Identity Crisis

Saturday, August 15, 2015, 6 pm

August 15 to September 11, 2015


1335MABINI proudly presents Dexter Sy in a solo exhibition titled “Identity Crisis” from the 15th of August until the 11th of September 2015.

One thinks of identity whenever one is not sure of where one belongs; that is, one is not sure how to place oneself among the evident variety of behavioural styles and patterns, and how to make sure that people around would accept this placement as right and proper, so that both sides would know how to go on in each other's presence. “Identity” is a name given to the escape sought from that uncertainty. Hence “identity”, though ostensibly a noun, behaves like a verb, albeit a strange one to be sure: it appears only in the future tense. Though all too often hypostasized as an attribute of a material entity, identity has the ontological status of a project and a postulate. To say “postulated identity” is to say one word too many, as neither there is nor can there be any other identity but a postulated one. Identity is a critical projection of what is demanded and/or sought upon what is; or, more exactly still, an oblique assertion of the inadequacy or incompleteness of the latteri. –Zygmunt Baumann, critical and social theorist

With his trademark ornate aesthetic, Dexter Sy continues to articulate the flux of identity in cross-cultural milieu. Being Filipino and Chinese in lineage, Sy effortlessly illustrates the apparent yet accepted dysfunction arising from a diverse heritage in satirical fashion. His witty critique has been amplified further by his decision to meld imagery at an early stage of his career with his more current choice of human representations. The juxtaposition and overlay of courteously-drawn provocative iconography with domestic portraits, intensified by the use of vibrant hues, comically emphasizes the incongruity of clinging to static notions of identity in the 21st century.

According to Baumann, the conception and perpetuation of identity was exceedingly characteristic of modern society – having a need for order… to categorize, and rationalize the world so that it would be controllable, predictable, and understandableii. However, modernity also facilitated change in previously established socio-cultural and economic norms. This capacity grew exponentially, and became inversely-proportional to the determination of a “distinct and unwavering” identity, paving the way for postmodern thought. The development led Baumann to coin the alternative term “liquid modernity” to better describe the condition of constant mobility and change [seen] in relationships, identities, and global economics.iii

This fundamental shift is discerningly articulated by Dexter Sy in his installation work titled “DNA.” Braiding together numerous “Good Morning” hand towels and textiles patterned with Filipino indigenous motifs, Sy perfectly conveys the transmutation of present-day civilization. Constructing a durable identity that coheres over time and space becomes increasingly impossibleiv, and to unravel the composite fabric of contemporary society for the purpose of “authenticating” identity is pointless at best.


i From Pilgrim to Tourist - or a Short History of Identity. Bauman, Zygmunt. p.1


iii ibid.

iv ibid.