Sunday, 22 April 2012

00003 The Philippine Star, Cesare Syjuco's Literary Hybrids At Galeria Duemila, March 12, 2012

Cesare Syjuco's literary hybrids at Galleria Duemila
(The Philippine Star) March 12, 2012 12:00 AM 

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Cesare Syjuco holds an all-words exhibition at Galleria Duemila.
MANILA, Philippines - Multi-awarded art iconoclast Cesare A.X. Syjuco unveils a solo exhibition of his literary hybrids on March 17, 4:30 p.m. at Galleria Duemila. The show runs until April 26.
Titled “A Life of the Mind: His Poems for Walls,” this landmark all-words exhibition showcases only works made entirely of text created in the past 30 years.

As a fiercely imaginative “poet of the gallery,” Syjuco forges the connection between the visual arts and literature with his innovative use of a variety of mediums, from neon, to backlit acrylic and tarpaulin panels, to video projections, vitrines, and others.
For inquiries, call 831-99-90, or 833-98-15, e-mail:, or visit and

00000 The Business Mirror, Walls And Words And Arts: The Text of Syjuco, April 17, 2012

Walls and Words and Arts: The Text of Syjuco

I HAVE been reading and re-reading this book called Reading Literature Today, which is composed of, as the cover puts it, “Two Complementary Essays and a Conversation.”
I have been viewing and re-viewing the photos taken of Cesare A. X. Syjuco’s exhibit at Galeria Duemila and wondering if I need to read those texts or imagine them as they were posted on the walls.
Centuries of traditions and traditions of aesthetics have created a fissure between the picture and the words. One can conjure art from pictures, from images or simulacra. From words and with words, one can create texts and, in so many ways, communicate. Images through art send messages but the layperson perceives in the addressing a mediation, an intervention of feelings and interpretations. With texts, one can merely, as in directly, read. Or so we all naturally think.
I go back again to the book of reading by Tabish Khair and Sébastien Doubinsky, and they talk about different ways of reading, different ways of sensing. Khair, a poet, critic and educator, talks first—about the death of the author, echoing Roland Barthes, and saying: the reader is “the space on which all the quotations that make up a writing are inscribed.”
For this writer, “the reader is simply that space in which the traces by which the written text is constituted come together.”
Sébastien Doubinsky comes next in the book with his “Last Words.” He talks about fiction as being “ontologically free.” Doubinsky, who writes classical literature and crime fiction, tells us “fiction does not know it is free until surrounded by walls.” Doubinsky goes on: “The problem is not the walls themselves, but when the walls are not considered as walls, but as necessities, or even worse, as real.”
I then look at the works/words of Syjuco and realize we are cooped and caged in and by definitions. Sometimes, we are not aware of being walled in as we think these are not walls—the working definitions of what constitute art, and what consist of images and words.
And so there they are, the pieces from Cesare A. X. Syjuco, described as an iconoclast. But iconoclasm is also a set of walls, ivied perhaps by more recent battles and tentative triumphs but nevertheless divisive and categorizing.
In a collection called “A Life of the Mind,” the texts are assumed primacy over what they are usually employed for: labeling, explanation and classification.
Some words are set in neon lights where the lights sometimes matter most than what they are lighting. There are pure texts but purity ends with the idea written on acrylic panel: “Caution: Falling Ninjas”. Does the work triumph when I look up and indeed wait for black-clad spies from the sky?  The Japanese is there in “Tanka Covenant No.2,” acrylic on marine plywood, but the reference ends with the use of the word “tanka” which literally refers to a short poem. In the work, however, there are layers of frames in graded grays and white. Prominent at bottom center is a square with what looks like an “X” barring entrance or exit. The covenant becomes a wall again, an assumed form promised by exponents for many years.
There is text on a mirror and we are relieved and surprised at the same time, for the mirror installation is about reflection. Syjuco gives it a title: “Our reflection in blank.” The title is reflected on the mirror making it not a reflection on reflection but a reflection of our (in this case) reflection in blank, referring to the blankness of the mirror.
There is this modern (because it does not follow the rigor of traditional practices) haiku which says: Until the fly-swatter/the fly/does not exist. Until our reflection, the mirror was blank. But that does not suffice.

In Photo: A river stays spread on pages (1/5), 1983/2012, backlit text on acrylic panel, 15.96"x56.93"x4.53" and The table of zero (A.k.a. One of these things is not like the others (1/5), 1983-2012, laser cut acrylic text on acrylic panel 60.09"x48.07"x2.56"

00002 The Manila Bulletin, Cesare A.X. Syjuco: Thinking And Creating Within And Outside The Box (The Quiddity of 'Concept' and 'Object' in Conceptual Art) Part 1, March 26, 2012

Cesare A.X. Syjuco: Thinking And Creating Within And Outside The Box (The Quiddity of ‘Concept’ and ‘Object’ in Conceptual Art) (Part I) 
 Cesare A.X. Syjuco's Sudden Rush of Genius (2011 book & CD of poems and music)

MANILA, Philippines -- Imagine standing in the middle of an urban landscape pullulated with towering buildings, crisscrossing bridges and highways, unnerving cacophony of car engines, obtrusive signage glaring with neon lights, lofty billboards with half-naked women endorsing products, harried faces and footsteps scurrying on busy streets, stray cats and dogs walking and sniveling along the squalid pavements and alleyways. 
Now, in a more claustrophobic ambience, imagine standing in the middle of a 20- square-foot art gallery filled with conspicuous images, signage and neon lights, albeit some art pieces are confined either within glass boxes or behind transparent acrylic panels. Texts and images become alive through the three-dimensional objects, coiled neon lights on the wall, and projected video on the floor. 
Some images may conjure up nostalgia and decay. For instance, an emaciated bonsai tree bereft of leaves, a stone engraved with Latin words, or a sepia photograph of children sitting on the rocks by the sea. Other images may elicit psychological tension, like a wooden religious statue without a hand, an airplane about to take off, or a neon-lighted typeface that reads “perfection” with unlit letter “n.” 
How such poignant imageries create a poetic and conceptual landscape in the human mind and senses is the ingenious creation of a literary iconoclast -- poet and conceptual artist Cesare A.X. Syjuco
A Brief Glimpse on the History of Conceptual Art 
In an 1885 foreboding novel “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” written by the proponent of existentialism the 19th-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 –1900), a madman cried: “Gott ist tot!” or “God is dead!” Thereafter, that controversial avowal of God’s death would change the course of man’s perception of God and the world, and, later, reshape the history of art and literature from a spiritually- centered quest for beauty to a more concrete affair in the secular world. 
In 1917, three decades later after Nietzsche’s stark criticism on Christianity through his novel and philosophical writings, another ‘death’ was foretold and this time, the imminent death of classical art in the form of “urinal.” Precursor of conceptual art the French artist Marcel Duchamp (1887 –1968) transformed an ordinary readymade urinal into an objet d’art titled “Fountain” signed with his pseudonym “R. Mutt.” 
From there, Marcel Duchamp paved the way for modern and postmodern art movements throughout Europe, America, and Asia, particularly the theoretical development of conceptual art. American artist Joseph Kosuth would later acknowledge Duchamp’s important role in conceptual art when he said that all art, after Duchamp, is conceptual in nature because art only exists conceptually (1969 essay “Art after Philosophy”). 
But Conceptual Art did not emerge as a movement until the mid 1960s, with the notion of elevating and transforming any idea or concept into an artistic form using found and readymade objects, as auxiliary devices to the theoretical and conceptual approach of art making. Conceptual art, per se, subverts the conventional form of aesthetics with limitless possibilities –- dynamic, transformational and interactive. 
Contrary to Dadaism and Surrealism that defy reason with emphasis on chance and the supremacy of dreams, conceptual art celebrates reason and sensual perception, imploring the participation of the audience to deduce and complete the meaning of any presented works (assemblages or installations) by the conceptual artists.  
Some well-known practitioners of conceptual art across the globe are Robert Rauschenberg (1925 –2008), Solomon "Sol" LeWitt (1928–2007), Walter De Maria (1935–), Robert Smithson (1938– 1973), Lawrence Weiner (1942–), Joseph Kosuth (1945–), Jenny Holzer (1950–), and Damien Hirst (1965 --), to name a few. 
In the Philippines, the forerunners in their own respective styles and tendencies are David Medalla (residing and creating his art in different continents), Roberto Chabet, and Cesare A.X. Syjuco, among other senior and younger generation of artists who are swinging between painting or sculpture and conceptual art. 
Perhaps, one of the powerful and influential bodies of works in the Philippine art scene that span three decades of art making, which is more than any Filipino contemporary conceptual artist could ever produce in his or her lifetime, is Cesare A.X. Syjuco’s works. His art is the crossbred of visual art and literature, mimicking literary texts and mass media campaigns. 
Although Cesare A.X. Syjuco refuses to be labeled with any aesthetic style and genre, his artistic practice is the embodiment of conceptual art -- socially relevant, jarring and intellectually confounding. His works are reminiscent of an American conceptual artist Joseph Kossuth. But unlike Kossuth, who uses an open space to designate the elements of his works, Syjuco uses a defined space within space to collocate the binary elements of his compositions in a cohesive and logical manner. 
Known as “Literary Hybrids,” Syjuco explores multifarious combination of literary and art references through his collocated “texts” and “visual” images. In the form of ‘media-collocation,’ he meticulously gathers selected elements (texts, images and objects) for his composition, meld and interlock them together within glass boxes or rectangular transparent acrylic panels, with the exceptions of neon lights and video projections that have found their respective spaces on wall, floor or ceiling. 
By fusing literature and visual art, his opus is an acerbic commentary on global culture, politics, commercialism and technology, imbued with witty intellection, irony and humor. 
The Quiddity of ‘Concept’ and ‘Object’ in Conceptual Art 
Cogito Ergo Sum by Cesare Syjuco
In his 2010 exhibit, The Ancestry of Stone, at Gelleria Duemila, Cesare A.X. Syjuco carved “Cogito Ergo Sum” on a semi-flat stone and encased it inside a glass box. On the frontal surface of the glass is a phrase that reads: “:It means I love you in Greek. : No, Stupid. It’s Latin. : Whatever.” Judging from the two inscriptions both inside and outside the box, one can deduce an ostensibly out of context statements with no correlation at all. 
A closer look, however, reveals a subtle yet humorous way of anticipating the viewer’s reaction in case they fail to understand the Latin text inside the box. Their anticipated response is subliminally fed in their mind through the readymade answer outside the box. In this regard, the text serves as a point of reference (terminus a quo), vis-à-vis, to the text inside the box (terminus ad quem). 
On the contrary, although both textual contents within and outside the box are both syllogistic concepts of the artwork yet, either one can become an “object” referring to each other’s symbolic meaning, depending on the subjective interpretation of the viewers. Although, the artist has already laid out the concept of his art yet, he also considers the ‘variables’ of interpretation: How the different viewers of diverse backgrounds, for example, might perceive his work as a whole. 
By providing a readymade answer outside the box, the artist wittingly engages the viewers to think beyond the ‘quiddity’ of an object and examine how it represents the concept of his composition. ‘Quiddity,’ by definition, comes from Latin “quidditas” (root words “quid, quis” or “who/what”), which refers to the “whatness” or “thingness” of an object or concept before it is used as a symbolic representation.  
The ‘quiddity’ of an object, as employed by this writer in conceptual art, is independent of the concept, but when it is used and conferred upon with artistic value, the object transforms its “whatness” and assumes a new epistemic meaning. What precedes the object is the main concept or idea of an artwork. Hence, the ‘quiddity’ of an object is always relative and variable congruent to the “concept” that it represents.  
But even the quiddity of any object or concept can assume its own locus when presented as an objet d’art contingent upon the ‘primum intentione’ (objective) of the artist. 
For instance, in Marcel Duchamp’s urinal, the artist blatantly presented the object as a work of art, no more no less, bereft of any symbolic meaning. In this manner, the quiddity of urinal becomes both the terminus a quo and terminus ad quem, the literal and the symbolic, the subject and the predicate. Considering its novel and innovative presentation, Duchamp’s urinal has become both the material and final cause of aesthetics in its highest form, comparable to the renaissance and classical art or any contemporary art, for that matter. 
In Cesare Syjuco’s “Cogito Ergo Sum,” he uses the quiddity of objects, e.g., stone, glass box, and ‘auxiliary text,’ to amplify his concept in a transformational and interactive manner. Similarly, the textual contents inside and outside the box interchangeably complement and play both as “concept” and “object,” depending on the construal of the viewers. What is outside the box can be an auxiliary object to signify the concept inside the box, or vice versa.  
For the viewers who are familiar with philosophers, they can immediately tell what inside the box (“Cogito Ergo Sum”) signifies by associating it to a French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes (1596 -1650). And, of course, “Cogito Ergo Sum” means “I think, therefore I am,” known also as a ‘Cartesian doubt,’ a methodological skepticism in rationalizing the truth of one’s existence or the truth in relation to God. 
But for the viewers who are alien to both philosophy and Latin language, the text inside the box can be abstruse and inconsequential. While the text outside (:It means I love you in Greek. : No, Stupid. It’s Latin. : Whatever) provides a readymade answer to the ‘what and why’ of the artwork as it percolates through their mind and senses. In fact, what is written outside the box is surreptitiously intended for them in a cynical manner. 
Hypothetically, to put it in a dialogic conversation, imagine three best friends discussing about the text (Cogito Ergo Sum) inside the box. Friend A says ironically, “It means I love you in Greek.” Friend B who feels intelligently superior among the three replies, “No, Stupid. It’s Latin.” But friend C, who does not give a damn what friends A nor B thought, exclaims, “WHATEVER.”
 Arguably, that is precisely the point of the artist! 
(Cesare A.X. Syjuco’s solo exhibit “A Life of the Mind” is ongoing at Galleria Duemila, 210 Loring Street, Pasay City, Philippines.)
*Published in Manila Bulletin Lifestyle (Arts & Culture), March 26, 2012, p. E1-2

0001 The Philippine Star, Word, Mirror, Dragonfly, March 26, 2012

Word, mirror, dragonfly
ZOETROPE By Juaniyo Arcellana (The Philippine Star) March 26, 2012

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White light, white heat: Cesare Syjuco’s poems for walls at Galleria Duemila
The days of art criticism may soon be at an end when an art critic himself has turned to making art, which is the best and only form of criticism, come to think of it, in whatever language. And whatever else might be said of Cesare Syjuco, whose latest one-man show “A Life of the Mind,” poems for walls opened recently at Galleria Duemila in Loring Street, Pasay, he’s a grown man now and should be responsible for the words and concepts and found images he has deemed fit to exhibit.
In Cesare’s case, the word itself becomes art — which remains a family affair (his wife the sculptress and performance artist Jean Marie is curator — be it a barely decipherable progression of tankas etched on marine plywood that greets the gallery-goer left of entrance, to the almost cheesy rendition of “Snow White forever” scrawled on the restroom’s mirror, the scent of contraband hovering. There are falling ninjas too and what looks like a cat’s skeleton preserved in a glass case, entitled “Gazelle.” There are carved neon of white light in a succession of four words on canvas, best plugged in for maximum effect. Also a table of zeroes that tackles the exponents of zero the hero, nada pues nada. A corner of mirrored reflections, you have to see it to believe it at the risk of sounding redundant, and no ants in Antwerp. Small comfort is provided by the original cover design of the Philippine Studies issue published by Ateneo and edited by the late Alfrredo Navarro Salanga in the early ’80s, which gives new life to the cover of a telephone directory.

The exhibited poems on walls qualify perhaps more as art criticism than as poetry, then again I am only guessing. Maybe the poems are saying that most art coming out these days lacks context, much less a solid textual foundation or construct. The Structuralists and Post-Structuralists might have a bone to pick, as well they should, for Cesare’s conceptual approach can be a bit heavy, as opposed to heavy-handed. Cesare as poet was never a slouch to begin with, and as art critic his demeanor comes across more like that of a construction worker, as in workmanlike, however landed his origins. Still missing or left out for the nonce are works like “American Scarecrow” of the suspicious looking nuns on bus, and that poster poem hanging on MRT trains that is like an entry for a contest of a literary magazine.

You wander into Galleria Duemila at Loring and see and hear the bongo players evoking the ghost of the white hermit, blowing in with the sea breeze nearby strains of an old Joni Mitchell song: “I was driving across the burning desert/ When I spotted six jet planes/ Leaving six white vapor trails across the bleak terrain/ It was the hexagram of the heavens/ It was the strings of my guitar/ Amelia, it was just a false alarm.”

If art becomes criticism and here in these poems for walls do they meet, then art criticism may only be for the blind, who according to the Greeks are the ones who can truly see. Consider Teresias the blind seer, or even Oedipus who tears out his eyes when the truth of his origins blinds him.

So do Cesare’s words mirror a black truth, the death of art criticism as we know it due to falling ninjas imported from the old Pinaglabanan Gallery. He’s the last holdout of “Chromatext,” whose art is a concept by which he measures his words.