Q&A: Brendan George Ko

God, I’m Lonely (Again), from Reminiscence, 2008-2009 ©
Brendan George Ko

Brendan George Ko's website: brendangeorgeko.com

Michael Senise: Tell me a little about your personal background. Where and when did you decide to go down the path that you have chosen?

Brendan George Ko: It’s hard to say what year exactly I decided to become an artist, I was kinda born into, both my parents are painters (no longer for a living), and I was good at it from the start. But in 2004, I had a falling out with it, and after 18 years of wanting to be an artist, I didn’t know what to do. I picked up all my things and took a bus from Houston to Toronto and went to film school all because my mother said it would be a good idea. After a year of film school I dropped out, and started doing photography full-time. A year later I went back to school, and started studying photography at The Ontario College of Art & Design, and it was when I started doing conceptual work and studying contemporary art that I decided I’ll do this for a while. My life is a little impulsive.

Michael Senise: From what I’ve read (on your site and blog) you seem incredibly passionate about what you do. Where do you say you draw your inspiration from?

Brendan George Ko: I consider each photograph I take, whether it is constructed or real, as a document of a person, a place, a time, or feeling. I have become obsessed with documenting memories and feelings in my writing and photography because with each place I live in, with each passing year, my memory gets pushed further away into this library in my head, until they fade to “the milk of dreams”. In other words, I mistaken my memories for dreams, or I simply forget them, and they could be some of the greatest moments of my life, that doesn’t matter, I’ll probably forget them. The photography is my attempt to retain the importance of someone in my life, remember my time spent in a certain place, or fragments of who I am, or who I was.

Here We Go, from Reminiscence, 2008-2009 © Brendan George Ko

Michael Senise: I’ve read that you’re working out of Ontario, have you considered or have you ever displayed in any other region or country?

Brendan George Ko: I’ve developed this unhealthy comfort in Toronto, where I know a large catalog of different artists, and a network of people-to-know such as curators, board members, and gallery directors to the point I know how to curate or organize an exhibition and get it up and seen. To answer a question, I have considered having my work outside of the province and country over and over, and besides from my film work, I haven’t exhibited outside of Ontario.

Michael Senise: Do you feel that digital or traditional photography works better for your conceptual ideas? Whichever one, do you feel that the recent trend in technology has limited or broadened your thinking, and or execution? For that matter, is there a difference for you?

Brendan George Ko:
I am exclusively analog, from shooting with film to making my prints in the darkroom, but I have worked in digital for certain things. I’m in no rush to see my images right away, and I’d rather be working with my hands in the dark then double clicking away at a screen for hours. But in some cases with a body of work I shot panoramas, I used photoshop to stitch my negatives together and ultimately printed them. Or a collaboration I did this summer, everything was completely web-based, I had to learn After Effects, and html. I should mention my new philosophy, Whatever it takes.

Run Away With Me, from Reminiscence, 2008-2009 © Brendan George Ko

Michael Senise: I’m very interested in pairing text with imagery; whether it is a title that no one would expect or something in the images that just takes the image in a whole new direction. Where do you see the line of text and imagery? Is there one?

Brendan George Ko: Well, if you’re talking about my blog, I rather enjoy being as abiturary as possible, placing any image to one of my stories, and seeing how the reader creates that relationship between image and text. In terms of my text-based work in art, I draw from statements or sayings from different times in my life, and incontextualize it in a place. Usually this work is installation-based, and the photographs serve as a document. I’ve been interested in use of titling work, and how that recontextualizes, and how much weight they possess in terms of subjectivity. With Danielle Bleackley’s Dress Series, the title and the image are equal in my eyes, transforming the work from beautiful images to heartwrenching images. Or David Claerbout’s Auvergne, France images of these French landscapes, but in his titling he transforms what once was landscape into narrative by adding, “August 6th 2003. Paul and Gilles on a Hill.”

Michael Senise: Your work reminds me of Duane Michal’s work but in the current day and age. Take this as a compliment or an insult. However, I find Michal’s work to be remarkably wonderful. Who would you say that your photography most resembles?

Brendan George Ko: I never been told that before. For a while, David Hilliard, when I was doing more polyptychic work, but nowadays my work is closer to Frederic Fontenoy’s Metamorphose, and a wholewhack of new photographers closer to my age.

Michael Senise: How important do you feel the medium of photography is in your work? To be clear, do you feel that you need exceptionally top of the line equipment to accomplish what you set out to do? Or do you find that the medium is secondary to your concepts? Or do you feel that the medium is on the same ledge as your ideas and the final piece could not exist with out your medium and message?

Brendan George Ko: Photography is a possibility and is my usual approach to working with a concept, but since I work with a concept before I make anything, the concept determines the medium. I consider myself a very technical person, learning to work with a wide variety of equipment to different practices, all in order to execute a concept closer to how I originally saw it in my head. I think that has always been the challenge of art, is you have this image in your head, and you have to figure out how to get that in a medium. In my practice, I switch from a medium format to large format, to working with sound equipment, to even no camera at all, and just wood and my hands. My work is starting with a concept, working on how to communicate it, and then I work on how I am going to do this, and that’s usually the funniest part about making work. And then at the end, when you actually accomplish what you had in your head, it’s nice to see it there and for others to share in something that comes from within.

Michael Senise: What would you say that you are trying to tell people with your work? Is your work directed at everyone?

Brendan George Ko: I find that to be a difficult question to answer. I once made a body of work with a person I was in love with and through the images there is this disconnection, this film that was always there. I could be touched by someone but I could never touch them without feeling I didn’t belong. Maybe it is the act of sharing, we share to give, but we also share to connect; to reach out to someone, and share with them something dear to you, and hope that they understand you, and just maybe they too feel the same.

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