Terence Koh Pays Tribute to Orlando Victims, Broadcasting Their Names into Space

Koh says the performance at Andrew Edlin Gallery will be a “chanting ceremony.”

Terence Koh, Bee Chapel. Photo courtesy Andrew Edlin Gallery instagram.
Terence Kohn. A beeswax candle burning from both ends. Photo courtesy of Andrew Edlin Gallery.

Terence Koh’s beeswax candle burning from both ends. Photo courtesy of Andrew Edlin Gallery.

Tomorrow evening, conceptual artist Terence Koh will add to the growing number of art world tributes responding to the massacre at the LGBT nightclub Pulse in Orlando, which left 49 dead, 53 more injured, and countless others traumatized.

In what he has dubbed a “chanting ceremony,” Koh plans to speak the names of the victims into a microphone that will broadcast the sound into outer space “via an antenna installed outside the gallery,” the Observer reports.

The action will take place at Andrew Edlin Gallery, now located in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and the venue for Koh’s latest show, “Bee Chapel,” which inaugurated the return of the art world’s prodigal son from retirement.

The chanting ceremony will be followed by a light projection and a screening of six films shown simultaneously, which will include John Waters’ transgressive black comedy starring counter-cultural drag queen Divine, Pink Flamingos (1972); and David Wojnarowicz’s 1988 silent super-8 film Beautiful People, which chronicles the complexity involved in identifying as other, a struggle some of the victims of Orlando, many of whom were gay and Latino, surely understood.

Works by gay Muslim filmmaker Parvez Sharma, underground film legends Bruce LaBruce and Jack Smith, as well as celebrated gay pornographic film director Wakefield Poole, will also be shown.

Koh’s debut return show draws attention to the decline of bee populations, taking on a more serious tone than we are familiar with from the artist, best known for selling a gold-plated pile of his own feces at Art Basel for a whopping $500,000 and partying with the likes of Lady Gaga, whose 2011 Born This Way became somewhat of an anthem in the LGBT community (and whose accompanying videoclip got her sued by artist Orlan).

After gaining notoriety both as himself and under the alias asianpunkboy, the art world provocateur upended his life and moved to a mountaintop in the Catskills.

Powered by solar panels, “Bee Chapel” features work such as collages crafted with beeswax, and a dying tree the artist is trying to keep alive, which is draped in fiber optic cables administering an ongoing electroencephalogram (EEG) meant to monitor its life force.

The centrepiece of the show, perched vibrating on a mountain of soil from the Catskills, is the show’s titular chapel, a beeswax apiary housing hundreds of live bees.

“Bee Chapel” will be the site of Koh’s tribute to the victims of what was both the deadliest mass shooting in US history and the worst targeted massacre of LGBT people in the Western world since the Holocaust.

The powerful statement both memorialises the victims, and—since sound doesn’t travel in space—perhaps speaks of the endless screaming into the void that seems to have become the debate surrounding gun control in the US.

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