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Germaine Koh

Sightings picture


ABOVE: An image from the Germaine Koh postcard series called Sightings.

Click here to view the complete Sightings set (1.3 MB PDF)

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Click here to download a PDF reader from the University of Manitoba's "Software Express"

Sightings (1992-98) (shown at Gallery One One One)

Offset postcards printed from found snapshots

Sightings is a series of postcards commercially printed from snapshots found in public places. The caption on the back of each card records with archival precision the date, site and circumstances of the find, describes any identifying marks, and gives the publication date and my address. The cards relate individual experience to public forms. Travelling the anonymous realm between lost and found, they enigmatically mark the passage of specific people through particular times and spaces. Melding the functions of snapshots and postcards as conventional forms for remembrance, location and commemoration of individual experience, the project recognizes that the imagery and function of both snapshots and postcards are nevertheless public forms located squarely in popular space. Described by their location in communal rather than familial territory, and recognizable primarily as types (special occasions, pets, etc.), the images are treated as archival specimens garnered from this collective domain.


Koh Classifieds
Classified ad taken out by Germaine Koh in the
1 December 2001 edition of the Winnipeg Free Press during
her Gallery One One One/Plug In exhibition Around About.

Journal (ongoing since 1995) - n.b. title changes with each venue (shown at Gallery One One One)

Series of classified ads in daily newspaper

Click here to view the complete Winnipeg Free Press Journal set

From time to time I have used the personal-notices section of the classified ads of various daily newspapers as the site for a kind of journal (for are journals not written for eventual consumption by others -- or at least oneself as another separated by time?). These messages invert the urgency of this familiar space for recording the circulation of useful things and abject hopes. The tone of the texts is familiar, providing mundane observations about my daily routines (example: "8 April, Toronto. Ran into A and S, who solved my problem. Had dinner, beer. I like them."). Instead of seeking the commercial or social translations usually advertised in this space, I use the real time and repetition embedded in the newspaper to relate little more than the passing of time, gently magnifying its banality and arguing for the monumentality of daily preoccupations. Executed anonymously, this work's reception is as unknowable as its potential audience is wide, though part of its poignancy lies in the assumption that many of the activities I describe might be familiar to many of the unknown people who happen to read them. Although the events are particular to me, they thus might seem to represent certain shared collective experiences.


Koh work


Sighns
(2001) (shown at Gallery One One One)

Colour photographs mounted on PVC panels

Sighns is a series of multi-panel works based on photos of words from public signage, which are assembled into terse concrete poems reminiscent of the phrases used to negotiate everyday interpersonal relations. They rely equally on a play of words and formal details.



Koh's work
Prayers (1999) (shown at Plug In I.C.A.)

Intervention with computer interface and smoke machine transmitting office activity

Throughout the day, a computer interface captures all the keystrokes typed on another computer within the same building. In real time, this raw data is translated to Morse code and broadcast into the surrounding atmosphere in the form of Morse-encoded smoke signals issuing from a vent or other opening in the building as longer and shorter puffs of smoke. More and less active at various times of the day and its output more and less visible under varying conditions, the apparatus is a kind of exhaust system for the machine of daily industry. At the same time, it relates today's electronic communications to previous technological and communications revolutions: telegraph, binary languages, steam power, smoke signals. Everyday hopes and fleeting desires, channeled through the implements of daily work, are briefly given form as they are dispersed into the world at large, "on the wing of a prayer."


Koh's work called
. . . (2000) (shown at Plug In I.C.A.)

Ball-bearings, electrical mechanisms, vinyl track

The installation . . . features a gentle and continuous shower of small ball-bearings across an apparently-empty space. These quietly bounce around, puddling here and there, and are eventually picked up to begin the cycle anew. This constant yet barely visible movement establishes a zone of uncertainty, elusiveness, and slight hazard, and also of play. The project arose from an invitation to develop new work based on artifacts from the collection of the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre in Toronto. The conceptual origin of . . . was a small quantity of pachinko balls in this collection, which were remarkable precisely because they were so innocuous. As unassuming artifacts of a game of chance, they not only were tokens of everyday compulsions, but also had the potential to represent a slipping-away of things. Translating the pachinko balls into the mechanical efficiency of ball-bearings and further re-imagining them as a sort of elemental force, the installation embodies a state of chance and passage by creating a space of slippage, of fluidity, and of forgetting rather than remembering.


Koh's work
Lumber (1991-94) (shown at Plug In I.C.A.)

Oil, enamel and varnish on approximately 700 pieces of recuperated 2x4 lumber

Lumber is a massive collection of discarded pieces and scraps of 2x4 lumber gathered and reworked over three years, in various cities. Through this process of urban harvesting these objects accumulate into a flexible volume that expands and contracts to conform to the spaces in which it is installed/stored. Each piece is glazed with many layers of muted oil and marine varnish, which accumulate to form a durable finish subtly enhancing its surface irregularities and marks of use. Within the mass, each piece is subtly different than the others. The materiality of these mundane standard forms is surprisingly evocative, variously suggesting an urban forest, a skyline, or a crowd of individuals. They are ready-mades, but also artifacts bearing the marks of their use; commonplace material rendered contemplative; and manufactured forms that become (again) organic or even anthropomorphic.


Koh's work
Floe (2001) (shown at Plug In I.C.A.)

Installation of refilled plastic drink bottles

A new installation created for Plug In, in which a glacial mass of refilled plastic drink bottles is contained by the architectural details of the space.

Koh's work

Germaine Koh: "Around About" 30 November 2001 - 11/12 January 2002 at Gallery One One One, School of Art, FitzGerald Building, University of Manitoba, Fort Garry Campus, Winnipeg. and Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art, 286 McDermot Avenue, Winnipeg. Plug In - ICA and Gallery One One One acknowledge generous support by: The Canada Council for the Arts, The Manitoba Arts Council, MAC Bridges Program, The Pepsi Bottling Group, the W.H. & S.E. Loewen Foundation, University of Manitoba Recycling and Environmental Group, Val Camarta, Robert Epp, staff and volunteers.
Germaine Koh:Around About includes an essay by Cliff Eyland, images and material about other Gallery One One One shows: $20.00 plus shipping = $25.00 payable to Gallery One One One, School of Art, Main Floor, FitzGerald Building, University of Manitoba Fort Garry campus, Winnipeg, MB, CANADA R3T 2N2 TEL:204 474-9322 FAX:474-7605

For information please contact Robert Epp eppr@ms.umanitoba.ca