Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Terence Koh with "nothingtoodoo" at Mary Boone

Terence Koh, performance still of nothingtoodoo, February 12, 2011, at the Mary Boone Gallery, New York. Photos: 16 Miles

Outside of Koh's gallery, Asia Song Society, 45 Canal Street, February 13, 2011

Terence Koh, performance still of nothingtoodoo, February 16, 2011, at the Mary Boone Gallery, New York

Sadly, there are no white-chocolate mountains on view in Terence Koh's one-person debut at Mary Boone. Koh has, at least for now, excised such easy, giddy pleasures from his work. Instead, there is a massive pile of salt sitting in the center of the gallery. There is also Koh himself, clad all in white, slowly working his way around the sculpture on his knees. This looks painful, though Koh gave no hint of discomfort on Saturday evening at his opening reception.

When I returned this afternoon, slipping through the white curtains that obscure the entrance to the main gallery, I was momentarily startled — first, to discover that Koh was still at it, and, second, that I was all alone with him. His back was faced away from me at that moment, as he went about his labor, which reads as a more masochistic, isolated version of Marina Abramović's recent MoMA performance, The Artist Is Present (2010). He performs for one more hour each day than she did, though he gets two days off to her one.

During one of those days off, Sunday, I walked from Reena Spauling Fine Arts and its charmingly low-key Matias Faldbakken show (more on that later) to Canada's divisive Joe Bradley affair, passing on the way the Asia Song Society, Koh's gallery and residence at 45 Canal. There were two white shoes sitting outside, one filled with flowers. Yesterday, I realized that he has been performing without shoes.

On Saturday evening, the gallery had been nearly still, as the crowd somberly watched Koh, silently rooting him on. Today, though, the silence was the result of emptiness. I felt guilty standing and watching as he went about his unending crawl, and I felt worse as I got ready to walk away. (Abramović had no shortage of supporters at MoMA.) I stayed for a few more minutes, and then, turning to go, quickly indulged an involuntary (and perhaps selfish) urge to pass in front of him, to let him know that someone had been staring.

Terence Koh, Silent March, November 21, 2009

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