Sunday, 22 April 2012

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

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

Photo is loading...
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.

No comments:

Post a Comment