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Of the difficulty of not heroising Jef Geys. Of not launching into a shameless panegyric about the legendary and exemplary integrity of his practice. These are the ways I had initially wanted to begin this article. But when I tried, I found myself struggling to organise his potentially heroic qualities according to a system and within a language of which they are both critical and ultimately foreign. Or to put in another way, my measuring stick seemed suddenly rotten and inadequate. I threw it away. And I decided to start from a different, albeit not entirely unrelated angle, one more comparable to Geys’s measuring stick. But where to find it exactly? In the artist’s practice itself. Behold, on the second page of the Kempens Informatieblad publication that accompanied his exhibition Woodward Avenue (2010) at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit, the following text, authored by Geys himself:
Like on every dead body good and bad insects appear on the remainder; here on Detroit. Carcass opportunists. Some (let’s say about 10%) are relief workers with good intentions. In the Detroit situation like for example in Madagascar, Senegal, Leningrad, etc. [...] ‘art hoppers’ come along to this ruinous community which is for them a temporary playground. Before you know widescreen pictures of abandoned supermarket carts and buildings in decay are published in the glossy magazines. If there’s no support of the government or surrounding communities the praiseworthy intentions of good meaning people are bound to fail. If you can’t set up a whole new program with a clear view on the specific situation of art; what it is, was, could be, should be: STOP! If you want