Vancouver-based artist Germaine Koh describes her work as “An attempt to be attentive to the poetics of daily life.” With the help of the City of Vancouver, Koh plans to show Vancouverites how poetic their city really is. Known for her See–Saw Seat off of Main Street, Koh plans to impress her audience with an even bigger exhibit this year. Koh’s exhibit Home Made Home will run from Sept. 15–Nov. 4 at the Evergreen Culture Centre in Coquitlam.
As the City of Vancouver’s Engineering Department’s first Artist-in-Residence, Koh is excited to get her projects off the ground. Koh’s work will point out the systems around us within our city’s infrastructure. The city plans to start with three consecutive artists-in-residence and hopes it will become an ongoing project. Koh herself will not fabricate the projects but she will help with conceptualization and design.
“They do a lot. We have no idea about all the amazing infrastructure that supports our daily lives,” says Koh about the City of Vancouver’s Engineering Department.
Public space appeal
Over her career Koh has found herself pulled towards public art versus the typical gallery art. She found herself frustrated with how inaccessible the gallery world was. Koh believes that it is worthwhile to put ideas out into the public realm for debate.
“In my mind the essence of putting out ideas and intriguing situations will further the ideas,” she explains.
Public art allows Koh to engage with a larger public than what one normally finds in an art gallery.
Exploring living small
Home Made Home can best be described as a “DIY project.” Making up the bulk of the exhibit is a collection of structures Koh has built that highlight the idea of “living small.” The exhibit will include a sub exhibition of architectural panels. Each panel has a different image and corresponding text of a different builder and designer local to the Pacific Northwest. This project will focus on accessible and affordable housing, especially in smaller forms.
“I’m aligning what I’m doing with a long history of people taking the initiative to find solutions to the housing challenges,” says Koh.
Koh does not credit Vancouver’s current housing crisis for her inspiration for this exhibit, but there are underlying concerns on which her work shines a light. She feels that the current crisis makes the work more pressing, furthering the argument that we should be expanding our ideas that could be a partial solution to the problem. Ideas like laneway houses, co-housing projects, social housing and even houses made out of shipping containers could, in her view, really make a difference in Vancouver.
“There is a long history in my work of doing projects that are concerned with basic survival,”she says.
Something new emerges from the old
Along with her exhibit, Koh is also working with the City of Vancouver on another building project. Due to Vancouver’s new by-law where every house built before 1940 must be dismantled rather than demolished, Koh has plans for those housing materials. Timber and other building materials will be used to build smaller structures that could serve as small pop-up stores, artist’s residences, information kiosks, etc. She plans to highlight the uses before the material finds its way into a landfill.
Koh hopes that by the time her career is done, she will have made a difference. She hopes to have made things people will remember.
“I guess as I get older my desire to make a difference becomes stronger. I’ve become more willing to be an activist in my work. I’m in as good a position as anybody to make a difference and make stuff happen,” she says.
For more information, please visit www.evergreenculturalcentre.ca.