Space Silence

January 16 – March 14, 2020, Audain Gallery, SFU, Vancouver, Canada

Curated by cheyanne turions

Drawing from poetry, science fiction and the theories of Charles Darwin, Helen Cho uses materials of mass production and everyday environs to query relationships between life, death and return. Her videos and sculptures in Space Silence observe the sentience of all beings as they persist through states of transition.

This exhibition presents the first two chapters of a video trilogy that bears witness to the life of Tai Lam, a Vietnamese man based in Toronto by way of an Indonesian refugee camp. While rooted in the harrowing experiences of war and flight from it, these moving image works document the rituals of a life where need is no longer the structuring force of his days. These stories are complemented by a new video that further investigates Cho's practice of witnessing. In following the musings and murmurings of an elderly woman facing the end of her life, Cho builds up a web of relations that conjoins allusions to Korean shamanic traditions with sculptures that call for activation. Across these works, the sounds, places and materials of daily existence are construed as testimonies to resilience and ephemerality.

Space Silence also includes still-life compositions that draw from the Korean traditions of pyung-sang, which are low wooden platforms familiar in outdoor social spaces and variously used to convene around or as support structures; folk-style chaekgeori, which are images associated with auspicious meanings, symbolizing the desire for a happy life; and suseok, which are naturally occurring rocks that are collected for their aesthetic and symbolic value. Collectively, these sculptural forms ask how our affective responses anchor themselves in material, and how these responses are challenged through mimicry.