It's been just over a year since my friend Juan Geuer died in Almonte, ON. He was 92.
I met Juan after a particularly difficult meeting with one of my thesis advisors, Sylvie Bélanger, when she simply said to me "you need to go see Juan." "--Who the hell is Juan?", I replied.
I can't remember how it all happened after that, but my friend Keith and I got ourselves to Almonte and I think we simply presented ourselves on Juan's doorstep. Juan and Else greeted us with more warmth than is deserved for complete strangers and we spent the day drinking tea, eating pastries, and being regaled with stories of Juan's obsessions, explorations, and a life at the border between science and art. I was worried that Keith, who was finishing a Master's in Civil Engineering at the time, would be bored. But Juan's Loom Drum, a work that chronicles the frequency and intensity of earthquakes over 50 years in North America, was right up his alley (Keith's thesis concerned the susceptibility of unfinished cable-stayed bridges to seismic activity).
I kept running into Juan after that and he always greeted me as an old friend. We were extremely honoured and grateful that we were able to have him participate in CAFKA in 2003.
Juan was a gem. The depth of his curiosity and enthusiasm for the wonderment of the world was matched only by the length of his eyebrows. He was our own version of Einstein.
It is difficult to choose a single work to highlight here. Al Asnaam,
"WIS appears, as do many of Geuer’s works, to be some sort of purpose-built, scientific instrument. A spare metal frame supports a pump, a laser light, some plastic tubing- not much is revealed in its utilitarian form. The only additional element is a lamp with blue light placed at the back of the room. The pump is calibrated to deliver a minute amount of water through the tubing. On the end of the tubing is a pipette, where a single droplet of water forms. The droplet is positioned in the warm orange beam of laser. In a darkened room, the light from the laser projects through the water and onto the wall, and we see magnified to wall-sized, the interior of the swelling droplet. This projected image is animated by the gradual swelling and falling of the water, as one would expect, but the rational definition of the event bears only a factual relation to what actually appears on the wall. As it strikes the droplet, the beam of light is bent by the surface curvature of the droplet, as well as by whatever impurities it contains. The refractions and reflections thus created assume a variety of astonishingly elegant geometric and organic shapes, continuously changing as the water droplet forms, swells and falls from the end of the pipette and as the next drop slowly takes its place. . . Regardless of our level of knowledge of these things, the images that appear before us seem to occupy both a microscopic and cosmic scale. Like plasma being formed into a galaxy, stars emerge from the tumultuous interplay of light. Squiggles of matter glow. At the same time we might also see the outline of our own shadow cast by the blue light at the back of the room." Christina Ritchie
But here is WIS (Water in Suspension) from 1999:
We miss you Juan. I like to think that the light from the sparkle in your eyes, that burned with the intensity of a truth-hungry fire, is forever travelling across the universe