Jins Banana House video package
curated by Instant Coffee,
The Physics Room, 28 March - 20 April 2001.
The following exchange is excerpted from a lengthy conversation between
Christina Ritchie, assistant curator of contemporary art at the Art Gallery
of Ontario, Canada, and Jenifer Papararo and Jinhan Ko, who work together
as Instant Coffee, a collective based in Toronto. Part interview, part
work session, their conversation on October 4, 2000 initiated their discussions
about Instant Coffee's presentation for the exhibition Present Tense which
was held at the Art Gallery of Ontario in late 2000/early 2001.
CR: What is Instant Coffee?
JK: Its an artist collective, or at least we mimic it because
we dont know what else to call it and we cant call it a business
because we dont make any money. But unlike exhibition-based groups
of artists, we want to do more diverse projects, like online projects,
curatorial events, things with writing, different kinds of production.
JP: We knew that we had to come together and we had to identify ourselves
somehow, brand ourselves. We wanted to think of a name that would make
us marketable, obviously, and to have some sort of identity. We wanted
it to speak about our practice, which is, for one thing, making things
happen quickly, acting more immediately, making mistakes - and running
on a certain kind of energy, but not wanting to close it down to anything
specific. After we decided on the name, OK, what does Instant Coffee
really do, or what do we want to do? Our wish list is pretty broad, but
basically, we want to operate to facilitate visual art production in
a public space. I think that can mean many, many different things, which
we hope to get better at.
JK: Theres a kind of anonymity that a corporate identity gives
you. There is an illusion of the perfect artist. Well, I dont know
if there is such a thing, and the corporatism takes care of that for
us. At least, thats how I see it. When you have this kind of corporate
identity, youre not limited to being a writer, an artist, an administrator.
You can be all of the above, because its Instant Coffee thats
doing it, not you. You just happen to be one of the apparatus. Thats
really powerful, but at the same time, were not so in love with
corporate ideology either. We barely understand it.
CR: Who are the members of the collective, or does that matter?
JK: Well it is pretty loose. Its definitely Jenifer and myself,
but there are others - obviously we need help. We work with graphic
designers such as Stephen Crowhurst and Cecilia Burkovic, and Kate Monro
takes care of our on-line business, and of course artists who participate.
I really like the General Idea approach - whoever lived in the space
pretty much became General Idea, in the early days anyway.
JP: I think Instant Coffee is a little different because weve
identified ourselves first. For the poster project*, for example, we
were the main organizers, but we know we cant do it all, and so
other people get incorporated into the project and become part of the
JK: If I may speak about it in terms of a role model, those models come
from our desire to see a little bit of a paradigm shift. Its like
our discussion about how the Left is no longer really Left - I mean,
is there a Left? We equate that with the model of branding - its
about a need for change in language, really.
CR: Of the projects that youve done, they are all quite impromptu,
and it seems that each presents an opportunity for broad-based participation.
Is that what you mean when you use the analogy of the Left?
JK: There is definitely a discussion around the sense of community,
and thats changed over the years, right? There's definitely a sense
of representation, a sense that you could participate if you want to.
But at the same time we're pretty aware that not just anybody can walk
in and participate. There has to be a connection.
JP: It has to be acknowledged that there is a central voice. Although
there are a lot of people participating, its not necessarily everybody's
voice thats participating. There is a center and were not
ashamed to admit that we are in control of whats going on - yet
that control fluctuates all the time. A way to negotiate, that is, to
open it up. We are directly approaching certain people, but if someone
else wants to play, they are more than welcome. Were not going
to say no. Another thing about that - you never know how things
are going to happen. Its just pulling out an idea and letting people
go with it. Asking people to do things that theyre not normally
comfortable with doing, but giving them a context to do that: that might
not hold much weight, so people feel more comfortable putting themselves
CR: A lot of the events or projects have been concerned mainly with
very ephemeral forms - of video, or slides, or posters, or performance.
But, occasionally, there are also more conventional kinds of art objects.
Im wondering if there is a distinction in the way that you think
about these things or if there is a preference for one form over another.
JP: For one thing, its easy to deal with video because you can
infiltrate any space with it. So we can take it to El Convento Rico**
and have a showing in a space that an art audience wouldn't necessarily
go to. A video screening is easy to produce and people are willing to
act immediately. Like The First or the Worst videos *** - a
lot of people took some risks for that show.
JK: But its no accident. A lot of our friends also happen to be
artists, and a lot of those artists tend to share our aesthetic. They
also do the kinds of work thats ephemeral and conceptual, quite
informed by contemporary culture. They inform our practice, and our criticism
or our input might inform theirs.
CR: Some of the artists that are participating in these events are completely
new on the scene and its a brand new kind of opportunity for them.
Some of them are pretty well established and have had gallery shows,
even museum shows in some cases. That grouping in itself conveys a certain
kind of connectedness and there is something powerful that happens with
that. Is that part of the construct of Instant Coffee?
JP: Maybe. Wed like to bridge a couple of different worlds, but
were working with something that's already happening in Toronto.
Were familiar with people who've been practicing for a long time,
who have a lot of energy and have been participating in the artist-run
culture. We also know a lot of people who are outside of that, who are
being informed by it but don't necessarily know how to partake in it
or even want to.
JK: I think theres a generational thing - a lot of young
people may not identify with the artist-run culture. They see it as the
Boomers thing, very laborious.
* "Currency Posters" presenting alternative designs for the
Canadian Dollar, conceived by various artists, have been distributed
in Montreal and Toronto, Fall 2000 - available at Art Metropole
788 King St. W. Toronto.
** "Why do bad things happen to good people?", an evening
of videos by Toronto-based artists, was presented at El Convento Rico,
750 College Street, a mainly transvestite bar in Toronto.
*** "The First or the Worst Videos by Artists" was presented
in a private loft for one evening. Artists were asked to submit either
their first or their worst video for public presentation.
The above is excerpted from "Present Tense: Instant Coffee",
an exhibition brochure, with the permission of the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Ko is the sole member of Jins Banana House who is actively
engaged in D.I.Y. activities. His latest projects include instantcoffee.org
currently showing in Present Tense Room at the Art Gallery of Ontario
and the Urban Disco-trailer project, where he turned a 1972 holiday
cruiser camping trailer into a mobile discotheque equipped with a
selection of 70s 45s and a video projection of Saturday Night
Fever and Staying Alive. (JP)
Jenifer Papararo has recently written on the collaborative work
of Lucy Pullen and Sandy Plotnikoff for Mix and is currently writing
on Kingdoms, an exhibition by Jennifer McMackon for La Centrale,
Montreal. She frequently contributes to Lola Magazine and is an active
member of Instant Coffee, an ambiguously sincere collective that
specializes in cultural stunts and above average mediocrity. She
is participating in the Canadian/Mexico Creative Artists Program,
where she will curate a video program for La Panaderia, Mexico City.
Hatton Rita and John A. Walker, Supercollector: A Critique of Charles
Saatchi, London: Ellipsis, 2000.
MacKay, Sally, "Money Talk with Jinhan Ko"in Lola Magazine no.
7 (Winter 1999-2000).
Papararo, Jenifer, "Back in Five Minutes: Here Comes Success with
AA Bronson" in Lola Magazine no. 5 (Fall 2000).
White, Roger B, White Home on the Road: The Motor Home in America,Washington:
Building Types (2000).