Paying my Respects to Kenneth Lo

Everything is Nothing/Nothing is Everything, 2010, Granite, 31" x 24.5" x 12" - Artist: Kenneth Lo

Having a father that was significantly older than my mother (older than my maternal grandfather as a matter of fact) made for an interesting childhood. Many funerals were attended. More than any other kid I knew. That being said, there was a familiarity with all the little details that outfitted such an occasion. The headstone alone was the summation of a person’s life – Name, Birth and Death Date. Perhaps, for the living (and, if money permit), an epitaph accompanied with etchings of roses or some serene landscape. It is safe for you to assume I know a thing or two about what is involved in the ritualistic aspects of burying a person and the act of commemoration. Kenneth Lo’s work is the whole package – intelligence, wit, humor, and correlation to universals. It’s undeniable quite frankly. Sure, the work may cater to one’s fascination with death and impermanence but it brings forth aspects of our daily lives we would often neglect or choose to forget. Lo’s work in his solo exhibition, every stone thethereed to sleep/every presence wedded to stone, 2011, showing at Southern Exposure Gallery (San Francisco, CA) addresses memory, ritual, loss, being/non-being, nothingness, and fixation.

Not everyone’s actions will be memorialized, bronzed, marbled or collected for posterity, but that does not detract from someone’s legacy. ~Michael Hall

One never really knows where thoughts and conversations go after all is said and done especially with technology giving the illusion that time moves faster than our physical existence. If one were to think about this, philosophically, time is linear, doesn’t change, and the adage is right – it, certainly, doesn’t wait for anyone. Although humans are constantly evolving, there is still that irrationality of permanence. With a rapidly evolving globalized world dictated, in many ways, by technology, Hall asserts that Lo, “…realizes that in the end, all the monuments, all the lists, the forget-me-nots, don’t mean a thing if no one remembers. After all, it’s often the small, significant moments we remember best.” It is even more impressive to turn the lens on oneself and disclose aspects of every day life that would otherwise be buried in the deep recesses of cyberspace.

With commemoration comes the choice of material. Lo’s use of granite and concrete lent itself extremely well to the ritualistic nature of burying the dead. It is the one physical thing that remains. It serves as a marker of life and truly universal. From a wooden cross to an elaborate gravestone, culture and tradition obliges us to place that physical marker at the end of life. Lo examines this act of morbidity by re-contextualizing and re-interpreting this ritual. The viewer is forced to read and remember these moments. A tombstone is synonymous with an end albeit a tangible artifact of a life lived but for Mr. Kenneth Lo, this exhibition has exuberantly breathed new life (pun very much intended) into our collective understanding of modern life that is completely worth the examination.

He is one to follow.

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Author: Dorothy R. Santos

Dorothy R. Santos (b. 1978) is a Filipina-American writer, editor, curator, and educator whose research interests include new media and digital art, activism, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology. Born and raised in San Francisco, California, she holds Bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Psychology from the University of San Francisco, and received her Master’s degree in Visual and Critical Studies at the California College of the Arts. She serves as one of the editors-in-chief for Hyphen magazine. Her work appears in art21, Art Practical, Daily Serving, Rhizome, Hyperallergic, and SF MOMA's Open Space. She has lectured at the De Young museum, Stanford University, School of Visual Arts, and more. Her essay “Materiality to Machines: Manufacturing the Organic and Hypotheses for Future Imaginings,” was published in The Routledge Companion to Biology in Art and Architecture (2016). She is currently a Yerba Buena Center for the Arts fellow researching the concept of citizenship. She also serves as executive staff for the Bay Area Society for Art & Activism and board member for the SOMArts Cultural Center.

8 thoughts on “Paying my Respects to Kenneth Lo”

    1. Shirl, you will really enjoy the show. It’s clever and such a different approach to sculpture/installation work. Again, worth a trip to the SOEX. Also, Jaime Cortez and Ginger Wolfe-Suarez are showing too and they’ve got great shows up. It’s a complete trifecta!

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