There is something distinctively interstellar about Koh’s exhibition. The chapel’s elliptical shape resembles a rudimentary spaceship, especially upon seeing the plastic tube that filters bees into the gallery. And the insects aren’t the only living things in the exhibition. A felled apple tree greets visitors in the musky first room, where the beekeeper rests on a bed of topsoil. These primal vignettes link up to create a sense of journey through the darkened space. The sights and smells encourage one to embrace the senses rather than intellect. Somber but weirdly sweet, the intoxicating mix leaves one to wonder what Koh is ultimately getting at. “Terence always works in layers; [his works] are composed of many references that build on one another,” Fox Aarons says, offering some guidance. “It’s never about just death without being about the life cycle. It’s really pretty existential. I would say most of his work concerns the place where annihilation becomes transcendence.”
His hive certainly walks that line. For someone with a severe allergy, the bee chapel poses a lethal threat, but it’s the pending extinction of these pollinators that seems to be at the heart of this exhibition. “Terence brought people to the bee chapel [upstate], but he felt he needed to share this project with a larger audience because of its implications,” Fox Aarons explains. An artistic response to Colony Collapse Disorder, a disease killing off the world’s bee population, the show places critical emphasis on the relationship between nature and man. Giving a glimpse into Koh’s adventures into the wilderness, the exhibition’s triumph is its ability to take an abstract concept and make it visceral.
“terence koh: bee chapel” is on view at Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, May 21–July 1, 2016.