work in several international exhibitions. He currently lives and works in New York. The exhibition is supported by the Finnish-Danish Cultural Foundation.
On Thursday 19 November 2009 Joachim Koester will give a talk in English about his artistic practice in the Kuvateatteri of the Turku Arts Academy (Linnankatu 54-60) starting at 2 pm. Admission is free and the meeting is open to the public.
10 questions to Joachim Koester
1. Could you tell how you start planning your art works and how the work proceeds?
Mostly the process starts with an idea or a subject matter that I speculate about for months and which eventually turns into an artwork.
2. With which themes have you worked for this exhibition?
Tarantism; a trance dance from southern Italy, traditionally done by people to rid themselves of the spasms caused by the wolf spiders bite.
3. Why are these subjects important to you?
I used the Tarantism phenomena to explore the fringes of the body.
4. Have you worked for a long time with these subjects?
More or less.
5. Could you tell about the technique you have used for the art works in this exhibition?
It’s a 16mm film projection.
6. Is this technique typical for your working?
7. On which aspects have you especially concentrated regarding the preparing of this exhibition?
Hopefully this will be answered when people see the work.
8. What does this exhibition at Turku Art Museum mean to you?
I’m looking forward to see the film installation at the Turku Art Museum.
9. Which other art fields are close to you and why?
Ideas that relate to bodily movements. One way to explain this interest is going through the metaphoric connotations of photography. Photography has historically been seen as a medium that bridges the world of materiality and the so-called” invisible realms”. In my own practice I have been greatly inspired by this concept, except that in my photographic works the invisible realms do not refer to occult lore, but rather to a world of ideas. I think a connection could be drawn between the photographic as a portal to another realm, and certain types of ”bodily movements”.
10. Could you tell about your future plans?
To make new (hopefully) intriguing films (among many other things).