Germaine Koh, Call, 2006, vintage telephone modified with programmable microcontroller and custom circuitry, edition 1 of 2. Gift of the artist, 2021. Photo: Scott Massey

Germaine Koh

Germaine Koh’s practice is focused on familiar objects, everyday actions and common places. She examines how people interact with those they encounter while moving through the world, and she explores systems of circulation and exchange as well as those of decisions and chance.

Call is a vintage rotary telephone (resembling a direct taxi-line phone) whose rotary dial has been replaced with an LCD screen that reads “for conversation / lift handset.” Each time the handset is lifted, the phone randomly dials one of the project participants who have agreed to receive calls and attempt to have conversations with strangers. Volunteer participants come from a variety of backgrounds and communities and are solicited through a range of local platforms, such as Craigslist. The telephone interactions are not recorded or otherwise determined in any way, so the project is perpetuated and disseminated fundamentally through oral history and personal storytelling.

Germaine Koh is an internationally active artist and curator based in Vancouver. From 2018 to 2020 Koh was the City of Vancouver’s first Engineering Artist in Residence and in 2021 was the AHVA Koerner Artist in Residence at the University of British Columbia. She has exhibited extensively both nationally and internationally, and won the VIVA Award in 2010.