I am interested in the interpretation of words and images and the many ways we as humans misunderstand one another. Because we communicate with many languages —textual, visual, physical— my practice is also text-, material- and performance-based.My works are semiotic experiments in identity-making, often deconstructing colonial language. In the video installation “you really are quite something” (2019), I portray both sides of the “mestiza” identity. This Spanish word describes my ethnicity as half-White, half-Brown, a descendent of the Filipino diaspora. A word of many dualities, “mestiza,” is complicated: interpreted both as a pragmatic identity and a leftover of colonial violence. In a series of self-portraits, “Pilipinx Mestizx” (2019), I play on the 19th-century trope of photographing the ‘exotic’ mestiza with her mix of both Spanish and indigenous blood. These images were captured by primarily European photographers for the consumption of European viewers. A recent text-based project, “Samgrunnelse” (2021), is an experiment in language-making by urbanist Tina Lam and me and initiated by ROM for kunst og arkitektur. Through a series of exercises over six weeks, we invited practitioners of different expertise, mother tongues, and backgrounds to deconstruct problematic words and produce a dictionary of more inclusive and Norway-relevant terms. The dictionary was printed as a series of postcards and mailed to chosen individuals and institutions.
In a parallel approach to language deconstruction, I distort recognizable codes in an attempt at shifting their meanings. In a central work to my current practice, “Void if Altered” (2020), I depict and distort records of an official identity: a passport photo and a birth certificate. In this series of lightbox photographs, spaces are forced into the flat surface of the papers, creating bendable proof of a person. A piece of paper and a thin layer of ink is what authenticates our sex on a birth record and our biometric portraits. Yet, this is easily invalidated of intended meaning at the presence of a scratch, a misprint, or a stain. I see the material possibilities of this “invalidation” as a liberation: an opportunity to transcend binary categories and to reveal something truer about ourselves than just our identities.
In material terms, I blur and bend and smudge at the edges of things to remember that understanding is movable. At this time of misinformation and distrust, I see this as a vitally important function of art.
tekst, maleri, foto-video