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posted on 05.21.09

Terence Koh (b. 1977) is a Chinese-Canadian performance and installation artist and one of the most flamboyant and intriguing art personalities since Andy Warhol.  Koh’s

work, rooted in queer and punk youth culture, decadent, morbid and endlessly seductive.  Koh's installations are often relics of performances, like "Captain Buddha" (2008) at the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt, a monochrome environment of 15 sculptural objects covered, by ritual of chanting and paint-pouring, in white paint and alluding to Captain Ahab’s fruitless search for the great white whale and juxtaposing this with motifs drawn from Zen Buddhism.  The installation is disorienting, the stark whiteness almost debilitating as one struggles to re-orient themselves.  It involves the visitor by imposing a certain ritual of viewing.   "Captain Buddha" was one of my most visceral and spiritual encounters with art.  It was sublime and sardonic—but at the basest level, it was simply beautiful.  A more recent, and the most controversial Koh work, is "Gone, Yet Still" a sculpture of Christ with an erection, raises issues of religion, sex, and capitalism.  The emptiness of spectacle is the language of Koh’s aesthetic.  It may be perverse at times, but then so is the art world these days.


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