Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Terrence Koh and his nothingtoodoo, caught me off guard with an ability to communicate things that I have wanted to express in my own work for years, ideas that I never imagined could be communicated as succinctly through visual means.

Upon entering the performance, the viewer notices a huge pile of carefully placed salt rocks and Terence, draped in his signature white, who is either circling the pile on his knees in a meditative trance or lying face down behind it. Koh has managed to invert the myth of Sisyphus by turning it inside out and completely altering its structure philosophically. Unlike the Occidental Sisyphus, he doesn’t have to bother pushing any boulders up the hill, the boulder has shattered into thousands of rocks, and the curse is broken. Rather than competing, struggling, or achieving, he’s removed himself from a will that always plays second to the intellect, and has turned his vision inward.

With all the clutter in always having to do something, there is a threat in unconsciously existing without realizing. There is a Thanatos to nothingtoodoo, in the time that keeps passing as Koh makes his circular, clock-like movements. nothingtoodoo draws attention to a human condition that will never change despite our changing perceptions of who we are or what we are. The performance seems especially relevant in a city like New York where most everyone is striving or becoming or achieving and always doing. We often identify with what we do, but when what we do is taken away, who are we? Who is the being behind the persona?

nothingtoodoo is a paradox. nothing is an idea that cannot exist outside the imagination. there’s always a SOMETHINGNESS to all nothing and it is impossible to do nothing.

Koh takes on the tragic-comical role of the beautiful, sad white clown, the Pierrot. Much like Kafka’s caged hunger artist who starves himself for his audience , Koh is put on display from morning until sun set. Despite his fame and success, the hunger artist is always miserable. He admits that starving is easy, but no one believes him. Eventually, the hunger artist loses his audience, because hunger art falls out of fashion, so he takes a job at the circus, where no one pays any attention to him. At the end, we learn that the hunger artist starves himself only because he never found any food he liked, and dies shortly after that. A panther that the people love, because the panther has a lust for life and a healthy appetite, replaces him in his cage.

There is an ineffable beauty to nothingtoodoo. Not only is it a visually stunning performance but the emphasis the piece places on inner contemplation and its ability to playfully question serious philosophical ideas, goes beyond current trends and fashions.

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