by Christian Vistan
In the street-facing windows of Simon Fraser University’s Audain Gallery, a monitor displays a video. A man named Tai Lam feeds pigeons in an empty lot. Seeds splay in wide arches as he launches them in the air. Outside, the downtown Vancouver soundscape provides the score—pigeons murmur in and out of frame. A pair of texts are pasted beside the video. One, a quote about earthworms by Charles Darwin, and the other, a photograph of a job posting for worm catchers, handwritten in Korean. These vignettes depict intimacies between humans and the non-human, observed by Helen Cho in her attentive walks around Toronto.
Other objects of Cho’s care and attention are placed throughout the gallery—found rocks, mimicked in dough and ceramics; sewn vinyl sculptures; and small potted blackberry plants. These are arranged in clusters on the floor in relation to two videos and several pyung-sang, communal platforms for sitting. Viewers interact and familiarize themselves with these objects, plants, and images. Sitting, laying, crouching, walking among them.
Two screens suspended in the space alternate between displaying a video and a monochrome. There is a pause. Red and yellow at rest. The monochromes cast a momentary glow in silence.
[Image Description: An installation view of Helen Cho’s Space Silence at Audain Gallery. Sculptures sewn from red and pale pink vinyl, cut in curved shapes, sit near and on top of a wooden platform, alongside small, rocklike forms, and plants potted in white buckets. Right of frame, another wooden platform, for sitting, faces a suspended screen showing a yellow-hued grayscale image of a child’s face.]
One of the screens tells stories from Tai Lam’s life. A compliment to the video in the window, this time we hear Lam’s voice. His narration is nonlinear, serving pizza in Toronto in one moment and recounting the boat ride to refuge, to Indonesia, in another.
Lines and phrases borrowed from Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s book Dictee caption the silences of the video. A short excerpt reads ‘beginning wherever you wish’—then turns to Lam’s narration.
Each beginning bears the beginning that preceded it. Lam’s storytelling and Cha’s text come in fragments. Words accumulate to form a sentence. Each utterance articulates a part of a story. Cho pairs this with quotidian images: delivering food, feeding birds, weighing dough. She lingers in parts, in words, in moments—an intimacy similar to the tellings and the retellings of a story.
Walking a block East from Cho’s exhibition, there is a historic square locally coined ‘Pigeon Park’, after the pigeons that would frequent a patch of grass there. They would pick at the dirt and grass, and people would gather, sit, and watch.
Jan 16–Mar 14, 2020
pg. 5-6| Helen Cho, Space Silence. Installation view at Audain Gallery, 2020. Photo: Blaine Campbell.
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