[ISEA2015] Artist Statement: Germaine Koh – TOPOGRAPHIC TABLE

Artist Statement

CNC-routered baltic birch plywood table top, steel frame, sensors and internet-connected electronics (2013)

Topographic Table is an uneasy piece of furniture, which disrupts notions of art and its behavior in the gallery. The CNC-routered plies of the thick
plywood tabletop recreate the contours of the massive mountains north of Vancouver — an area due for a catastrophic seismic event. This uncomfortable surface is also emotionally on edge: Internet-connected electronics embedded in the frame shake the table in response to local vibration sensor input and Twitter news about earthquakes in the Vancouver and Pacific Northwest area. Equating physical events and online chatter,
the piece suggests some interpenetration of the two sensing systems. The represented region is an earthquake-rich zone due to its proximity to the Juan de Fuca subduction fault off of Vancouver Island. Germaine Koh’s Topographic Table physically replicates the emotional state of the province as it nervously awaits a megathrust quake. Koh’s miniature landscape, with its equally-diminished quavering condition, collapses geologic and dialogic events to enchanting effect. Like children, we are mesmerized by the miniature world we are able to contemplate from the safety of the gallery. Like many a prophetic newscast, Topographic Table disrupts our sense of comfort with the majestic mountainous Vancouver skyline, although it succeeds in doing so through aesthetic seduction rather than fear.

CNC machining: Emily Carr University of Art + Design, metal fabrication:Alan Waldron / Infi nite FX, 3D modelling: Hamza Vora, programming: Gordon Hicks.

  • Based in Vancouver, Canada, Germaine Koh is a visual artist, independent curator and partner in the record label (weewerk). Her art is concerned with the significance of everyday actions, familiar objects and common places. Her exhibition history includes the BALTIC Centre, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Para/Site, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Bloomberg SPACE, The Power Plant, Seoul Museum of Art, Artspace Sydney, The British Museum, the Contemporary Art Gallery, Plug In ICA, Art Gallery of Ontario, and the Liverpool, Sydney and Montréal biennials. Koh was a recipient of the 2010 Shadbolt Foundation VIVA Award, and a finalist for the 2004 Sobey Art Award.

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