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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

MARTHA ATIENZA : 2009 ATENEO ART AWARDS SHORT-LISTED


MARTHA ATIENZA – “Man in Suit” at Green Papaya Art Projects

What we witness in Atienza’s video installations are visions culled from her Filipino side, more specifically, from memories revisited while growing up in Bantayan Island, Cebu. We know that she is half-Dutch, but this is not seen in the way we expect a ‘seeing’ to unfold. Rather, the precept of ‘stranger’ emanates as crevice between the operations of understanding and imagining.


Atienza concocts her observations into fictions framed by gallery devices. She does not spare herself from this presentation of anomalies. She features herself as beauty queen-cum-virgin mother, posing with the life-size santos that she grew up with. Then there is the video of girls grappling with the onslaught of soaring waves, in Western garbs of red and white, with skin and clothing ravaged by the sea. It reads like a Luna painting, but like her self-portraits, it is a suspended allegory. At the center of this is the video installation of men in suits— naka-Amerikana, as we are wont to say— displaced and discomforted by the performance of menial tasks. The suits are at hung like clothes in a closet, but a closer look reveals that they been padded, like there are still bodies wearing them. It is again a play on anomalies; apparently a social reading, but nonetheless verged on the exotic.

Tempting as it is to construe identity within the operation of the gaze, Atienza hardly gives us this power. She is still the employer of this gaze, even when the view is centered on her own image. It remains a curious sensation; to stand as voyeur to another person’s voyeurism. But arguably, Atienza’s work spells out the balance of exchange in this age of multimedia transactions.


Notes by Karen Ocampo Flores


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