Germaine Koh: Home Made Home

Germaine Koh's overarching goal for her Kelowna Art Gallery installation is to help people “imagine other models for living.”

Germaine Koh

What’s the appeal of a micro-home? You have to get rid of tons of your possessions and then squeeze into a tiny boite of a living space, and why? — just to lessen your carbon footprint? Or would a smaller living space actually provide you with more freedom? This is the kind of hard thinking many people are wading into with the increasing creation of tiny living units, both here in Kelowna, as well as elsewhere.

Vancouver-based artist Germaine Koh has been giving the topic a great deal of thought, and in 2014 launched her Home Made Home project. Her overarching goal for the project is to help people “imagine other models for living,” that will bring greater freedom to their lives. Koh’s Home Made Home is a wide-ranging project, and the Kelowna Art Gallery is currently exhibiting two pieces that introduce the gallery installation component of this project.

Regular visitors to the Gallery will look up and probably smile as they enter the building and see the façade of a cute little cottage installed up in the overhead niche above the entrance to the main exhibition space. Maybe this piece (titled Infill) will get visitors thinking about tiny living spaces that could be fit in here and there within the urban built environment.

Inside the Mardell G Reynolds gallery space is Koh’s other work built for this solo exhibition, titled Core. It is a seven-foot-high wooden piece made from three modules attached together. One end reads as a kitchen, the other as a bedroom, with the centre unit having washroom facilities plotted in. As a whole, Core reads as a cross between something one might see in a few years at IKEA, and a blown-up Barbie dream home.

Koh refers to both these works as “social sculptures,” and does not intend them to be floor models as much as vectors, pointing gallery visitors to new ways of thinking about living small. The idea of a micro-home is not just about de-cluttering and squeezing self into a small living space, it is about living more out in the community. You could use your home as a base, but not stay inside so much — a different life style, more European, and in fact, if you spend less on a home, there might be more in the budget for travel.

Koh’s work is not meant to be didactic, in fact, a subtle and dry humour runs through it. For example, little slotted hand holds have been cut into the ends of two of Core’s modules, as though they could be picked up and carried like toys.

Germaine Koh was born in Georgetown, Malaysia. She has been a Canadian citizen since 1976 and has exhibited widely, both in Canada and internationally. Koh has a BFA from the University of Ottawa (1989) a BA in the theory and history of art (University of Ottawa) and an MFA from Hunter College, New York from 1993. In 2010 she was awarded the VIVA award from the Jack and Doris Shadbolt Foundation in Vancouver.

Come and see for yourself to open up your imagination to the world of the micro home. Germaine Koh’s exhibition Home Made Home will be on view at the Kelowna Art Gallery until Feb. 12.

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