Every Tool Is A Weapon If You Hold It Right is Pio Abad’s first solo presentation in Manila. Using the silk scarf as a template, Abad produces a fabric that turns into a luxurious page, the site of a contemporary vanitas.
To understand even the structure from which Abad works, it is instructive to look at WG Sebald’s Austerlitz, most specially those passages that relate to time spent staring at objects found behind a glass display case, and from there imagining individual stories, and questioning each object about its history. Here, Abad shares with Austerlitz this curiosity about the life of objects, what they represent, or better yet, what they are about. However, here is where Abad parts ways with Sebald’s protagonist. Abad sets out to produce art objects based on other objects with knowledge of their accumulated histories.
Abad’s scarves each one entitled Every Tool Is A Weapon If You Hold It Right carry representations of his collected artifacts, documents, even photographs. This archive of images and objects cut across his stories and sources. While reading the Sunday Times he comes across photographs of objects retrieved from bodies that form part of the International Missing Persons Archive laid out in forensic formats. At the conservation laboratory at the National Museum of the Philippines, he finds the modes of classification disintegrate as Imelda Marcos’s shoes lie next to ivory tusks and ceramic shards discovered from a sunken Spanish galleon. A collection of seashells from home and flotsam salvaged from the shores of a beach in Batanes. The objects and their stories make their way onto the silk canvas, drawn and re-drawn. Told once, then re-told differently. As Susan Buck-Morss writes about Walter Benjamin’s obsession with extracting and collecting forgotten texts as reading their history, Abad’s inventory is the list from which he distills the form from objects.
Pio Abad (b. 1983) grew up in Manila and is now living and working in London. He began his art studies at the University of the Philippines before receiving a BA from Glasgow School of Art and an MA from the Royal Academy Schools, London. He has had solo exhibitions at the Zabludowicz Collection, London, PLAZAPLAZA, London and the Duchy Gallery as part of the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art. He recently took part in group exhibitions at the Mackintosh Museum, Glasgow; Osage Gallery, Hong Kong; 68 Square Metres, Copenhagen; Green Papaya Art Projects, Manila and Whitechapel Gallery, London. In 2014, he will take part in Pre-pop to Post-human: Collage in the Digital Age, a touring exhibition organized by the Hayward Gallery, and have solo presentations at Vargas Museum, Manila and Gasworks, London.