Charles Buenconsejo at ArtInformal
Opening on 21 April 2016
The images in this series were taken with a small camera, much in the way that everyday life in the 21st century is documented with the smallest of cameras – a literal pinhole into the everything and nothing of the most mundane existence. The lie here—or the contradiction—is to call these documents part of a series.
What Charles Buenconsejo presents instead is a tidal wave of images, or rather an attempt at making sense of the deluge captured through this bizarre (and ongoing) experiment with self-surveillance.
“The pool is a system of movement….”, wrote David Foster Wallace in “Forever Overhead”, a short story in which he narrates (what might be) the internal monologue, running through a young boy’s head. The setting is a public pool in the middle of summer. It is his birthday and he has just turned 13. He is climbing the ladder towards the diving board, steeling himself to submit his body to gravity and make the jump. And yet, in the eleven pages that Foster Wallace uses for the story to unfold, nothing actually happens–at least nothing noteworthy, nothing epic, in the grand tradition of American letters: a boy, accompanied by his family, celebrates his birthday at a public swimming pool. We are told “The pool has a strong clear blue smell.” The ladder is slender. Its rungs are “very thin”. And the water “is only soft when you’re inside it.”
While Buenconsejo rarely raises the subjects of fiction as examples in his work, fiction provides an interesting channel for unpacking the artist’s fascination with the paradox, or the inherent contradictions of merely existing in the information age. Bearing a range of references that runs from Plato to John Berger to Alan Watts, it is all too easy to dismiss Buenconsejo as an artist trapped in and victimized by his own mind—and his attention span. In every solo exhibition, from 2012’s Reality is a Hologram to last year’s Relative Nothing at the Ateneo Art Gallery, the artist presents an exhaustive (and occasionally exhausting) inquiry into a singular metaphysical concept – whether it’s time or light or repetition.
By carefully considering the medium and method of creating his work, Buenconsejo has moved past photography and video and into the more arbitrary categories of mixed, inter, or new media. An example of this would be the video and object installation, Life, Death, and Rebirth, and Just Like A Sea of Mirrors (currently on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Manila as part of The Philippine Contemporary: To Scale the Past and Possible, curated by Patrick Flores and Tessa Maria Guazon). This suite, consisting of two screens and one mound of broken ceramic and glass, swept into a neat circle approximately 2 feet wide, breaks down the process of the work’s creation: showing the actual rooftop where Buenconsejo tossed a shopping spree’s worth of brightly-colored crockery onto the cement floor; followed by what might be the same situation, this time with the scene of the crime washed out and filled in with bright white nothingness; down to the objects that may (or may not) have been compromised in the stylized wreckage.
Asking what it means when life, death, and rebirth move in a single cycle, he magnifies and fragments that moment when an everyday object hits the ground and becomes something else. And while the two videos arguably function as both documentary and data, it is the object itself–voided of its intended use–that points to both the absurdity of “intended use” in a universe where we are all dust. There is also the futility of treating an object with so much care, ascribing so much ritual, in a world where the fragmented and the whole refer to the same thing.