"MM Yu's vivid and expectant photographs which act as significant pauses in time's passage.The works simultaneously documentary and fragementary and taken at various places and in different periods of time with the vagueness of particular events each photograph alludes to. Nearly devoid of actual humans but rife with signs of human presence, the pictures quietly evidence the incidence of time in the overused, the disposed, the acuumulated and the forgotten-normal visual occurences in the everyday life."
LISA CHIKIAMCO CITED IN ART MATTERS: writings, projects and exhibitions of Clarissa Chikiamco, 2009
PHOTOGRAPHY AND NEW MEDIA ART
"Photography records the gamut of feelings written on the human face, the beauty of the earth and skies that man has inherited, and the wealth and confusion man has created. It is a major force in explaining man to man."
Edward Steichen (American photographer, painter, and art gallery and museum curator, 1879 – 1973)
What will our world look like a century from now? The speed with which we move today is alarming. Anyone who has lived or is living in a metropolis would be able to relate to the peak hour rush, the impatience of waiting, the obsession with text messaging or instant information on the web. Technology enables humanity to be constantly on the run, sometimes being in three different continents in less than twenty four hours, leaving behind a blur of fragmented memories. Photography has the magic to perpetuate a sight, a memory, a landscape, and a dream. Further than that, however, it also conjures an alternate universe in which not only imagination but ideals come to life.
Most of Agan Harahap's works stem from the idea of documenting events as if they had really occurred in history. This is seen in both his Safari and Superhero series, which were executed in black and white and appeared like journalistic photograph documentation. In The Cabaret Show (Lot 565), he does the opposite by creating a theatrical stage set that at first glance appears surreal, yet can be duplicated in reality. Three male ballerinas, dressed in fluttering tulle tutus and wearing gas masks, dance and soar against a background of a green forest. However, closer observation reveals that the forest is only a printed cloth. Juxtaposed against the presence of the gas mask, there is a subtle inference that within The Cabaret Show, perhaps trees and forest are things of the past and that the world that we know today is merely make-believe.
Juan Caguicla's Trinity Series #01 (Lot 569) is both glamorous and enigmatic. An earthly angel with a splendid physique is seated in a provocative pose. Her head is thrown back, exposing a column of fair-skinned throat which is completely bare except for a bloody gash across it. Shot in an angle reminsicent of fashion photography, the wound almost looks like a choker necklace. Despite her wound, the angel's posture was determined and strong. She is, in fact, very much alive.
In Common Oddities (Lot 566), MM Yu lovingly and meticulously gathered images of peculiar objects she comes across while roaming the city of Manila over a period of eight years. Representing childhood memories and characteristically Filipino items, such as Jollibee plushies or red, blue and yellow plastic containers, these compositions were not staged. The present work focuses on bright rainbow-like colours, which stands out vividly against its environment of abandoned walls, empty streets or little corners. In the wall installation, duratrans lightboxes are scattered amid matte-finish prints, giving a glow that would look jewel-like in the contrast. Through this humble collection of "common oddities", MM Yu delights in finding beauty where one would least expect it, leading us to rethink what our minds already know and rediscover what our eyes have already seen.
A similar setting is found in Wimo Ambala Bayang's High Hope series (Lot 567), in which he photographs various people with a mound of cotton obscuring their faces and asks them to reveal their innermost hope. The present work features a figure he refers to as Mrs. Kabul. She is a humble street sweeper, standing proudly erect with a broom in her hand while a dilapidated building structure is visible behind her. As humble and simple as she is, however, her hope is for her family to be blessed and to live in God's path. It is a prayer any mother can identify with. With his playful yet profound work, Wimo captures the quintessence of being human, that regardless of nationality, religion, profession or appearance, it is hope that gives us the courage to keep on going, even if we don't see the path we are walking on.
Yee I-Lann's acclaimed Sulu Stories Series (Lot 568) is also one of her most poetic. In the present work, a portrait of a woman on the foreground is juxtaposed against her male counterpart, with only his back visible to the viewer. Strands from her long hair find their way to his back, creating the silhouette of a map. In this ethereal scene, Map merges the compelling mystery of the sea with the legends which history and culture pass on from one generation to another. Past and future is linked by strands of genealogical and cultural heritage and perhaps, by the longing to be connected.
Davy Linggar's Thinking Home (Lot 572) illustrates the transience of memory and our inevitable wish to contain it, immortalize it and bring with us wherever we are. Consisting of 80 boxes, each filled with polaroids, drawings, doodles and painting, the work relates different stories at different stages of life. Its installation is intentionally free-style, such that the work can communicate with its surrounding's unique characteristics. Angki Purbandono's Circus of Doraemon (Lot 573) also exhibits a box of memories of some sort. The objects there represent the toys that the artist played with in his childhood. Each painstaking detail in both works speaks loudly about the unconscious nature of longing and of the humane desire to preserve fleeting moments.
Wawi Navarroza and Tanapol Kaewpring (Lots 570 and 571, respectively), use the grandness of nature to juxtapose the tension between humanity and the environment, between the landscape in our mind and the one that nature gives us, between the parameters we set for ourselves and the untamed intangibility of life.
In the current collection, nine artists working in the field of photography and new media art in Southeast Asia created markedly different visual aesthetics. Some, like Agan Harahap and Juan Caguicla, project a surreal tableau that recalls theatrical performances, while MM Yu and Wimo Ambala Bayang choose to highlight raw grittiness of urban environment. There is also an interesting juxtaposition between using human forms and natural landscape to convey an ethereal atmosphere, like Yee I-Lann, Wawi Navarroza and Tanapol Kaewpring. Davy Linggar and Angki Purbandono evoke a sense of nostalgia in absence and longing. Regardless of the style or subject matter, the thread that links them together is humanity's universal ability to love, to dream, to connect and to find beauty, no matter how fleeting it is.
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