Tranen Contemporary Art Center
Ahlmanns Allé 6
August 26 - October 19
Kah Bee Chow’s single installation work is titled 海龜, 2017, a pair of Chinese characters that translate to “sea turtle,” as well as a myriad of other things, pointing to the way in which a system of signs is a line of inquiry—here set free to procreate.
Language is structured according to the principle of family likeness: slowly ramifying through proximity and association. A pattern repeating the Chinese character for “nail” or “shell” dangles from the mezzanine onto the marbled floor. From “shell” grows “shelter,” branching off into “protection” or “care.” Nearby, two curved aluminum screens have handles like shields, and another makes a cave for a cot against the wall. A skeletal metal hemisphere encloses a cluster of objects, perhaps in convalescence, divorced from those inhabiting the rest of the room. Many are geometrical wax domes in pale shades, and all are vaguely turtle-like, congregating at one end of the room as if for a family reunion, to see just how far the apple can fall from the tree.
There is a logic to this landscape, as ancient as it is subtle, yet more precarious than we might assume. A small screen on the wall shows video footage of the coastline of Penang Island, Malaysia, where the artist grew up. The island itself is naturally shaped like the reptile, a composition now threatened by a real-estate boom that extends construction into the sea. Poetic and astute, Chow’s exhibition is a reminder that in the chain of signification of the phrase “to take care” is also a warning not to go too far.