Special-Project

Afterlives Extensions: (currency)
Germaine Koh and Aron Louis Cohen, with Russell Gordon
January 25 — 31, 2018

Curated by Joni Low

Cathedral Square Park
January 25 – 27; & January 30 – 31: 12 to 4 pm
Onsite Smelting: Saturday January 27, 2 to 5 pm

Free to the public


As part of the exhibition Afterlives, Aron Louis Cohen and Germaine Koh will perform (currency) at Cathedral Square Park, transforming Koh’s new mobile structure, Home Made Home: Boothy, into a currency exchange.1 The public is invited to bring small, unwanted electronic items – such as computers and peripherals, cell phones, TVs or home appliances – in exchange for (currency) extracted from its parts.

Koh and Cohen will create ad-hoc coins from electronic waste – stamped, registered and available in exchange for more e-waste. They will dismantle objects in the booth, exposing the labour often outsourced to city perimeters and developing countries. On Saturday, January 27, in collaboration with Russell Gordon and his portable foundry, the artists will pour
(currency) onsite.

(currency) considers the range of values represented in technological objects designed for obsolescence. How do currencies and these electronic devices act as support structures for social and material relations? What are the disparities between use-value and exchange-value, and how might they be bridged? By examining the relationship between materials, the symbolism assigned to them, and their circulation – through purchase, recycling, or disposal – the project questions the logic of “value.” Ironically, while wealth becomes consolidated among the few, “waste” has become abundant, even excessive.

Value today is often linked to a material’s scarcity and necessity – associated with its level of manufacture, its functionality in combination with other materials as consumer goods, and social consensus. Manufacturing produces objects essential to our functioning within technologized society. Computers, phones, laptops and tablets include a number of refined metals, such as gold, silver, copper, aluminum, niobium and rare-earth metals. These elements can be re-extracted from e-waste after its social and functional value approaches nil.

The de-linking of currency from a material standard almost fifty years ago, and the continued abstraction of capital, is part of a wider neoliberal deregulation of the economy, welfare state and public life. In an era of precarity, speculative cryptocurrencies, mass inflation, and rising debt, it becomes apparent that material “waste” is also a wealth – of debt, certainly to our earth. How might we invert “value,” and conceive of “waste” and its potentials differently – so as to imagine different possible futures?

1 Home Made Home: Boothy is a small, mobile aluminum structure by Germaine Koh designed to create a public point for exchange, communication, presentation and shelter. Resembling 1950s telephone booths common to urban vernacular (until the removal of public payphones) and popular culture (from Superman to The Matrix), Boothy is a platform to transform social relations. Its etymology and spirit relates to the Scottish/Gaelic bothy: a rustic wilderness hut governed by a code of shared use. It is the 9th iteration of Koh’s Home Made Home series, a creative enterprise for building innovative small dwellings to imagine other possible ways of living.

HMH: Boothy is a younger cousin to Shell (2006), a transit shelter-like enclosure attached to a Vancouver gallery storefront which exposed the vulnerability of space and the power relations that private and public imply. Unmoored from gallery space into public space, Boothy will host a series of monthly public art projects presented in Cathedral Square Park from January to June 2018, curated by Joni Low.

The Or Gallery acknowledges its presence on unceded Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh territories. This project series is made possible through the generous support of the City of Vancouver’s Public Art Program. We are grateful for the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Government of British Columbia, the City of Vancouver, the British Columbia Arts Council, our members, donors, and volunteers. The Or Gallery is a member of the Pacific Association of Artist-Run Centres (PAARC).

Image credit: Germaine Koh, Aron Louis Cohen and Russell Gordon, Currency: First smelt, 2017. Aluminum, copper, heat and labour. Photographs: Aron Louis Cohen.

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Or Gallery

555 Hamilton St.
Vancouver, BC
Canada V6B 2R1

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Gallery hours 12 - 5PM
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