As I promised last month when I posted a photo of the 2009 Ateneo Art Awards event, I visited the Ateneo Art Gallery where the short-listed pieces are on exhibit until September 19. There are three winners and these are what I will show in the next few days. Among the winners, two of the four art residencies were granted to one young artist, Jan Leeroy New (b. 1986), for his installation at the 2008 Singapore Biennale. Titled "Terratoma II: War of the Worlds," the large tumor-like growths and aliens were fastened onto the Singapore City Hall from September 11 to November 16, 2008. For the current exhibit, only one tumor and one alien were installed on an exterior corner of the Rizal Library, where the gallery is located, but it is still quite startling when one first notices it. And for those of you who, like me, are modern art-challenged, the gallery's notes on New's art installation is below. 2009 ATENEO ART AWARDS SERIES #1 OF 4
New's Terratoma was exactly that, jutting out like an organic growth on top of Singapore's City Hall during the 2008 Singapore Biennale. To some habitués of this bustling city state, the humongous fiberglass tumor was a stranger sight than the alien figures surrounding it, emanating it seems from the saucer-shaped dome of the building. A shared language is at work here, an unquestioned memory shaped by science fiction and extra-terrestrial fascinations.
Such a figuration of aliens serve an expected prototype, but to this artist, aliens are part of his exploration of hybrid forms where deities and supernatural beings from various cultures meld into curious creatures that nonetheless retain the iconic pose and placements of their origins. The stance paradoxically reconnects us with its intrinsic narratives, the world of myths made tangible and explored anew through accessible industrial-grade materials.
Subject to the play of Biennale tastes and motives, the installation emitted an appealing universality; but further on, the challenge of fastening the work on top of a state edifice takes on enduring themes of justice, heroism and struggle. Science and fiction is a paradoxical mix, but as New opines, this is part of the human exercise of explaining the unexplainable. It is a mythology that continues to contemporary times, just as there will always be constructs to attain the unattainable.