No Shock in the Box
a review of Mideo M. Cruz's ongoing Blanc Gallery show titled Cyborg Republic
text by Jojo Soria de Veyra
photos by Simkin de Pio and de Veyra
video interview by diskurso.com
At the last minute, diskurso.com accepted the invitation of notorious artist Mideo Cruz to be present at the July 4 launch of his new show, titled Cyborg Republic, at the Blanc Gallery along Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City. Well, we found that the displayed pieces, new and old ones culled from one of his studio backlog, weren't in any way shocking. Nope. They were---how do we put it?---bewitching
"Can we see what's at the sidelines of our media-mediated focus?"
Balancing Act | found objects, industrial materials | 10 3/4 x 10 3/4 x 2 1/4 | 2015
Corporate Christ | found objects, industrial materials | 8 x 8 x 2 1/4 | 2011
Beast of Burden | found objects, industrial materials | 8 1/4 x 8 1/4 x 2 1/4 | 2011
Beauty Is in the Eye | found objects, industrial materials | 8 1/7 x 8 1/4 x 2 1/4 | 2014
HOW do we balance our proud Westernization/globalization with the unshakable reality of a recurring nationalist nostalgia in our Filipinohood? (Balancing Act). How do we see beyond the body to see the crucial intangible truth? (Corporate Christ). Can we see what's at the sidelines of our media-mediated focus? (Beast of Burden). Or how do we mock social platitudes upon beauty through beauty? (Beauty Is In the Eye). It seems no question cannot fit in the art of interrogatives Mideo Cruz has been presenting us with as a challenge to our global comfort as cyborg-ized citizens of our respective question-weary republics.
In his present show at Blanc Gallery unabashedly titled Cyborg Republic (July 4-25), Cruz gathers his Joseph Cornellian box-assemblage and bricolage pieces from five years of ruminating over toys qua sculptures. In compact and terse meditative compositions more sublime than his now-famous (or infamous) loud Poleteismo bricolage pieces shown on (and then taken down from) the walls of the Cultural Center of the Philippines during the controversial Kulo group exhibition of 2011, Cruz's little bento boxes seem now to dramatize his mocking examinations via the confines of the box square or rectangle with their ready walls acting as frames for thought displaying his frame of thought.
Detail from Cruz's now-famous (or infamous) bricolage from his Poleteismo installation at the 2011 Kulo group exhibition
True, there were subtleties even in his loud Poleteismo pieces, but these were defeated by the simplicity of a cyborg audience who have long been made to believe in the sanctity of institutional icons. The present show has less of the religious theme, so that Cruz's subtlety is highlighted. Consider This Is Our Show!, which subliminally represents a Godzilla monster (iconized inside a holy-looking glass case over a red-carpeted gilded base) who would later justify its economic imperialism with a Disney-esque happy ending that we will soon be made to embrace as vestige of our final liberation. The Messenger seems to echo this, depicting a Mickey in 19th-century navy clothes carrying a 20th-century M-16 automatic rifle.
This Is Our Show! | found objects, industrial materials | size variable | 2011
The Messenger | found objects, industrial materials | size variable | 2015
The Good Shepherd is perhaps Cruz's piece in the show that demonstrates well our will to debunk all impressions upon Cruz as a shock artist. The piece demythologizes the McDonald's media image, but through a not-so-fearsome refiguring of the McD mascot, which is, while discomforting, still charming. The disfiguring subtly results in a blurring of the figure's shepherdness morphing into a sheepness, as if to whisper that everyone who enters the conglomerate as a shepherd will himself become one meek, underpaid sheep during his shift.
The Good Shepherd | found objects, industrial materials | size variable | 2011
Still, despite the lightness of the sarcasm at the surface of all this toying with the toys, a sardonic depth cannot be discounted. More personal among these pieces, perhaps, is Untold Stories of Tyranny (an acronym for which would spell UST). A sort of middle finger hurled at his alma mater, UST depicts that alma mater's arc, with that alma mater's tiger mascot patrolling the borders of the box frame; the tiger's head is placed at the entrance or exit hole of the arc while the body of this patrolling tiger takes on the head of a pig. Then there's Triumph, a play on and re-contextualizing of the branding image for the lingerie manufacturer Triumph International with the red crown logo.
Untold Stories of Tyranny | found objects, industrial materials | 7 x 4 1/4 x 1 3/4 | 2014
Triumph | found objects, industrial materials | 8 x 8 x 2 1/2 | 2011
Finally, to debunk as well any assumption that Cruz's left-inspired anti-imperialism would be merely America- and Europe-directed, his signature visual mockery also treats of a communist Chinese threat in Free.
Free | found objects, industrial materials | 3 1/2 x 9 1/2 x 2 1/2 | 2013
Perhaps it's true that these box pieces are Cruz's humble attempts at shaping anthropological "relics of our discontent," as Katrina Stuart Santiago's superbly-written essay on the exhibit catalog puts it. But beyond the vestiges that Cruz adds to his portfolio, there is the latent spirit of Saramagoan allegory that forms his sort of "transgression and resistance."
In his own words, Cruz writes that through these boxed allegories he's aiming for those "human faculties" that would awaken his audience towards an engagement with hidden "traumatic transitions." Here, I believe, is his real "challenge to the habitual norms." Oh, sure, sure, occasionally he'd produce shock. But, after this show, we can rest assured by the knowledge that that is not his end goal. [ d ]
OUR VIDEO INTERVIEW WITH MIDEO CRUZ AT THE SHOW LAUNCH:
"Yun nga ang sinasabi ko---kaya sila nagagalit dahil nakikita nila ang sarili nila dun sa work, e."
Text © copyright 2015 by Jojo Soria de Veyra. Photos are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. All rights reserved.
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diskurso is an independent, Philippines-based online magazine on art aiming to veer away from a present mental landscape replete with the customary peacock and weasel words that continue to service the art industry.