Pressions topographiques

2005 series

aluminum-factory waste, metallized polyester, traces of asphalt and dirt, Various sizes

Pressions topographiques is a series of objects produced in the context of the artist-in-residence program of the Centre de réflexion sur l'image et ses contextes (CRIC) at the École cantonale d'art du Valais in Sierre, in the Swiss Alps.

The project brings together traces of the local industry and topography, both large- and small-scale, and sits in contrast to idealized images of both realms. Off-cut waste lengths of extruded aluminum from the local aluminum factory are fused with direct casts (in metallized polyester) of individual cracks in the local pavement. The results are singular objects, each with one side resembling a sort of mountain range — complete with traces of organic rubble — and the whole object sliced and milled like a geological sample.

The factory, presently operated by Alcan (formerly Alusuisse) and specialized in extruded aluminum products, has historically been the largest employer in a region whose economy is otherwise marked by tourism and artisanal agricultural products such as wine and cheese. The extrusion of aluminum — a process of pressing softened metal through a custom-shaped die — somehow recalls the geographical conditions that originally determined the siting of the factory in the region: that is, the availability of vast amounts of hydroelectric power generated by large dams in the surrounding mountains.

This presence of water as a generative force shaping the large-scale regional commerce (industrial, agricultural, touristic) is also revealed in the small-scale, lived topography of the area. In this harsh terrain, subterranean water, repeatedly freezing and thawing, expands to cause inevitable cracks in the road surfaces — micro-scaled equivalents of larger tectonic pressures. These negative fissures cast into positive forms are 1:1 impressions that incompletely record the imperfect, applied geography of the region. The objects — tactile, handmade casts bonded to prefab aluminum bars — recall the pressures that fuse economics, geography, industry, and individual work.

Production assistance: Jean-Jacques de Joncour and Fernand Mounir of Alcan Aluminium Sierre S.A.; Isabelle Chappuis and Fulvio Bressan of the Centre de réflexion sur l'image et ses contextes; Pierre-François Moix of the École cantonale d'art du Valais; and students Danielle Kleinman, Milena Buckel and Christelle Besson.

Solo Exhibitions: Kamloops Art Gallery, Germaine Koh: Weather Systems, 2013.
Group Exhibitions: 274 East 1st, 2006.

Collection(s): Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade art collection; Private collection

Germaine Koh, Pressions topographiques, 2005, aluminum-factory waste, metallized polyester, traces of asphalt and dirt. Detail. Photo: Germaine Koh.