As The Plot Thickens

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Valentina In The Sweetest And Prettiest Acid Wash Color, 2009 Acrylic On Paper © Courtesy of the artist & Manila Contemporary
As The Plot Thickens

2314 Pasong Tamo Extension
Makati City
Metro Manila
November 7th, 2009 - November 29th, 2009
Opening: November 7th, 2009 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

+63 2 8447328
Monday to Friday 11am -7pm and Saturday 12nn- 5pm


Like a campfire gathering, As the plot thickens is an assorted congregation of raconteurs naturally accustomed to looking through particular peepholes and kaleidoscopes to disclose worlds as they know them. As much as they are first and foremost observers, they attain the title of “story-teller” in the mastery of their narrative devices. From the theme of episodic narratives, As the plot thickens also broadens to other forms of story-telling.


RM De Leon, for instance, employs his own 'episodic' version by having his works from “Fact is stranger than fiction” in the fashion of self-contained incidents. Connected by central characters – comic icons and animals – De Leon's frames speak of, in the artist's terms, “the sweetly acidic nature of Abstraction,” thus the suffix-phrase of 'the sweetest and prettiest acid wash color.' The device of De Leon is to freeze the plot at the climax as with the not-so-human characters (Darna, Dysebel and Valentina) who are caught in the height of action. On the other hand, the cats and dogs held entranced like a cocked gun with an empty barrel point to the peak of which is the bewilderment, utter fascination in the explosion of unfathomable non-representation. “Fact is stranger than fiction” is a poke at Abstraction – that it is ambiguous and therefore fictional, to a point that characters in concrete, particularly peculiar portrayal are considered real and therefore 'stranger.'


From an attention to a specific element of a plot, the exhibition also moves around conventional story-telling devices. One series that follows the Aristotlean mythos would be of “Hilangnya Impian Kang Barjo (Kang Barjo's Vanished Dreams)” by Surya Wirawan, a printmaker from Yogyakarta. Following the simple device of particular characters acting in ways to demonstrate dispositional qualities, the series speaks of an encounter between a middle-class academician and a pedicab driver in urban Indonesia. In the midst of the looming campaign and National Independence Day, the working class woes of Kang Barjo are revealed to the narrator who consquently seeks a way for Kang Barjo's voice to be literally heard. “Hilangnya Impian Kang Barjo” is a series of five etchings that are composed of the events of the story along with the text that accompanies each scene.


Not entirely following the simple plot line of exposition to resolution as much as Surya Wirawan's work, the narrative of Brenda Fajardo's series act are denouements composed of individual frames of denouements. Known to comprise the events after the climax and the falling action, denouement in a way becomes the point when the tale is almost precise, sans the complexities that happened along the storyline. “Serye ng Sangandaan”, a work from 2003 is a reflection of American-Filipino relations. This series is a reference to American comics, satirical in a way that Fajardo places Filipino historical figures as protagonists and Uncle Sam as an obvious nuisance. Each canvas comprises particular narratives of the Filipino's struggle with the legacies of the American Empire and held together by an alibata banner - they become a powerful account of the continuous, ongoing search for Filipino identity and consciousness in the midst of American colonization. Likewise, the discourse of nationhood and identity is prominent in her gold series “Gintong Serye.” Made for the 200o Asialink Cultural Collaboration exhibition, Fajardo traces the gold history in the Philippines – from the actual resource to the golden principles/quality inherent in Filipino as manifested in the natives and the People Power Revolution and finally to commitment of a golden society.

Jenifer Wofford's “MacArthur Nurses” series likewise carries this element of identity as with Brenda Fajardo's. Her point of reference is the World War II Douglas MacArthur's iconic beach arrival scene in Leyte. MacArthur was a general in the Commonwealth era who was brought to the Philippines as a military adviser. In the artist's words, “at once an image of heroism and return, but also an image of conquest and falsehood (since the photos were staged, and re-staged, several times to get the right dramatic effect). It just seemed to beg to be deconstructed.” From there she reconstructed the scene and replaced the original characters into nurses to narrate the phenomenon of “Filipina nurses, emerging through the surf, conquering some new land, or perhaps just returning to their homes after many years away.” With the “MacArthur Nurses,” Wofford concentrates on the element of the rising action and rids her narrative of a climax, placing them in tableau. Her propensity for such mot juste is in the simplicity of the setting – the nebulous, 'in limbo' feel of her background. Almost having the nurses at just that point of 'as the plot thickens...” Unresolved, nowhere to have gone from and no final destination.

As the plot thickens is an exhibition of tales that are fictions and documentations, varied in the way of devices and media. It points to what makes a story something to be re-told and reconstructed: is it because of their lack of resolution, an attention to a certain scene or the remade versions of the actual plot?