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After a day of endless toil, one seeks comfort and camaraderie with one’s mates, such that can be found in the illuminated little nooks of certain side streets in the metro. Their dim lights, loud music, and overflowing drinks eases the tensions and frustrations born from having to deal with the difficulties of every day. Dulling the senses with various concoctions, one becomes numb to urgent local and global concerns. All energy is now devoted to enjoying the moment. Bitto does not pass judgement on these situations, but rather, guides us through them.
In “Happy Ending”, Bitto sends us all party invites to revel in the present. Through his signature graphic style, he incorporates quilting of images and patterns in order to share stories and experiences from the past, present, or an uncertain future. By utilizing optical illusions, he meticulously crafts a festive yet unsettling set of images. Inside it, there is respite from a dull and monotonous existence. This coupled with the pressures of the political significance of the month of May, he facilitates a momentary escape with this exhibition.
It takes inspiration from happy hour as a social practice, intersecting it with the idea of the eleventh hour, the latest possible time to change things. It then appears as a last call to celebrate. How would we act if we knew of the exact date and time of the end? Would we still strive to delay it, or do we face it head on and go out with a bang?
Bitto’s paintings are composed of various fragments coming from interior and exterior scenery of bars. His sprightly characters are contained in dizzying settings with hints of the apocalypse, such as in “Call Me Maybe”. As time passes and intoxication increases, the vivid colors and varying linear patterns present bring on a feeling of being in limbo between excitement and anxiety resulting from being under the influence. Acknowledging the ability of advertising to transform our view of ourselves as eager receptacles of ‘feel good’ experiences, a curious beverage appears in several compositions. The creation of a faux beer, complete with its product placement, promotes a carefree point of view. Additionally, it enables us to examine our relationship with social constructs around drinking as a collective affair that promotes fellowship.
By the exhibit’s culmination, the series of paintings then become only one component of a larger experiential work. The gallery space then transforms into a site of interactivity for different channels of enjoyment to create a fuller celebratory experience. Bitto highlights and then assigns meaning to these various activities just like one jots field notes on an anthropologic undertaking: a mini market as a site of material consumption, a DJ set that induces an exhilarating trance, tattooing as commemoration and embodying leaving a mark, tarot reading as a desperate glimpse into an obscure future. In anticipation of the final form of Happy Ending, “A lot of your problems are your own damn fault”, “White Castle” and “A Light of Hope” also double as teaser images to its completion as a participatory art installation.
The resulting effect is instantaneous yet placebic, an attempt to decrease communal pains and shared anxieties in an anthropocentric period. As a body of work composed of parts that require acts of consumption, it acts as a microcosm of how inescapable consumerism is until the bitter end. More than that, it reflects back to us our juvenile coping mechanisms. In the end we possess the choice to weigh in on the value of a sober kind of happiness, or a manufactured form of it.