Things That Are Not Supposed To Work But Do

Personal beliefs created through social constructs define how we move and perceive the environment we inhabit in. More often, these experiences are based on beliefs that challenges sciences and factual truths. “Things that are not supposed to work but do.” delineate personal accounts of the artist of such phenomenon. From Buddhist mantras that offers not only physical but spiritual healing, belief of blessings of fortune and luck by having his favorite Hindu deity Lakshmi as a mobile device wallpaper, boosted ability in RPG games with the help of a “spell” image downloaded from a group in social media specific to anting-antings, to unexplained practices of hilots and albularyos that seem to expel unseen entities causing trouble in the artist’s previous apartment. Gerome also recalls the hype of “Ion” bands that seem to offer negative ions that when absorbed by the body, produces biochemical reactions that enhances the mood. Imitation of such accessory flooded the market a decade ago, that seem to work the same for some as with the original ones. Feelings of awe, fear, and fascination fills up people’s thoughts as their future unfolds the same as with what the cards drawn from the deck of their favorite fortune teller predicted. These instances seem to be acted upon by unexplained forces. Events that can be explained in detail through intuition and experiences but was far from the foundations of facts.

“Things that are not supposed to work but do.” are collection of works that the artist started doing since 2018, with influence from the empirical strategy of Dialektiks and his fascination of the movement Meta-modernism, Gerome Soriano delves deeper into the world we live in with his exploration of meaning connected to superstitious beliefs, codified messages, alternate histories, and automatism with the recent addition of healing symbols that he believe are well suited in the crisis we currently living through.

Decision Rapida

“Wrong place at a wrong time.” “Accident waiting to happen.” “Deus ex machina.” These are just some of the expressions people use when referring to the sudden appearance of an unforetold event, whose effects, especially when they are devastating, are always chalked up to Divine Providence, destiny, or sheer unluck. The influence of human element is sometimes minimized if not eliminated, consciously or unconsciously, in order to shape a narrative that no one could have predicted something that is so unsettling from happening, which is a direct opposite of how people would readily take credit for success or a good fortune, even if much of it is about being in the “right place at the right time.”

That there are no accidents is the premise of Decision Rapida, a solo exhibition of Bembol dela Cruz. In a suite of paintings and bocetos, the artist presents the resulting evidence of a decision gone horribly wrong: the metallic shell of a car severely dented or crushed, their wheels and engines no longer visible. Either the theoretical driver of the car (or of another vehicle) has made a wrong turn, swerved, or bypassed traffic signs, which has led to the unfortunate outcome. Totaled and essentially useless, the car is an indictment against a wrong decision made.

This decision, done in the heat of the moment (or rapidly, as the title suggests), amounts to something that is at once ghastly and irrevocable. Set against a black background and removed from any context, the car nonetheless prompts the viewer to imagine the precipitating event and the ensuing aftermath: the violent turn of the steering wheel, the flash of light, the deafening collision of metal. What happens to the driver and the passengers is offered as a conjecture to the viewer. What is undeniable is the evidence of the force of human effort, no matter how inconsequential it may seem at the onset, as it ripples out and escalates a series of unfortunate events.

For the artist, what passes off as an accident is merely a decision that has missed its aim. The decisions we make every day are not always consciously executed and immediately visible. Sometimes, they take the form of habitual action, which is usually harmless and unnoticeable. But these micro-decisions become dangerous when coupled with distraction. How many car accidents have happened because the driver could not help but look at their cellphone for just a second? In that brief space of time, a pedestrian has crossed, another vehicle has made its way. What has been initially envisioned as an ordinary drive becomes a vector of catastrophe.

Decision Rapida, while it paints a picture of destruction (with the works-on-paper portraying the damage on a much granular scale, achieving an almost abstract quality), is a call for mindfulness, which is slowly losing traction in a world that prizes multi-tasking and lightning-speed decision-making. Our being vigilantly observant spells the difference between safety and tragedy, between life and death. In the context of today’s pandemic, the littlest actions we take, such as wearing a mask, have real-life implications to the health and well-being of others. The dark version of an event, as dela Cruz posits it, is but a rupture in what has been a string of preferable scenarios.

Limbo Paradise

The need for escape is as deeply-rooted in the human psyche as are our more primal behaviours, yet it is often in strange times like these that such a need becomes all-encompassing. As the world has come to a standstill, we find ourselves drawn to the comfort and allure of better days—of wide open spaces and carefree chatter, of unrestricted movement, of freedom. The ever-widening chasm between this seemingly unreachable past and the harrowing reality of our present state has thrown us deep into the waves of uncertainty and distress, forcing us to navigate these uncharted waters and find our way out from within its depths.

“Limbo Paradise” sits right at the centre of this phenomenon. In her latest solo exhibition, Ikea Rizalon draws inspiration from the inescapable effects the current pandemic has inflicted on society, likening our situation to that of being in limbo, as we oscillate in uncertainty from one emotion to the next, trying to make sense of the present and the unforeseeable direction we are headed towards. Rizalon transforms these altogether familiar sensations of fear, anxiety, confusion, and helplessness into something more tangible, by portraying how we collectively respond to reality by escaping into our own safe havens, often self-designed and tailored to suit our personal comforts and desires.

The works in the exhibition are an examination into what makes a “paradise” within the context of our current setting. The subjects lounge in enjoyment in richly-furnished interiors and fresh airy spaces, often amongst the company of other people and engaged in social activities. Yet beneath the surface we are confronted with the reality that these welcoming spaces are simply a means for us to adjust to the rather dismal reality of our own surroundings. Even so, the subjects in the works move about their day, happy and almost oblivious to the pandemic that continues to rage on by the passing hour.

In “Limbo Paradise,” the subjects of the works transform into extensions of ourselves, as we seek to adapt and come to terms with our loss of control over our very own lives. We learn to find solace in our personal, manufactured paradises, embellishing them with beautiful sceneries and memories of brighter and more carefree days. Perhaps it is only in imagining them as real that we are able to find our place within the discomfort of this seemingly everlasting uncertainty, and discover amidst the dying embers of yesterday’s reminiscences some tiny fragments of spontaneous brightness and hope.

Everything Was Beautiful And Nothing Hurt

So It Goes
In Everything Was Beautiful And Nothing Hurt, Iyan de Jesus continues her portrayal of her fine-featured yet steel-strong maidens, this time staging them with legendary unicorns as a means to make sense of grief and loss while creating beauty out of painful remembrances. In the exhibition, the narrative of the artist’s pieces take the audience through intense emotions, both with the breathtaking skill and precision of the artist’s paintings and her flair in telling compelling stories through her canvases.

Throughout history, the unicorn has been the stuff of legends: it has been described since antiquity as a horse-like creature with a single horn projecting from the center of its forehead, said to cure diseases and neutralize poison. In European folklore, only a virgin can tame a unicorn due to its extreme wildness, purity and grace. Hunters set a trap in the woods by placing a maiden in a clearing, and wait in hiding as a unicorn is irresistibly drawn towards the maiden and falls asleep on her lap, as illustrated in numerous paintings, books, and tapestries. Familiar to all generations, it has found a resurgence in popularity and pop culture through animation, fashion, and even food and beverages. Part fantasy, part rarity, the unicorn continues to be used as a symbol of glamour and unattainability.

Unfolding A Page in Hyperspace is a veritable spectacle of celestial bodies, as de Jesus paints a skybound ship with maidens riding unusual flying vessels amongst the stars — a whale, a unicorn, a hare and a fish. The diptych continues with the maiden finally making it to land, where ruins and dark trees lay witness to a congregation of crocodiles seemingly calmed by gentle rabbits, and a raven symbolizing loss hovering. Borderline of Flesh and Dream shows a flowing river, gray and swampy, while undines guide a maiden’s boat through the choppy waters and prepare to secure it to the shore. A shy unicorn waits on land, almost teasingly testing the waters with its hoof. Islets serve as background, but instead of being laid flat on the water, it seems they are also trying to build height to reach the skies. In Setting Stages for Urgent Monologues, the water appears rougher, as we becomes unsure if the creatures caught on the churning waves of the river are still the friendly undines, or other beings. Several birds appear to be squawking, creating cacophony with a horn. This time, the unicorn is safely with the maiden on the boat, but we are not aware if danger does not eventually send their journey to disaster. Order Me A Sky from a Florist shows fortresses and ancient ruins in the woodlands as setting, with clear skies and twinkling stars in the heavens. However, the walls of the fortresses seem to forbid further exploration, creating a dead end, while elevated structures are built to reach the moon in futility. A fire is out and all is calm as unknown shadows haunt the periphery yet offer comfort all the same. A lion, a sworn rival, faces the unicorn, and what happens next becomes mystery to be told another day.

As de Jesus’ maidens and unicorns become the imagery of lore and legend, the lyrical interpretation of the scenarios we find the figures in imbue the works with wistful sadness and deep rumination. Across the ages, both the maiden and unicorn are symbols of prey being hunted: for their beauty, for their rarity, as trophies. By focusing on these characters, the artist shows not only the seduction of The Other’s gaze, but also the grace, strength and noble bearing that suffuse these gentle beings, despite of the violence and constraints meted them. In Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut’s bestselling novel on war and timetravel, the lead character Billy Pilgrim is quoted as thinking, despite going through captivity and the horrors of war, that everything was beautiful and nothing hurt. Possibly narrating the character’s defense mechanism borne of PTSD, or rather, with a deeper reading, the author stating satirically that life does have ugly and painful parts, and these are the things we have to accept if we are to continue surviving, the artist draws on this parallelism in imparting truths in coping and tempering our resolve. De Jesus’ works come with the assertion that we may be sugarcoating reality whenever we process them as memories, much like filters found on social media – making everything hazy and giving them more favorable light, if only to protect our sanity and come to terms with it. We only have to count on what we know for sure–we all go through circumstances. Eventually pain disappears, and we find, on hindsight, that we become stronger as tragedies transform into precious lessons we learn along the way.

Everyday Group Show

Everyday gathers the works of seven artists who would like to treat the difficulties currently being experienced globally as any other normal day, show casing hardwork and the tenacity and relentlessness of creative muses. As Blic, Tyang Karyel, Quatro Hapimeel, Mark Santos, Lee Salvador, Meowinism, and TRNZ create works inspired by street art and urban sensibilities, non linearity and graphic stylings transform into novel forms of expressing what an artist goes through day by day, pandemic or no pandemic. Originally slated to be the tenth anniversary show of Cavity Collective (CVTY), the exhibition’s roster is strengthened with the participation of other artist friends.

Besh Foot Forward

“After being a mural painter and transforming interior spaces for years now, I’ve been craving to do functional design. I wanted to be challenged on a different medium and touch a different physical experience of humanity. In addition to outfitting interiors, I also think design can provide welcome respite in trying times like the present crisis.

Living with our pets (two cats) during quarantine inspired me to create things that can literally touch a person emotionally and sensorially. The past 3 months made me realise the importance of living in a space that inspires you. When you live in a home with more organic shapes on it, it is easier to breath.The human response to such warm compositions and juvenile forms alter the way we feel in a space, helping to reduce stress and anxiety.

Growth

Both art and science in equal parts, life casting has existed since the ancient times. One of the most famous artifacts found using this process is the bust of Egyptian Queen Nefertiti, said to have been made circa 1350 BC. Michelangelo himself was accused of using actual life casts in his sculpture pieces as he studied the human form in painstaking detail. In the 18th and 19th century, however, casting gained common acceptance as the likenesses of great leaders and celebrities of their time were portrayed. Fast forward to modern times, when casting became a poignant way of fashioning baby souvenirs as art projects made by adoring parents in their own homes with craft kits. These casts were made to document, commemorate and memorialize, capturing memories and points in time in a person’s life.

Unusual Tranquility Group Show

In Unusual Tranquility, artists examine the relevance of art making in today’s state of affairs, sourcing inspiration from personal experiences during the pandemic with astute observations, notes on survival, maintaining sanity and deciphering new codes. Collectively, pieces reference the body and how its journey goes from the personal to universal, how circumstance affects the artist’s psyche and prepares one for what might be bigger struggles ahead.

Forging Ahead

From history books and film adaptations, whenever a warrior is shown, a sense of pride and discipline can be felt from their stance, not to mention their brawny well built armors that they wore to battle.

With their sharped edge sword and unique battle-esque aesthetic armor, each nations armor posses a great deal of musculinity and functionality which aids to its enemy’s intimidation.

Today is no different, with all the gears that we have to wear, and the rituals that we have to do just by simply going to work or just to buy groceries, we are all in some way a warrior with less heavy and less cool armors, indeed in today’s time, everyday is a battle.

LARO

Whistles and claps signal the approach of the troops. It was way past 3 pm, you just woke up from your noon time naps that your Lola insisted on taking. It was a pain trying your best to fall asleep at noon, your eyes are half-shut while looking at the clock’s ticking hands get slower and slower filling your heart with excitement. Shouts and laughter filled your front door, a voice calls your name enthusiastically and repeatedly. You rushed to the door and see everybody is waiting for you outside. You grabbed a suman that was bought by Nanay for merienda and an ice candy from the fridge, coins were clanking on your pocket that was given to you earlier by Lolo to buy snacks at the Sari-Sari store as you hurriedly go out of the house.

The games were usually seasonal, a cycle wherein a new trend of games will be famous then be replaced by a new one until it reached to a point where you will look again for your previous toy that was pilled up in your toy box. These games and toys were sort of simple yet innovative, no electronic parts, batteries or electricity needed, all you need are skills to play it and sometimes to create one and imagination. From nails attached to a wooden sphere with a flattened bottle cap and string to make a top that you then accessorized with thumbtacks that acts as armor to avoid konyat or chips, to sticks secretly taken from Nanay’s walis tingting, Astra thread sneaked out of Lola’s tahian and grocery store plastic bags to make a kite. There are also group games such as Tumbang preso, Langit-lupa and Chinese garter for the girls to name a few. A time way before handheld electronic devices and mobile games were invented. A much simpler way of life that is reminiscent of the past.

“Laro “features set of works that depict nostalgia of how it is to be a child during the past decades. In parallel to this time of crisis and constraint, the child within our soul peaks through the window waiting – waiting for Nanay’s permission so we may finally go out and be with our friends outside who are shouting “Tara, laro tayo!”.