Performance Artist Terence Koh Traverses A Mound of Salt


Performance artist Terence Koh attracts the press once again. In his exhibition nothingtoodoo at the legendary Mary Boone Gallery in New York, Koh has taken a vow of silence and slowly circles a giant mound of salt on his knees with a monk-like reverence. With only one week left in the show, this weekend’s crowds grew thick.

The new work is a departure for Koh, whose previous sculptures, installations, and performances, while diverse, tended to expose a domme personality. Here, the physical endurance required of the work evokes many of the same questions viewers asked last year at famed Marina Abramovic’s exhibition at MoMA in New York, The Artist Is Present. When does the artist eat? How will he go to the bathroom? What will happen to his knees? Also, why does he like white so much and what’s the significance of the salt? Is anyone making spin off art or attending several times through out the course of the show? The following photo essay documents his current show, and answers a few of these questions.

Koh kneels as he slowly traverses the circumference of the salt pile. The New York Times reports that he started wearing knee pads after the first week, but they must be very thin. I took this picture on Friday, and could not see any sign of them through his clothes.

With or without knee pads, the artist still needs to take a break occasionally. When this occurs he lies face down in an aesthetically appealing full body stretch. The break I saw lasted approximately five minutes.

The salt crystals used in this exhibition are surprisingly large and evoke themes such as healing and preservation. A brief Google search reveals that salt rocks can come in much larger sizes (think cinderblocks), but most of what’s pictured is pink, and therefore not Koh’s color of choice. What’s behind Koh’s affinity with white is unclear, but it’s long standing. Even his cat is white. He also frequently wears the color. Koh was shot after riding his bike in white by well known fashion blogger Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist, and of course got married in the color in 2009 to partner Garrick Gott. His dress was stunning.

Image via 16 miles

Mirroring the phenomenon of YouTube re-enactments, Koh has his own imitators seeking to make their mark. The name of this performer is unknown.

Terence Koh, Untitled (Medusa), 2006. Mixed media sculpture, wood, paint, plaster, urinal, steel, porcelain, mirror, glue, bonding paste, ashes, oil, burnt wood, light, wiring and artist’s urine

This toilet isn’t part of the show, but we hope it’s stashed in the back for Koh to use at the end of a long day. Which is to say, we expect Koh simply “holds it” when it comes to going to bathroom. The stall above is both a confessional and a urinal, though he will likely have problems using it as the former. He is after all, taking a vow of silence for the duration of the show.