JOSE LUIS SINGSON
Suspension of Disbelief
Saturday, August 15, 2015, 6 pm
August 15 to September 11, 2015
1335MABINI proudly presents Jose Luis Singson in a solo exhibition titled “Suspension of Disbelief” from August 15 to September 11, 2015.
“One important way by which past gains in awareness may be consolidated and developed to higher levels is through a study of history. When there is an attempt to understand society not in terms of myths and theories but in terms of concrete experience and sufferings of the people, history acquires practical significance.”
– Renato Constantino, The Philippines: A Past Revisited
Singson works tangentially with the idea of looking at a reality that has been obscured by our scant knowledge of history. He documents and re-presents historical landmarks and monuments that are now either being abandoned or demolished, and uses these to reflect on why Filipinos have grown accustomed to experiencing reality with a high degree of detachment.
The title of the exhibition “suspension of disbelief” is a phrase originally coined by 19th c. English poet and critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge that describes one’s attitude towards fictional narratives: the reader suspends his/her judgment and critical faculty in order to enjoy a staged reality.
With the artist’s choice of imagery brought about by an enduring fascination of ruins, the exhibition opens up an avenue that leads to a re-contextualization of an artefact to conjure an “intermediate moment” in which past, present, and future collapse.iThe work Railroad, a painting of the facade of the old Paco railway station in Manila can be read as a revival of the still life, a marker of an era that has passed,an objective representation that fuses aesthetics, economics, and ethics in a visualization of property.iiIt is allegorical, similar to the practice of artists like Robert Smithson (b. 1938), who in his Monument of Passaic New Jersey (1967) presented an essay alongside photographs of various industrial relics, tackling the concept of entropyiii; his works made manifest the definition of the said term as the flow of energy getting dispersed in nature from the orderly to the disorderly over time.ivThis same idea is found in the sculptural piece Axis of Contention and the installation work Seamless Incongruence, in which Singson manipulates the physical aspect of a material seen in construction sites, ascribing in it an element of contradiction to comment on an aspect of Filipino culture: the familiarly callous and maladjusted human in a consumerist society.
As present ways of thinking have marginalized the importance of studying history, Singson’s approach initiates a discussion that introduces the idea of the public amateur: “…the artist as someone who learns in public, putting the production of knowledge itself up for scrutiny.”v Hence, with the idea of an obscure and misplaced artefact, the artist places familiar imagery, in the manner of depiction, into the realm of inquiry. With points of reference that include structures our colonizers have built and used, these abandoned landmarks have made some people subscribe to a ‘romanticist’ manner of looking at them through hopes of preservation and revival.
In contrast, the exhibition aims towards a sense of re-building with no need for a new monument. Painting and sculpture are now bound to be experienced only for symbolic purposes. With modern society being subjected to countless visual and tactile stimuli combined with the influx of data today, people will, from now on, refuse to remember. As Robert Smithson remarked, “Instead of causing us to remember the past like the old monuments, the new monuments seem to cause us to forget the future…They are not built for the ages, but rather against the ages. They are involved in a systematic reduction of time down to fractions of seconds, rather than in representing the long spaces of centuries. Both past and future are placed into an objective present. This kind of time has little or no space; it is stationary and without movement, it is going nowhere, it is anti-Newtonian, as well as being instant, and is against the wheels of the time-clock.”vi