Uploaded March 26, 2019
PICKS OF THE MONTH
March 2019 Picks of the Month
OY, Diskurso Curation launched another group show this month called Apropiaciůn at J Studio, La Fuerza Plaza, did you hear about it? Then our editor opened his own first one-man show at Altro Mondo Arte Contemporanea's gallery branch at The Picasso boutique hotel. Naturally we'd be biased towards having each and every piece in those shows, the first one put up by our own curatorial department, as entries, too, in this, our own 2019 picks of the month listing, you understand. . . . But, again, we know we have to look elsewhere; look, at least, in those places we can access with our unpaid time, including places on the Web. So here are our picks of the month for March 2019:
one of the Internet posters for the promotion of Dave's new album, Psychodrama
Psychodrama. Look here. With well-placed courage, Dave raps an albumful of portraits, of himself welcoming and hating his bipolar disorder, of an entire race, of domestic physical and verbal abuse in the 'hood, of a brother in prison, and the like. But is it realism when the rap here subtly expresses the psychology behind the photographed realities?
Look. "Black" is outstanding, coming out as a radio single not without its share of protesters against its treatment of "black" alternative to Wikipedia's. The protestations startle, writes The Guardian, considering it "isnít the kind of rap track that people normally get upset about: the standard bugbears of violence, misogyny or homophobia are nowhere to be heard."
Racists would be hard put to thrash this album as simple and unintelligent rap; those intelligent among them would instantly recognize that it totally isn't. Far from it, being so complex as to be self-critical, a virtue racists can hardly find among their ranks and art.
Detailed enough in its confessional reporting as to distress the listener, Psychodrama is also a concept album, by itself astounding for being from a 20-year-old industry climber who's been able to insist on it. How did he do it? And how many artists would have the confidence to insist that grim "Lesley" get off untouched, unharmed, to retain its 11-minute clocking? Furthermore, while other rappers would want a rococo production for their oeuvres, Dave placed everything in his debut album's background at a minimum, evading marketing gurus' possible proposal to out a party material (also).
Sure, there are bits of the usual here, like the usual rapper's wet bragging about sexual prowess and £ power and the like, as in the love song "Purple Heart" and "Location." But such only come out to immediately contrast the celebration with the narrative's unavoidable dive back into the reality of an inhospitable sea of fistfights and threats and such in the competition in "Disaster." It's possible that's part of Dave's skillful design, as, in "Screwface Capital," the immersion in some same sexy atmosphere ("And I want you now") soon paints one of the darkest colors one can use for a 'scape called London. And in "Drama," instead of the usual rhymed narration about success, Dave dons a director's cap to expand the dramaturgy, co-opting his imprisoned brother's voice to take part in the story and make us, fuck, cry like shit.
Postmodern, yes? Especially when you get to "Environment," a psychological analysis of gangsta rap.
Look. A caveat: while intelligent, as we said, on the whole Psychodrama's cerebral value is mostly in its being a depressing listen, actually, like something from that quiet TV series, In Treatment. But, see, if you're the art-leaning kind of dude who isn't into leftist imagery, content to be in those pop Krispy Kreme afternoons of yours, at least listen to the rap, man. It's smart rapping over minimalist sounds, and from there you might see that even neighborhoods where the nicest coffeehouses still look bleak (peeling wallpaper, yuck), the art there can be as life-affirming as anything from Andy Warhol's Factory. Look. Drugs-ridden all around, true, but always in search of a cure for its (inner or outer) depression that it sees out there in the horizon or in here in a conversation room.
the album cover
Sky Blue is a compilation of demos Townes van Zandt recorded in his friend Bill Hedgepeth's studio in 1973. In here are a bunch of van Zandt classics, some covers, and two previously unreleased tracks. Another victim of mental disorder, van Zandt records in Sky Blue his sort of fragile melancholia, and because they're quite raw, as demos usually are, the poetic talent hatched from artificial or real aloneness comes out brighter than in any producer's tinkered wall of sound.
Note that word down, "poetic," because you will definitely be asking the question: why pick this recently launched posthumous and alcoholic country folk album here, really? Well, that's actually a good question, but let's see; how to answer that? How about this?―
While van Zandt was a big fan of Bob Dylan, Dylan was a big fan of van Zandt who was three years his junior. In fact, Dylan had all of van Zandt's records, or so the former claimed, and even had van Zandt perform for him inside the latter's motorhome. What are we saying? Uhm, . . . if Dylan is your idol because he was a poet of a songwriter, then any idol of your idol should be an idol of yours?
Anyway, van Zandt's songwriting has been so influential to a lot of current stars in the country and folk arena and even beyond (Norah Jones, and so on). Because, to quit all this generalization and abstract statements that we hate so much, just go through the lyrics in Blue Sky that may be available in Genius.com and so on, and then tell us if this dude's (often fatalistic) songwriting is overrated or has been so under-exposed.
We think alternative country wouldn't be as rich as it is today if van Zandt's expository but still elliptical kind of lyrics writing emulated by Dylan hadn't decorated its background. The author has been dead since '97 and out beyond the blue sky now, but his authorship lives. Long live the author of these open and closed texts, our favorite being that fiery though a bit sexist song 'bout death, "Dream Spider"!
Henrielle Baltazar Pagkaliwangan, 05:52, 2019, drypoint on monotype, 10" x 5.75"
Henrielle Baltazar Pagkaliwangan, 18:41, 2019, drypoint on monotype, 10" x 5.75"
(This and the next six photos grabbed from Finale Art File's Facebook page)
Timestamps. Henrielle Baltazar Pagkalingawan's Timestamps show at Finale Art File opened on 14 March and will run until April 8, so hurry up and get at least one frame of the Manila Bay photos displayed in a row around a room there, specifically the gallery's Video Room, while the supply lasts. Actually, though, we think this show ought to be purchased as one piece and displayed in a similar room in someone's house, say a ship captain's retirement house, similarly. Why so? Because we think that taken as a single installation piece, Timestamps becomes a statement about the relationship between human beings' time and time's own indifferent stroll, a relationship most viscerally eviscerated from their hiding places for the emotions to see naked via such elements as bodies of water and the natural light above them (never mind if this is drypoint, with some artificial color possibly added during the long, "needling" process).
We hardly have time for such things as time anymore, and equally hardly for such processes as the color drypoint (unless process becomes our hobby, like immersing oneself in the excruciation of crocheting, or if we like to peddle long labor to justify their hefty price). We even demand that luxury-time entertainment items like movies do not last more than two hours, and that the extra time we have for listening to intellectual lectures to expand our knowledge don't go beyond 18 minutes (so says TED). And that is why Pagkalingawan's total piece should be valuable these days, as Warhol's Empire film's like-minded ambition was for its time. In rooms inhabited by the flow of minutes and seconds, human beings often sit still. As they do in movie houses where 120-minute films are allowed to travel through their plot, or in music halls where symphonies' or even metalcore music's sprawl are tolerated by even the most impatient ears. That is so because such experiences of time-flow in a still environment are so comforting, even to the initially reluctant participant. And that is perhaps because in such environments one does not become a part of time, unlike when we're embedded in the flow of heavy traffic where time becomes our direct enemy.
Like we said, imagine a room where these photographs may have found a new home. Sip some wine or Leyte tuba and nibble some cheese or chicharron. Then, breathe in the moment. Time would definitely travel through the row of Pagkalingawan's photographs, and most alluringly so because these are stills! There, it would be as if each still shot in the room is a companion of yours in your stillness, even if as a choir of still photographs the pieces get to collectively hum an entire 24-Hour-Covering Big Symphony of Waiting, a symphony of movements divided by timestamps stamping their lazy stamp at every clicking turn. And even here, the stamp is handwritten below each photograph, seeming to say there's no need here to hurry anywhere, no call here to rush something for somewhere. Here, everything is under someone's control.
Mind you, if waiting is what the underprivileged suffer almost every day or hour or minute, then watching time slowly travel around you while witnessing yourself not, even if you know it's just an illusion, would be the height of luxury. At least while you stay in the room and nobody starts to knock on the door.
the album cover
Beware of the Dogs. Stella Donnelly's Beware of the Dogs, also released early this month, is indie rock with warm chords that, beneath the soothing sound, features stuff like the one in "Old Man," with the lyrics that go, "Boy, if you touch her again / I'll tell your wife and your kids about that time. / 'Cause this is not '93," and "Boys Will Be Boys," with words that sing, "Your father told you that you're innocent, / Told ya, 'Women rape themselves'. / Would ya blame your little sister / If she cried to you for help?" There are those other stuff, like the one in "Season's Greetings," which could even be about that Christmas event where Hillary Clinton had to be with Donald and Melania Trump, the title track "Beware of the Dogs," on Australia's politicians, "U Owe Me," about employers and late paychecks, and "Watching Telly," about women taking control of their bodies. But it's not all about the rampant bad news on the Web telly. There's the love song that confesses, "I use my vibrator, wishing it was you," where the comforting energy momentarily gels without irony.
the album cover
There Will Be No Intermission. The romance between poetry and singing-songwriting is still alive. Just go through the opening song in Amanda Palmer's third solo album released early this March, titled There Will Be No Intermission, and you'll see where we're coming from. "The Ride" writes about life and paints many pictures of the threats to it, mostly man-made and around us as we speak. We promised in this magazine to avoid peacock words, but believe us when we tell you that, so far, those lyrics are probably the best words in a 2019 song we've ever heard and read to describe our lives and fears wherever today.
That statement should prompt you now to go on. There's "Drowning in the Sound," with, again, probably the second best 2019 lyrics to describe our lives and fears everywhere today. There's "The Thing About Things," that tells of attachment to things that "start to turn evil / when you start to forget what they're for." That goes on to talk about people in one's life and ends with "if you're not allowed to love people alive, / then you learn how to love people dead." And, hey, could the lyrics in "Judy Blume" be the best lyrics about LGBT life to come out of 2019, too, so far? And does "Bigger on the Inside," despite its anger at being misunderstood for doing that "Poem for Dzhokhar" bit and then surviving the phase with a song that promises to not hate the proponents of hate (or counter-hatred), . . . does it get to boast of containing the #MeToo line of the year so far with "I think it's funny that he asked me / 'cos I don't feel like a fighter lately, / I am too unhappy"?
And what about that song about weapons in the house, or about someone's abortion, or that song, "A Mother's Confession," about shoplifting and motherhood that might explain further the photo of honest nakedness on the album cover? Or that one about one's dead mother one misses now, . . . is there a way to make something new out of that old elegy song tradition? Does Palmer get to achieve that necessary newness here? Maybe, maybe not, but did you cry?
Enough with the near-peacock words shaped as interrogatives that only betray the fact that this review is actually just . . . speechless. Let's look for single adjectives, then. Brutal. Political. Personal. Grieving. Threatening. Loving. It's just singer-songwriter music, of course, mostly as piano-based as Elton John's, and music is often just catharsis. But this one, we think, is going to stay in our memory through our daily grind for a long while. Unless/Until things change for us.
That "Sumakay ng plane" Facebook post. Just click on the date below Jean Palma's name on this embedded graphic, or the Facebook or comment icons, and you will be led to Palma's Facebook post of hard-captioned photographs that should be in an urban planning gallery, if ever there was such a thing as that. Now, if there is no such thing as an urban planning gallery, well, then, Palma can here inspire us to build one and fast. Ideally, inside an already sustainable model part of the megalopolitan map.
Ronald Caringal, So-Called Media Influencer, 2019, oil on canvas, 66" x 48"
So-Called Media Influencer. At his Vinyl on Vinyl solo show this March (up to April 8) after a long absence, Ronald Caringal revisits his cynicism towards the corporate-run popular media that he has penetrated the imagery habits of for his internal mocking. Titled Hype, How Are You? I'm Fined, Thank You., the show could be examined for its level of success in negotiating this difficult post-Warhol, post-Koons period of our art history's evolution, but we're not going to assign ourselves that time-consuming task and want to focus here on a relatively small piece in that show that caught our attention. So-Called Media Influencer, the visualization of which concept could also be read as "Media, So-Called Influencer," is a rather special small Caringal work that dives into the cleanliness of media imagery, as is the artist's wont, and surfaces with perhaps the loudest parody.
Caringal is obviously taking a jab at so-called media influencers, who are boosted by marketing departments in order to put faces into projected positions these departments want their market to aspire for. In his parody, Caringal seems to state that a marketing body can practically place anyone into a vacant influencer spot, depending on the need of the day reacting to a perceived market demand or otherwise a client's positioning or messaging demand. Candidates to the position must have no fear of the selfie camera, or any camera for that matter, and must love the limelight and themselves to a degree exceeding those of the average normal person. But, alas, in light of that lack of shyness is Caringal's counter with another seeming statement coming from his leaving the influencer spots blank. It's as if the artist is saying he doesn't recognize any one of these people as representative of his position as a general consumer, art consumer, or art producer. He doesn't want anybody to represent what he wants to aspire for, knowing full well what he wants as well as what the tricky corporate media wants him to want.
So, if we read the painting's text the alternative way, viz., as "Media, So-Called Influencer," we'd witness Caringal here finally taking a big potshot at media's self-congratulatory role as an effective manipulator, and subtly mocking it. This painting is as clean-looking as anything the graphic design departments of the corporate world would have concocted for the communication media out there to flaunt and project as a utopia, but what the work really is is a spit at the clean-looking dirty people inside this design, people whom Caringal parodies the clean minimalisms of as empty.
Jeona Zoleta, Monster Manual #1 STD, 2015, mixed media on canvas, 60" x 48"
Jeona Zoleta, The Unicorn Hard-On Ghetto Garbage Thug Princess, 2014, oil on canvas, 60" x 48"
Monster Manual #1 STD; The Unicorn Hard-On Ghetto Garbage Thug Princess. Finale Art File's Tall Gallery is, by many standards, too large for a solo show and too daunting a space even for a group show. It's quite the space, though, for retrospectives, or a return show for a long-absent individual artist who has accumulated quite a hoard. So, every now and then, the gallery would come up with an un-curated "group show," sort of like a filler show without a theme, consisting of backroom consigned works and leftovers from a number of solo or group shows.
From March 14 there was just the sort of exhibition, following the retrospective for Alfredo Roces' still-life paintings. It's not surprising to find treasures at this gallery, but one March afternoon when we took a peek there, our sensibilities were massaged tremendously and instantaneously by a couple of jewels that met us from the left wall near the entrance. These ones were by Jeona Zoleta, titled Monster Manual #1 STD and The Unicorn Hard-On Ghetto Garbage Thug Princess, from 2015 and 2014 respectively. They were there re-displayed, we think, from a show years ago at the same gallery.
Zoleta's advertently or inadvertently neo-expressionist products re-displayed here . . . just ooze with confidence about their personal angst or opprobrium or otherwise social dive into absurdity and humor that it's almost like a new rebellion, new for having been able to absorb all previous middle-finger-raising carefree bravado against good taste to make it all sound fresh combined. Whether it's a studied or natural combining here, it's certainly Matisse's beastliness meets Basquiat's out-of-school illustration of erudition meets K-Pop pinkness meets coarse enamel graffiti (The Unicorn seems to mimic a wall of bricks or tiles surrounding the central images) meets children's book illustration meets hip hop erotica. And all of that on a well-lit, prim-and-proper canvas.
Noel Solis, For Kilo, 2012, oil on canvas, 48" x 48"
For Kilo. These days, artists' realism is often just self-serving, a kind of navel-gazing and chest-beating artistic statement referencing the artisan within the artist, with this realism's subjects coming out like mere pretense of a supposed social or cultural sympathy. Unlike the leading photorealism and hyperrealism abroad loud with their above-average rationales, many realist pieces in our archipelago seem unable to find a connection between process and point. The art collecting class, meanwhile, seems to have also lovingly embraced this sort of production almost as an investing standard. Could it perhaps be because detailing workmanship demonstrates craftsman-like service qua skilled labor for an (supposedly cultured corporate) intelligentsia that artists today can presumably never belong to? Or is it perhaps because the purchase of an idea is just so beyond the collectors themselves as a decerebrated local market? And, curiously, many artists seem to have found themselves kowtowing to this demand for lobotomized servitude, perpetuating the mechanics of a lowbrow cycle.
That is why it is refreshing to catch such a tight realism as the one on this 2012 piece by Noel Solis, re-displayed at Finale Art File in the gallery's March "group show." Titled For Kilo, the skill in the piece is good, yes, but the idea behind the implementation of the imagery seems to be just as strong, if not extremely invaluable as to be the only important facet of the work. One might argue that the idea here might have come out stronger if some de-skilling had been applied and applied further, but that is always an ongoing debate upon successful realist oeuvres that can only be settled by a side-by-side comparison of end-products.
The title of Solis' painting is a play on "por kilo," which means "by the kilo." But wait. Kilo-, as a prefix, means "a thousand," which would definitely make the "For" in the title socially heavier. It would seem as if the junk finder and seller in the center of the picture has just found the biggest fish in the lake that could feed an entire barangay's night of feasting.
This is also not realism in the strict sense of the word. That tricycle's front cart's tires cannot possibly handle the weight (in several kilos) of the rusting car body. But isn't that the point? The pedicab itself is there for a thousand kilos' worth of an ongoing "wage" slavery, endless even, equal to pedalling through a thousand kilometers that hopefully would soon be able to reach the equivalent of a big-fish find before its tires give way and demand hardly-affordable replacements.
The junk collector's thousand-kilometers' worth of pedalling may one day find that minor lottery jackpot it's been waiting for, a minor lottery jackpot equivalent in value to a junkyard car the windfall from which can invite the neighbors for a drink. But he can't do several thousands of kilometers more of this kind of pedalling to reach the dream guarantee of a liberating major lottery jackpot. He can't, because that one would demand a more expensive ticket investment, a thing definitely bigger than a pedicab, and that sort of demand's fulfillment may require thousands of years more of suffering for the gathering of impossible savings. That suffering would be courtesy, too, of several thousands of Filipino voters who would vote for the mostly corrupt politicians of neoliberal, oligarchic, plutocratic Philippines and thus never ever defeat his thousands of days of capital-less suffering. . . .
Then again, maybe this is not so pessimistic a Marxist picture. Maybe it is an idealist-cum-Romantic socialist realist one. After all, the car that was intended for kilometers higher in number on its odometer than the one the tricycle can reach is now the one being carried by the tricycle to a place where it can be broken up. The poor man's tricycle remains strong, aiming to lift the biggest competitors of the working class struggle and throw them into the car crusher. [d]
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