Another day on your knees in the salt mine

On my lunch hour, I visited the Mary Boone Gallery in Chelsea to see performance artist Terence Koh’s latest work, nothingtoodooterencekoh. In it, a (supposedly) 45 ton pile of rock salt was dumped into the center of the gallery and Koh circumnavigates the pile ON HIS KNEES from the time the gallery opens until it closes. It’s madness.


Some performance art is quite lovely to behold but I was going there to laugh at him. It seemed like a pretentious stunt. I don’t know what it was supposed to signify. I NEVER know what it’s supposed to signify. I don’t do subtlety My judgments are all very base. Is it pretty to look at? I was sure that this was not.


There is no interaction with the audience. He has taken a vow of silence for the length of the run. Sometimes, he lays prostate on the floor in front of the pile. Initially, he was crawling on his knees without the aid of knee pads but he had to give that up because it was tearing his knees up.


As I said, I was going there because I thought the concept was a big joke. But a funny thing happened. Once there, I got swept up in it and it was actually quite beautiful. I can’t explain it! The pile of salt was a perfect, perfect inverted cone with a sharply defined edge. His white garments seemed to mesh with the salt. The only light was the light that poured in from the skylight. There were about a dozen people there and they were all respectfully silent. There was something very calming about watching the whole thing and I didn’t want to leave but I had to get back to MY pile of rock salt.

20 thoughts on “Another day on your knees in the salt mine

  1. Next time you’re in Cape Town, you can come and view my contribution to the field of performance art. It’s called “Man getting paid to stand under metaphorical shower of poop.” It’s extremely moving.

  2. kykn: Can you do a video installation of that and post it to YouTube? I won’t be in the naib for quite some time.JZ: Thanks for the article. You’re right! This does seem tame! What’s with all the pain? Who do you suppose did it to him when he was a child? nurse: To me, it sounded like a terrible idea. Then I walked into the gallery and a calmness kind of washed over me. Magic!

  3. I love the way your concept before hand of what it would be like changed when you were there. I wonder if this reflects the Bhuddist practice of walking miles doing

  4. suki: Hell, I have not idea. I’ve done walking meditations before but they weren’t so hard on my legs. He seemed terribly uncomfortable.daisy: You’re so funny! I read that one day last week, a guy wearing devil horns came into the gallery and followed him on his knees for a bit.

  5. You are more than welcome to come watch me drink my own weight in beer today, at Clohessey’s Bar in Ballycummin. I shall not be silent. And the audience is encouraged to participate, all donations gratefully received!There may even be pictures, but they will not be as beautiful or as peaceful as the ones you have posted today my friend.Sláinte mhaith! :¬)

  6. “Art” can be very strange sometimes… And although some of my university studies were in Fine Art, I claim no greater understanding of what some proclaim to be art. I suppose the atmosphere there is what contributed to the experience.I’d rather join Map for beer too! Well… not beer, but a drink or several anyways. 😉

  7. I would be more apt to participate is a Lazy man’s performance art. I would have put a track around the salt and sat on it reading a book about how to mine salt. My knees hurt looking at the guy, but I have to say the form is striking.

  8. also…saw the george condo exhibit at the new museum. it’s a pretty amazing exhibit/retrospective of his work. odd,funny and disturbing paintings.and free on thursdays from 7 to 9.also took my wife to see the book of mormon on broadway. we both loved it.any interest in seeing it (or both)?

  9. Ponita: A beer with Map on St. Paddy’s Day?! Now THAT’S what I would call a great performance.carlae: He did have a rather pained look on his face, that I don’t think was forced. I did see him lay on the floor face-down for a bit of a rest.jason: I SAW The Book of Mormon and almost pissed myself laughing! Can you believe what they get away with?! And the big surprise is that somehow, in the end, nobody looks foolish or made fun of. I’ve never been to the New Museum. Thanks for the late-night tip. Will definitely pop over.

  10. Does Terence crawl all day? I’m curious about what happens to the salt when the installation is over. I saw the clip of him crawling. It reminded me of those Tibetan singing bowls I used to play with. How long did you stay for? Did you find it at all disconcerting? And is it a conscious effort, of late, on your part, to to seek out… meditation-Buddhisty things? (Evidently I’m curious about more than just what happens to the salt:)

  11. I can imagine it being quite a Zen experience but I’d be fretting about his knees. I can’t believe I did it but I actually asked the oncologist the other day to uncross his knees.His expression was priceless.

  12. Hem: There’s NO security whatsoever! And this looks like something that might draw a lot of nuts. Or salt addicts.Nimpipi: Thanks for the link! You always go the extra miles. I was only there for about :20 minutes because I had to get back to work. Would have liked to stay longer.Pat: I think that his suffering is part of the “message,” whatever the hell that is.

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