This exhibition was Germaine Koh’s first solo exhibition in Vancouver. Germaine Koh has been exhibiting her work since 1990, she has developed a practice that is remarkable in its use of the commonplace, bringing into play aspects of our daily lives that are not always noticed, let alone find a place within an art gallery. Koh’s work is based on an exploration of systems: systems of communication; systems of translation; systems of circulation and exchange; and systems of decision and chance – especially those of which we are not immediately conscious. In this respect, Koh amplifies the discreet entities that in some way mediate our daily actions, and how we as individuals or collective beings function in relation to them. She looks to conceptual art for tools to inform her strategies and aesthetics, but she steers clear of the descriptive in search of a more experiential and poetic encounter.
The two works in this exhibition, . . . and Prayers are disconcerting in their visual impact. They consist of puffs of smoke and tens of thousands of ball bearings. But the fact that they are not static objects – indeed, these works of art exist in a state of constant flux – encourages another kind of contemplation about art. Here, contemplation shifts from the stability of a traditional art object to a visual experience dependent upon mutability, contingency, and the intangible.
In both of these works, unexpected materials are animated and assume a life outside of their original function. The ball bearings drop from tracks in the ceiling, lightly bounce across the floor, and then find a place to settle. The resulting patterns are jewel-like and reminiscent of puddles, aerial photography or microscopic formations. At the end of each day the ball bearings are recycled into the tracks so that patterns continually emerge in different forms. Prayers translates texts from various computers in the gallery (including one available to viewers in the catalogue room) into Morse code that is then given form as smoke signals that can be seen from the street.