TUESDAY, 17 APRIL 2012 18:54 TITO GENOVA VALIENTE
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"