Whitehot Magazine

June 2009, Terence Koh @ Peres Projects

Terence Koh, Boy by the Sea (installation view + detail), 2008, mixed media including basswood, fish scales, faux pearls, pine wood block, wood stain,
white powder pigments, white acrylic paint, four meters white muslin cloth, courtesy Peres Projects


Terence Koh: Boy by the Sea at Peres Projects 
Schlesische Str. 26
10997, Berlin
May 1 – June 13, 2009

There are some things that just go together well: peanut butter and jelly, coffee and cigarettes, greed and Chanel. Classic combinations of things so inherent that they almost become necessity, one barely being able to function without the other. For me, Terence Koh and Peres Projects are another one of these infamous combinations.

Peres Projects is sort of a second home to Koh, the intense friendship between artist and gallery owner seems to imbibe Koh’s work, providing it with a softer, more intimate reception. Peres Projects for Koh, is comparable to hanging out at your best friend’s house; you are completely comfortable and free to do as you like and are having the best time ever. Viewing Koh’s work in this space is a special privilege, as if we all are finally invited to the slumber party.

The latest expression of this is Koh’s Boy by the Sea (2008), a sculptural reformation of Koh's body. For this work, Koh had his body three-dimensionally scanned and then used the data to create a 2/3 mirror-image replica of his own boy-sized body. The piece is meticulously covered with 65,000 faux pearls (well make that 64,999 as I might have seen one that had fallen off, and I may or may not have a friend who then subsequently put it in his pocket) and in keeping with typical Koh style includes bunny ears and a loincloth.

This is the first time this piece is being shown in Berlin after originally being presented at the 2008 Yokohama Triennial as a site-specific performance. In this performance, Koh, painted all white and wearing a loincloth, similar as the sculpture, lead a procession of several boys who were carrying the piece to the seafront. Once there it was placed on a pedestal, which Koh climbed up and tied on the sculpture’s bunny ears with strings from his loincloth. Climbing then onto a matching pedestal, Koh tied more of these loincloth strings around his mouth, essentially creating a bridge that the boys then walked underneath each taking his turn throwing a pearl into the sea.


Terence Koh, Boy by the Sea (detail), 2008, mixed media including basswood, fish scales, faux pearls, pine wood block, wood stain,
white powder pigments, white acrylic paint, four meters white muslin cloth, courtesy Peres Projects

Viewing the piece here in Berlin, while clearly not the same experience, did manage to maintain a sense of ritual. For instance, in order to view the piece, the wide white expanse of the gallery had to be traversed while all the while eyeing the sculpture in the distance. Such a strong desire to at last arrive and fulfill the anticipation of the piece’s magnificence; you almost have to stop yourself from the running the whole way. Finally getting closer, one realizes the sculpture is actually facing the farthest wall. This momentary delay of having to walk around into a deliberate tight space makes it feel even more as if approaching some sort of religious cult figure.

The sculpture is draped in sheer white cloth that hangs softly from the piece’s bunny ears, subtly revealing the hidden beauty of Koh’s pearl covered body (which is almost a metaphor for the pearl itself). The pearls, the whiteness, the draping, the drama, all lend the piece a somewhat mystical presence intensified by the empty pedestal at its left. You can imagine the real Koh on the empty pedestal and somewhat feel his presence in his absence.

Standing in front of the piece initiates a contemplation of self. I thought about Koh’s choice of self-reproduction and remembered what I had read of his description of the piece in a recent email interview with the gallery:
“yes i love the sea more than most people. cause i am fearful of the sea, the darkness, the complete blackness. the bottom of the sea is the most perfect form of blackness and right down there is its equal, a pearl of complete whiteness. that pearl is hidden inside the mouth of this sculpture. and it talks for eternity to the empty plinth that is part of this piece”.

I love how this piece is so simple and complex, I love how Koh uses references to the sea and its incomprehensible vastness and the magical things it hides in the crevices of ugly creatures. I love that Koh used the pearl, his fascination with white and his self to create a piece that touches the depths of experiencing art and eternity.


Jaime Schwartz

Jaime Schwartz holds an M.A in Contemporary Art Theory and Curatorial Practice from San Francisco State University. Jaime currently resides in Berlin, after many years in San Francisco where she worked for the SFMOMA Artist's Gallery, The Judah L. Magnes Museum and The San Francisco Arts Commission. Most recently, Jaime is the Co- Founder and Director of The Center for Endless Progress, a new gallery and project space in Neukölln. More information can be found at endlessprogress.or


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