ENJOY DIVISION: Projectiles
13 October – 03 November 2011
3F North and South Wing Galleries
The Kitchen Sink
This exhibition was initially hosted late last August by Light & Space Contemporary, an artist-run space. Two days after the exhibition opening, the gallery, in an exercise of managerial fiat, banned the show’s curatorial essay and took it down without prior consultation or discussion. This lack of consultation prompted the publication of the essay online accompanied by a call for dialogue. When asked for an explanation by the exhibiting group, the gallery responded to the group in private and cited its right to remove any material that they deemed harmful (nakakasira) to the gallery and persons associated with it. The question of why and how the said essay warranted such a response was never sufficiently answered. Upon being told that the essay was integral to framing the exhibition’s critical stance, the management responded only by saying that if that was the case, the show itself was “lame.” With this, the artists collectively decided to pull the exhibition out of the gallery.
Apparently unsettled by the position they found themselves in, and facing inquiry from the artistic community, the management failed to produce any coherent defense of their actions. What ensued instead was a confused mix of profanity, attempts to defame (calling us anarchists, thieves, vandals) and discredit (accusing us of groupthink), red baiting (calling us communists), and threats of violence, all while invoking the gentrified auspice of “maximum respect.” It was also suggested that we find another gallery to ‘play with.’ We did.
The exhibit was initially conceived as an opposition to the self-serving distortions foisted upon the Philippine art scene by persons such as Malaysian curator Adeline Ooi whose statements in a local daily sought to promote a particular group of artists by smugly denigrating another. As such, the exhibit sought to present the possibility of critical exchanges between different approaches and modalities of practice while espousing a broader examination of the interpenetrating influences that inform Philippine contemporary art.
Since then, the actions of the gallery management have exposed their cooland pluralist pose of tolerance as part of that old courtly sham that allows artists and audiences to elide debate and criticism in their exchanges. Pending a concrete basis for rejecting the exhibition’s critical stance, we cannot but surmise that by their actions they sought to protect their interests as a commercial space at the cost of fostering criticality. While this may be expected of highly commercial galleries and showrooms, this puts paid to any pretense of Light & Space Contemporary being an ‘alternative’ space. Such a mix of censorship and thuggery, masked by an appeal to “maximum respect,” contributes to an anti-intellectual climate that stifles discourse and critical exchange. This cannot be abided. Criticism, as an intervention in the ways with which we see, think, and act upon the world, as the evaluative mirror and discursive hammer that shapes thought and guides action, is indispensible to social practices such as art production.Put simply, those who suppress criticism and discourse outright have no business running a gallery, and cannot but renounce any claim to art.
In remounting this exhibit, we do not merely wish to recoup lost exhibition time. We wish to stress the importance of a vigilant engagement with art practices, be it in terms of producing objects, performances, or texts, or in the varied relationships and interactions that constitute the field of art. It is with this vigilance as well as the possibility of discourse and criticism upon which it is founded that we are able to render the field of art legible and cogent, give it conceptual shape and gravity, and make matter out of so much light and space.
-Antares Gomez Bartolome