The Unbearable Banishment: Another day on your knees in the salt mine

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Another day on your knees in the salt mine

On my lunch hour, I visited the Mary Boone Gallery in Chelsea to see performance artist Terence Koh's latest work, nothingtoodooterencekoh. In it, a (supposedly) 45 ton pile of rock salt was dumped into the center of the gallery and Koh circumnavigates the pile ON HIS KNEES from the time the gallery opens until it closes. It's madness.

Some performance art is quite lovely to behold but I was going there to laugh at him. It seemed like a pretentious stunt. I don't know what it was supposed to signify. I NEVER know what it's supposed to signify. I don't do subtlety My judgments are all very base. Is it pretty to look at? I was sure that this was not.

There is no interaction with the audience. He has taken a vow of silence for the length of the run. Sometimes, he lays prostate on the floor in front of the pile. Initially, he was crawling on his knees without the aid of knee pads but he had to give that up because it was tearing his knees up.

As I said, I was going there because I thought the concept was a big joke. But a funny thing happened. Once there, I got swept up in it and it was actually quite beautiful. I can't explain it! The pile of salt was a perfect, perfect inverted cone with a sharply defined edge. His white garments seemed to mesh with the salt. The only light was the light that poured in from the skylight. There were about a dozen people there and they were all respectfully silent. There was something very calming about watching the whole thing and I didn't want to leave but I had to get back to MY pile of rock salt.


Blogger kyknoord said...

Next time you're in Cape Town, you can come and view my contribution to the field of performance art. It's called "Man getting paid to stand under metaphorical shower of poop." It's extremely moving.

March 17, 2011 at 6:44 AM  
Blogger JZ said...

tame by comparison to most of his work it seems.... but here's a good article i found from his website:

March 17, 2011 at 7:21 AM  
Anonymous nursemyra said...

Yes it sounds laughable but I can really see the beauty in your photos

March 17, 2011 at 7:30 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

kykn: Can you do a video installation of that and post it to YouTube? I won't be in the naib for quite some time.

JZ: Thanks for the article. You're right! This does seem tame! What's with all the pain? Who do you suppose did it to him when he was a child?

nurse: To me, it sounded like a terrible idea. Then I walked into the gallery and a calmness kind of washed over me. Magic!

March 17, 2011 at 7:39 AM  
Blogger sukipoet said...

I love the way your concept before hand of what it would be like changed when you were there. I wonder if this reflects the Bhuddist practice of walking miles doing

March 17, 2011 at 7:59 AM  
Anonymous daisyfae said...

if he were wearing a hat dangling a carrot in front of him? it would have been funnier...

March 17, 2011 at 8:00 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

suki: Hell, I have not idea. I've done walking meditations before but they weren't so hard on my legs. He seemed terribly uncomfortable.

daisy: You're so funny! I read that one day last week, a guy wearing devil horns came into the gallery and followed him on his knees for a bit.

March 17, 2011 at 8:15 AM  
Blogger Kono said...

i have a feeling i would have stood there for hours, i believe i know exactly what he is trying to convey, we all do really.

March 17, 2011 at 8:36 AM  
Blogger mapstew said...

You are more than welcome to come watch me drink my own weight in beer today, at Clohessey's Bar in Ballycummin. I shall not be silent. And the audience is encouraged to participate, all donations gratefully received!

There may even be pictures, but they will not be as beautiful or as peaceful as the ones you have posted today my friend.

Sláinte mhaith! :¬)

March 17, 2011 at 8:59 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

kono: I'll have to admit that after I walked into the gallery, I "got it" more than when I simply read about it.

map: Boy, oh, boy would I love to do that. I can't imagine a better afternoon. *sigh*

March 17, 2011 at 9:36 AM  
Blogger Ponita in Real Life said...

"Art" can be very strange sometimes... And although some of my university studies were in Fine Art, I claim no greater understanding of what some proclaim to be art. I suppose the atmosphere there is what contributed to the experience.

I'd rather join Map for beer too! Well... not beer, but a drink or several anyways. ;-)

March 17, 2011 at 9:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would be more apt to participate is a Lazy man's performance art. I would have put a track around the salt and sat on it reading a book about how to mine salt. My knees hurt looking at the guy, but I have to say the form is striking.

March 17, 2011 at 10:35 AM  
Blogger Jason Quinones said...

and in walks the pretzel cart guy, pushing his pretzel cart, screaming "who dah fuck took all da pretzel sawlt! i got fuckin'unsawlted pretzels ovah heeyah!"

March 17, 2011 at 1:26 PM  
Blogger Jason Quinones said...


saw the george condo exhibit at the new museum. it's a pretty amazing exhibit/retrospective of his work. odd,funny and disturbing paintings.

and free on thursdays from 7 to 9.

also took my wife to see the book of mormon on broadway. we both loved it.

any interest in seeing it (or both)?

March 17, 2011 at 1:33 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Ponita: A beer with Map on St. Paddy's Day?! Now THAT'S what I would call a great performance.

carlae: He did have a rather pained look on his face, that I don't think was forced. I did see him lay on the floor face-down for a bit of a rest.

jason: I SAW The Book of Mormon and almost pissed myself laughing! Can you believe what they get away with?! And the big surprise is that somehow, in the end, nobody looks foolish or made fun of. I've never been to the New Museum. Thanks for the late-night tip. Will definitely pop over.

March 17, 2011 at 1:42 PM  
Blogger tennysoneehemingway said...

The cone of salt looked rather enticing actually. I'm suprised that no one has run into the room and done a massive dive into the salt. Doesn't look like much in the way of security there.

March 17, 2011 at 11:09 PM  
Blogger Nimpipi said...

Does Terence crawl all day? I'm curious about what happens to the salt when the installation is over. I saw the clip of him crawling. It reminded me of those Tibetan singing bowls I used to play with.

How long did you stay for? Did you find it at all disconcerting? And is it a conscious effort, of late, on your part, to to seek out... meditation-Buddhisty things? (Evidently I'm curious about more than just what happens to the salt:)

March 18, 2011 at 1:18 AM  
Blogger Pat said...

I can imagine it being quite a Zen experience but I'd be fretting about his knees. I can't believe I did it but I actually asked the oncologist the other day to uncross his knees.
His expression was priceless.

March 18, 2011 at 7:03 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Hem: There's NO security whatsoever! And this looks like something that might draw a lot of nuts. Or salt addicts.

Nimpipi: Thanks for the link! You always go the extra miles. I was only there for about :20 minutes because I had to get back to work. Would have liked to stay longer.

Pat: I think that his suffering is part of the "message," whatever the hell that is.

March 18, 2011 at 11:51 AM  
Blogger Jimmy said...

I like his style.

March 18, 2011 at 3:30 PM  

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