Boy by the Sea Terence Koh

Press release

The following is an email conversation with Terence Koh about his 2008 sculpture, "Boy by the Sea," which depicts a perfect mirror image of Terence Koh's body at 2/3 size, with bunny ears, and covered with 65,000 faux pearls. In making the work, Koh had his body scanned three-dimensionally, and, using the resulting data, was able to reproduce an exact replica of his body in the size he would have been as a boy.


1. A few years ago, you made a drawing of a boy by the sea. Is it the same boy as your drawing (of you?) by the sea from many years ago, only to finally gain human/Kohbunny form?


Terence Koh: yes time is all the same illusion to me. so yes same boy, same time. but not kohbunny, this work for yokohama and the drawing is terence koh.


2. Is the sculpture Kohbunny? (as a boy?)


TK: again nothing to do with kohbunny. that is a website. just terence koh. i like rabbits. and the ears make everything more dramatic. the piece is about drama. actions. movement.


3. Are there any real pearls among the faux pearls?


TK: i of course would love to do it all out of real pearls. but i would rather donate the money if i were to use real pearls to saving sea turtles. but research proved that all the pearls in this piece even if not "real" pearls from an oyster were created naturally from a blend of fishscales. and i love the idea that the fishscales have become pearls and in the end they look like scales on my body.


4. What was it like having your body 3-D scanned? That means that there is now some digital form of your body, sort of like a DNA sequencing. Have you thought of selling this data? What is it like having a scan of your body that is in digital form?


TK: i loved it. i love that i am preserved in 3D now in a form, and i want to distribute this information into the internet. so again its back to this idea of constant action and movement in the answer to my first answer.


5. Is the sea special for you in some way? Is Yokohama?


TK: 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.


Javier Peres is pleased to present Terence Koh, Boy By the Sea, first presented at the 2008 Yokohama Triennial, exhibited now for the first time in Berlin.


The sculpture was initially presented a few feet away from the sea in Yokohama as part of a site-specific performance, in the dark, flanked by two boys wearing loin cloths. Terence Koh appeared, painted head to toe in white, and wearing a similar loin wrapping, to lead several boys in a procession, several of which carried the wood sculpture to the seafront, where it was placed atop its pedestal. He then climbed up to the sculpture, tied the ears of the sculpture with strings from his loin cloth, and then climbed on to the matching pedestal, wrapping the other end of the string several times around his mouth, thus creating a bridge between himself and his smaller, pearl covered alter ego. The boys then walked underneath the string bridge and one by one flung a pearl into the sea.


Many know Terence Koh's work for the heavy tasks it calls materials to perform: precious gold to encase profane feces, patina white to smother and equalize disparate objects (perhaps akin to the last scene of Joyce's Dubliners, in the story "The Dead": "His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."), black glass, neon light, a saccharine but perishable chocolate trophy memorializing Michael Jackson; The most conspicuous medium in this work are 65,000 faux pearl and faux pearl fragments, each hand applied to his body to create a resplendant surface, somehow animalistic in its scaliness, yet sublime in its subtle variations of texture.


Yet to stop at the materials and merely the web of references in the work all having to do with the sea/water/pearls, would overlook Terence Koh's deep understanding of the power of the sea, both at its murky depths and its lofty heights in renditions of Western art, among them Gaugin's drawing "Dramas of the Sea: Descent into the Maelstrom." The drawing, an inspiration for the curators of the Yokohama Triennial, is itself a reference to Edgar Allen Poe's story of the same name, in which a man, travelling with his brothers at sea, encounters a maelstrom. One brother is pulled ito the waves, the other is driven mad, and the protagonist ages from a young man to an old man overnight. The curators of the Yokohama Triennial see this as a jumping off point for a metaphor for the art experience, akin to plunging to the depths of a crevasse of time. With this work, as with his 2008-2009 major solo exhibition at MUSAC, "Love for Eternity," Terence Koh's forays into self-eternalization knowingly tap into a common well of bedazzling thanatos to reveal the true nature of time, movement, and action.

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