Jojo Soria de Veyra's
First Bimonth of 2016 Notes
Curator Ringo Bunoan shall be sending this March to the Art Dubai 2016 art expo representations of Philippine art according to artist-run spaces' view of where Philippine art could/should be heading towards.
". . . representations of Philippine art according to artist-run spaces' view of where Philippine art could/should be heading towards."
In the first half of February, in an exhibition titled "Opera," an installation of scattered kinetic works by sculptor Gabby Barredo wove through the imposing spaces and the visceral as well as mundane nooks of the Cultural Center of the Philippines while the viewer was himself led to weave through the installed sculptural works' referencing of the human body through enlarged internal and external human body parts made from various materials. This weaving through, and being woven through by, resulted in a presentation of "spaces": spaces internal to this/these referenced body/bodies and spaces beyond that supposed inside view of the human body and its bodies within. The beyond would include both the CCP space [qua architectural space or mental art space] and the metaphysical space outside the building's walls as well as the CCP's yard airspace.
Not satisfied with that spatial duality and the metaphysical significance of that drama within it, somebody had the bright idea of merging the sculptural installation with two more arts---that is, for Barredo's kinetic visual art to be joined by Malek Lopez's music danced to by Ballet Philippines according to visiting Algerian-French choreographer Redha's interpretations of/for the human body parts. Well, while some did appreciate this merging and converging upon the installation art's theme, also collectively titled Opera, I was attracted to the contrast between the installation work and the dance.
Kinetic sculpture, while obviously offering movement, highlights in fact the artifice of that movement as well as the original stasis of the objects it presents. Thus, when motion from the dancers of Ballet Philippines were melded to---or invited to invade---the spaces inhabited by Barredo's largish moving sculptures, the ballet movements could only strongly iterate ballet's inherent human expressionism (rather, its Romanticist life, quite against the gory expressionism of deathly stasis). What we saw, finally, was a seeming battle between, on the one hand, a graceful version of human and organic expressionism upon the concepts "human body," "human body's wants," "a Creator source of these mysterious structures and life," and "oncoming death of the body" and, on the other hand, sculptural representations of a human positivism upon this mystery (the mannequinish naturalism of which would only be highlighted by a kinetic artifice upon them).
Now, this may sound to some as a criticism of the critique that celebrated the merging of the various involved arts for "Opera"'s and Opera's theme or confusion of themes, but witnessing the aforementioned contrast alone was---to us, at least---already quite an interesting merging by itself, involving two movements within a mental point of convergence akin to that between the wriggling of astronauts against the mechanics of the universe.
The ongoing Feb. 13-21, 2016 version of 98B COLLABoratory's ESCAPE bi-annual exhibition carries the theme "ILOVEYOU Virus". It's interesting that an art show, often by itself an esoteric event for fellow elements of the aesthetic intelligentsia and often displayed within a space intimidating to the public, would render concrete as art objects a group of artists' investigations of the present age phenomenon of the "spreading virus" or "the viral" coming out from obscurity or esotericism. Named after the Philippines-originating year-2000 computer virus that affected 45 million computer users in one day, the show (participated in by local and visiting foreign artists) may have pieces with readily-accessible titles, like Joseph Altamirano's "Gossip" and Gerecho Cruz's "Logging in as a different Person," but it was Yuzuru Maeda's "Zentai Walk" that addressed the roots of the viral and how the potentially viral object or image or idea or event could blossom within art: "Zentai Walk" focused on the pragmatism of fun use, as a vehicle for escape from the mundane world as well as from one's self through the face-hiding zentai suit. Perhaps also trying to escape from art and the art world? Perhaps. The ultimate end-goal of Maeda's happening is purportedly the bringing of art to the sphere of the public. The question, however, is whether art that is embraced by a participating public, thus as something that "has gone viral," so to speak, would necessarily cease to be art. That question would birth a corollary: is art's pure intentions destroyed by the process of becoming popular or going viral? Could popularity and the stating of codes and contexts through art be but mental inhabitants of opposing poles? Is Maeda's art anti-art? Does art's going viral produce an anti-art work of art? Must art remain esoteric?
image grabbed from 98-b.org
The 2nd Philippine Steampunk Art Exhibition by a group of Filipino painters and sculptors who are devoting themselves to this subgenre of fantasy art opened this February to push for either a nostalgia for the pre-digital era of early mechanics or to entertain visions of a future that loses (for various reasons) digitization. Some may see the significance of this venture (themed this year as a "Steampunk Manifesto") as either vague or weak---indeed, steampunk works well for cinema and the comics art because these are artforms that invite their audiences to leave or escape their present surrounds, whilst painting often involves the gallery space as part of its significative surround. But I glimpsed an either conscious or subconscious value placed into the steampunk venture by the group, namely a foray or return to the act of painting or sculpting involving the mechanics of detail-making and/or patterning; it's no coincidence that some if not all of the artists in the group are wary of conceptual art or art that eschews the virtue of craft or art aided by the concept of an artist-assistant.
If abstraction was also partly a reaction to the arrival of photography, could steampunk as a Philippine niche art movement be one of our time's rebel reactions or sneers toward the proposition that painting is now a fading Victorian-era artform without a place in the increasingly digital future? Is it a nostalgia window, perhaps, looking towards an older algorithm that some of us could still understand? Or simply modest explorations of small-scale fantasy landscapes removed from the usual? Given that the show could not reach the escape level offered by the escape artforms cinema, comics, and the behemoth theme park, whatever the motivations are of the present group, we submit that any of the pieces in the show could still actually come out as useful relic cum retro-inspiration to a mechanophilic or otherwise prepper collector who in his mind is looking forward to an oncoming Mad Max dystopian future.
Meanwhile, at AltroMondo Arte Contemporanea, Olivia d'Aboville's show Surface (which closed only last February 7) exhibited textile sculpture pieces signed once again by the artist's personal connection with the Earth and its colors. While watching abaca textiles being hand-woven by Cebu Interlace, d'Aboville saw what happened to the fabrics, especially their pattern of pleats and stitches. Furthermore, being natural and organic, the material had colors that reminded d'Aboville of landscapes; and this is really where "surface" in that show's title became more than just a reference to the physical or visual texture of the fabric. As metaphors for the earth's landscape, the surface of her works had mountains in them, or ocean waves, had their peaks and deep valleys. But it must be noted that before d'Aboville sat to do her godly creation of pleats and stitches to come up with a sort of model for a land, she first attended to the more micro surfaces of her materials---the hand-woven 60 meters of abaca and polyester textile received the intervention of digitally printed images of color gradients and of soil (dark, red, orange, and so on) heat-pressed onto the synthetic fibers. In short, as she did in her earlier shows d'Aboville once again presented us with a view ripe for our age's cameras, where photographers can zoom in on the spirit of the details and instantly zoom out to drink the soul of a top-view panorama. Marbbie Tagabucba wrote in her review in Philstar.com: "The resulting surfaces replicate aerial views of the planet’s skin: the landscape of deserted sand dunes in gradients of brown to beige at the golden hour, or tides crashing on a cold beach. And yet beside them are magnified tree bark textures or mushroom umbrellas and the microscopic level of vegetal skin cells blown up, all on a human scale. This contrasting juxtaposition confirms, like in the patterns that persist in nature, that we are one and alike after all." Nevertheless, d'Aboville did not arrange her composites in the quirky biomorphism of some of her earlier works, insisting perhaps that her present pieces' framing should be in the conventions of minimalist balance or centrality within the rectangle or square or the perfect circle. It was as if d'Aboville wanted to present that battle between man's artificial order and God's creations' more entropic and charming organic wrinkles, sparkles, and lopsidedness. It was as if d'Aboville wanted to iterate minimalism's serious Zen roots.
Meanwhile, too, Brian Sergio, almost in total rebellion now against the dictates or terms of galleries, launched his art in a new medium last January 23, namely the magazine. He started selling his first five magazine composites on the freer image mall called Etsy under the store name he chose, MazingerZine. This time, perhaps, he'll be outside the reach of censorship's claws (and mind).
Oh, and there was another painting statement of sorts at a UP Vargas Museum group exhibition called Daloy, unintentional though that statement may have been. Working with water as theme and subject ["...its different aspects (flow and stagnation, roots and routes, sustainer and destroyer, and barriers and links)"], this was no show for art interventions on water supply carriers or for environmental art placed in dams or for films shot under floodwater. No, this was a show of paintings using water only as their main or collateral subject for . . . painting. The ultimate message? That painting can perhaps be the more viable message broker for a middle class purchaser, considering that one of the works there would continue to serve as a mnemonic object in the purchaser's living room or bedroom for the purpose of reminding him/her about water's oncoming shortage or about the ocean water's rise. In contrast, an on-site environmental artwork, unless documented and placed in a book, would only shortly vanish in the viewer's out-of-site memory, leaving thus semi-permanent painting to finish the job. [d]
Text © copyright 2016 by diskurso art magazine online.
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