Brendan George Ko (b.1986, Toronto, ON) is a document-based storyteller raised in Ontario, New Mexico, Texas, and Hawai’i, and is now based in Toronto and Maui. Ko received his BFA in photography from Ontario College of Art & Design in 2010, and completed a Masters in Visual Arts at the University of Toronto in 2014. Here his practice shifted further into video and sound during his MFA. Ko has shown his work locally and internationally including solos with Angell Gallery, Toronto; Contact Gallery, Toronto; LE Gallery, Toronto and group shows with Frogner Stasjon, Oslo; Red Hook Labs, Brooklyn; Jen Bekman Gallery, New York; Birch Contemporary, Toronto; Camden Image Gallery, London. Ko has been the recipient of numerous awards including Contact Festival Portfolio Award (2017), Magenta Flash Forward Finalist (2018), Red Hook Lab’s New Artist Finalist (2018). Ko currently lives Toronto, Canada and Maui, Hawai’i, where he has developing work there since 2005.
There is a spirit in the landscape that possesses us and though we may leave the land behind that spirit will always follow us. That is something I learned from my formative years living in a rural town in New Mexico. Through the stories we shared, from ancient times of the Navajo and Hopi people of the region to modern times, of crime, miracles, unexplainable phenomena, and shapeshifting beasts that roam the high desert, there is an inseparable memory attached to the land. As time passes these stories turn to myth and though new memories occur and often replace the past, they add to the growing history indexical to the land.
It was during those years I experienced the power in oral tradition that gave the landscape its meaning and presence. Though I have long since left the desert of New Mexico, I carry the spirit of its storytelling and land-specific memory in my practice today. For the past five years I have been gathering stories and perspective of the landscape that is the Hawaiian archipelago. These stories range from the ecology of the islands to its myth and original culture, its history and politics. It has taken me on a journey that has completely changed the way I see and feel the landscape. Before there was an image, now there are layers upon layers of memories that each come with their own spirits. The land feels haunted and when I make the decision to capture it, it is the spirit I seek to invoke with its presentation. Like the stories I heard countless times in Gallup, NM, it isn’t about truth, nor is it about accuracy, it is about carrying the spirit of the memory. My photographs aren’t about realism and precision it is about manipulating the medium in order to summon the spirits captured within.
To view more of Brendan George Ko’s work please visit their website.