Tessa Maria Guazon
Plot is about making form as it is about carving space. The rolling terrain of the sculpture garden makes Plot an apt title. The garden reminded of my childhood vegetable patches. Plot has interesting references to action, movement, and design. Plot then may well be understood through these inflections. It connotes active stance, lending itself well to metaphor, and creative imagining. It can mean ‘to mark space’ or ‘to stake boundaries’.
As artistic strategy, Plot subverts common associations with hatching a secret plan. Instead of plans or in the case of this project, art works made in confined spaces, their making was in a commonly and publicly accessed space. Altogether, the works by Junyee, Reg Yuson and Leeroy New aimed at engaging diverse viewers in the process of reforming given space and its elements.
The garden before the works were installed (Eric Guazon 2013)
The project was informed by an encompassing research on public art and cities I began in 2000. For PIot, I wanted a deeper engagement with public art practice, its various expressions and their place within Philippine art history. It is fitting to recall this essay’s opening sentence – Plot is as much an exhibition as it is about a research project. The choice of artists was deliberate, tinkered with for over a year or so. I wanted their bodies of work to represent significant shifts in sculpture, site-specific pieces, installation works, commissioned and otherwise in the context of Philippine art.
Junyee is pioneer of site-specific art in the Philippines. His piece for Plot cogently illustrates his sharp sense of sprawl and how best to expand or contract it by intervention through site. This gives an inkling of Junyee’s deep understanding of nature and its forces, reminding us in the quietest of ways ecosystems now in precarious states. His installation of ropes with sounding cans mimic those installed in rice fields. They are meant to ward off birds. Yet others say the sound is also music to green, flourish and nourishment to sapling.
Junyee at the walk through (EGG 2013)
Yuson’s sculpture practice is to great degree informed by the capacities of both material and form to convey ideas. His works are markedly minimal, near internationalist in bent, fittingly commissioned and located in leisure spaces inside corporate hubs. Yuson’s practice is shaped by the significance of cities in the global arena and the mobilization of culture in crafting urban images. The artist was struck by the red out house in the garden. The structure stood out among surrounding greenery but never inspected.
Yuson employed the strategy of de-familiarization by cloaking the structure with mirror on all sides. It disappeared, and somehow what was once familiar but unnoticed became an absent yet significant element of the landscape. From when the mirrors went up, passers-by descended to the garden to play before their reflections. Walking past, we see the entire environment doubly reflected on the mirror surface. Through absence of existing structure, we are keenly attuned to surrounding environment.
Reg Yuson beside the mirror-encased red structure (EGG 2013)
Leeroy New builds house atop a sturdy tree in the center of the garden. In his proposal for Plot as well as other projects, New demonstrates his zealous exploration of material and form. A latent organic growth underlies his projects, whether materials are natural or synthetic. New’s works speak of unbridled growth, a curious morphing into forms playful, alien, and near grotesque sometimes. Yet in New’s hands even the monstrous is lent the quality of stark fascination. The artist constructs an inhabitable tree house in a bucolic setting. Our expectations stem from a similar piece he did in Ilocos, an ensemble of bamboo constructed to look strangely like an alien ship stranded in sand dunes.
Up the tree house (EGG 2013)
All three artists share a practice that crosses over to design – planning residences, landscaping gardens, rural based social projects, theatre sets, jewelry and fashion, among others. Collaboration is central to such engagements. Needless to say, their art is versatile, and like the site where their pieces are now located, expansive. Underlying their art is desire to extend its scope, widen its reach through innovative means in engaging audiences, and unflagging exploration of forms responsive to specific contexts.
Passing time in the garden on a gold lit afternoon, seeing these new additions to the landscape, my view framed by the scalloped arc of trees surrounding the uneven terrain, it is hard to deny the near pastoral air that suffuses the scene. Yet we see art thriving amidst rampant growth, salient reminder of our hand in crafting this very place where nature frames our gestures and marks our attempts to stall time.