A NEO-TROPICAL TAPESTRY
This series was done in a post-humous dialogue with controversial Balinese artist Murni for her retrospective "Merayakan Murni" in 2016, presented by Ketemu Projects at Sudakara Artspace, Bali . In my work with contemporary photography, I have moved beyond single images and treat the wall as a composition comprised of many parts that is not dictated by a style or “seriality” . It’s a hybrid of photographs combining some pieces I appropriated and reinterpreted from Murni’s artworks, some from tableaus I created for the camera in studio, some from my field trips and explorations around Bali as a wandering observer . I always worked in this way, with many shapes to configure the language in between the images . There is rhythm and play . This playfulness is something I echo from Murni, a brash, devil-may-care vibrance for authenticity of expression. Taksu .
I’m focusing on Fabric as an anchor to bind our shared threads and also the new strings of experiences. It’s a fascinating discovery to learn about Murni’s time in Sulawesi working in a garment factory . It makes sense her paintings have the vibrancy of those jarring colors which is very familiar to me coming from the Philippines, the very South-East Asian over-saturated color fields, brash pinks and eternal greens intensified by the hot hot sun . It’s a sensorial composition, each part independent but collectively makes a whole. A tapestry, a collage, undulating in and out of Fabrications and Reality . Like flitting in and out of my own hemmorhagic fever dream .
The auto-portrait “I Want To Live A Thousand More Years”(Self-Portrait After Dengue, with tropical plants and fake flowers)” which highlights the series is my precarious proposal for the “neo tropical” . Here I present a self-colonizing attempt at “exoticizing” my own Tropicality, an Asian/pan-Asian self. And also decoding my own experience after suffering a delibitating sickness—dengue fever—in Bali while making this series.
With my works for Merayakan Murni, I bring together to the contemporary a mishmash of the intimacies of botany, Bali and juxtapositions of the sensual, the ripe fecundity of Tropical, the heat, the sickening malaise and languor, not just for a nature that comes pre-empted by the holiday maker turn of thought, swaying palm trees in the sun, but by a wet sticky vaccine-induced, mystical low-fare airline paddy-field dreamscape. I’m now contrasting by fake flowers, the artifice. The Tropics is not the “Impenetrable forest” of a dark night jungle of Scientific Revolution anymore. It’s porous. We move the non-endemic, we cross-polinate, we enter and penetrate… everyone comes; all come and shift the land. Everyone is complicit to all upheld the idea of the Tropical Sublime .
—WN, Bali, MMXVI