Joachim Koester is best known for his meticulous film and photographic works, which extort their meaning from occult practices, altered states of consciousness and marginal histories. (Max Andrews, Frieze 178, 2016)
Like in a number of his films including “Tarantism”, “The Place of Dead Roads” or “Maybe One Must Begin with Some Particular Places”, in “Reptile brain or reptile body, it’s your animal” Joachim Koester works with dancers. The film revisits Jerzy Grotowski’s psycho-physical exercises, staged by Koester in a dark wild garden in Mexico City. As part of the exercises developed by Grotowski, the dancers would attempt to connect with the reptile brain, which is the oldest part of our brain.
In the late 1960s the Polish theatre director Jerzy Grotowski abandoned theatre to create a system of “motions” and “spatial practices”, which made him one of the main contributors to contemporary performance. Grotowski replaced the conventional structure of drama with improvised activities, games and a psychophysical system of exercises to train and refine the bodily and mental awareness of the actor.
Exploring the intersection of performance, anthropology and ritual Grotowski developed works that would last for days and often weeks. They would take place – often without an audience – at remote locations like an old farmhouse in rural Poland, an abandoned castle or a jungle in Mexico. Grotowski visited Mexico in 1968 and several times after. During one of these trips, in 1985, Grotowski planned and directed a work involving 14 volunteers outside the city of Tepalcingo, Morelos. Like for the charlatan shaman Carlos Castaneda, or the founder of the “Theatre of Cruelty” Antonin Artaud before him, the “wilderness” of Mexico became a scene to expand the boundaries of self and presence.
Joachim Koester was born 1962 in Copenhagen where he currently lives. He graduated from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts’ Schools of Visual Arts in 1994. His artistic practice encompasses different media and formats such as film, photography and sound, often in immersive installations. The artist traces the occurrences of mysticism and the occult as well as the surreal moments from our cultural and social histories. Koester’s work reveals his wide-ranging fascinations held together by a persistent enquiry into the boundaries of apparent reality and a quest to reveal hidden aspects of perception. Joachim Koester has exhibited widely, with solo shows at National Gallery of Denmark, Copenhagen (2019), Beirut Art Center (2018), Bergen Kunsthall (2018), Camden Arts Centre, London (2017), Turner Contemporary, Margate (2016); Forum Eugénio de Almeida, Evora (2015); Centre d’Art Contemporain, Geneva (2014) and Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2013), S.M.A.K., Ghent (2013) among the most recent.