Humanity Beyond the Ruin

Notes for Alee Garibay’s De{relic}t which ran at Art Cube in Glorietta 4, from November 8-23, 2014

clockwise from left, Lutang, Salamin, and Window
clockwise from left, Lutang, Salamin, and Window, 2014, oil on canvas

To speak of the current period is to idealize the rapid growth of the media landscape, where information is confused with “empowerment” and the network proudly proclaims itself as a site of “participation”. For a generation so bombarded with words and pictures, information is paradoxically given little to no weight. Relieved of responsibility, its bearers scroll through feeds and move on, leaving a trail of hearts and “Likes”. It should be no wonder that the term “scroll” has shifted from object to action, and while the unraveling of information in the process of “scrolling” has not been lost, it has become easier to hide the contents.

It is from this immaterial reality that Alee Garibay draws the preliminary sketches for De(relic)t, her “attempt to look for purpose in the immaterial and the intuitive”. In this series, the concept of a “relic” expands into questions of presence and potential, from which the young painter creates images that she describes as “somewhat melancholy, even bleak”. This bleakness is most evident in Erasure and Silence, which illustrate the consequences of a false democracy, where presence and an audible voice are ironically compromised by the vastness of the infosphere.

At 25, Garibay is part of a generation of digital natives, inhabitants of a placeless space where identity is a digital record and existence needs to be confirmed with a status update. The ghostly figures of Salamin and Window point not only to the screens that allow one to peer into this infosphere, but the paradox of an age that puts a wealth of data at our fingertips even if we cannot actually touch information. What is left is a culture of instant gratification and digitized identities which have irreversibly changed how future generations will define value and the very nature of existence.

To “touch”, to “tap”, and to “trace”: these are everyday actions, done out of habit and intuition, that need to be qualified in the weightless world of “the cloud”. In this context of tapping and tracing, the element of text takes added meaning in Salamin, Panaginip, and Lutang. While these feathery brushstrokes and softly colored scribbles have figured in some of Garibay’s past paintings, this time they come across as words stripped of weight, signifying their subjects without committing to definitions.

While many of the works in De(relic)t are figurative, they straddle the qualities of abstraction by referring to an algorithmic reality. This is most evident in the juxtaposition between Lutang—a rendition of the studio Garibay shares with her father—and Path. While Lutang shows an actual place, the hazy quality and the text floating over it give the viewer a sensation of looking in through glass. This concept of a screened reality is taken to the level of abstraction with Path: a word used to track one’s escape from here to there that is redefined by digital technology as a tool for illustration and rendering.

Through Path, Garibay shows that this weightless world is also a place of potential and possibility by acknowledging its magical qualities. The works in De(relic)t cohere in their transparency, softness, and iridescence, setting an optimistic tone for an otherwise bleak reality of dereliction and devaluation. This is most evident in Fragile, which portrays a harmonious balance between sensitivity and wholeness. The kiss in this case is not only a metaphor for coexistence and cooperation, but for the traces that remain even in the most desperate conditions – the humanity that exceeds the ruin.

Rather than resort to melancholia, De(relic)t shows emptiness and immateriality as necessary components for constituting positive energy, working towards the hope of creating a space that lies beyond.

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