Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics RoomLog 13 - The Revolution Issue
Log 13 - The Revolution Issue

The Waiting Room


A Jin’s 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: It’s an artist collective, or at least we mimic it because we don’t know what else to call it and we can’t call it a business because we don’t 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: There’s a kind of anonymity that a corporate identity gives you. There is an illusion of the perfect artist. Well, I don’t know if there is such a thing, and the corporatism takes care of that for us. At least, that’s how I see it. When you have this kind of corporate identity, you’re not limited to being a writer, an artist, an administrator. You can be all of the above, because it’s Instant Coffee that’s doing it, not you. You just happen to be one of the apparatus. That’s really powerful, but at the same time, we’re 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. It’s 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 we’ve identified ourselves first. For the poster project*, for example, we were the main organizers, but we know we can’t do it all, and so other people get incorporated into the project and become part of the collective.

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. It’s 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 - it’s about a need for change in language, really.

CR: Of the projects that you’ve 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 that’s 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, it’s not necessarily everybody's voice that’s participating. There is a center and we’re not ashamed to admit that we are in control of what’s 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. We’re not going to say no. Another thing about that - you never know how things are going to happen. It’s just pulling out an idea and letting people go with it. Asking people to do things that they’re 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 at risk.

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. I’m 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, it’s 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 it’s 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 that’s 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 it’s 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. We’d like to bridge a couple of different worlds, but we’re working with something that's already happening in Toronto. We’re 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 there’s 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.


Jinhan Ko is the sole member of Jin’s 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.

Suggested reading:


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).



Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics Room