The landscape of contemporary art is clotted with nuanced and often disregarded contradictions. It serves as the custodian for ideas and visual language of the times, yet it is at the same time politically driven by the intentions of those inside its circle. Arguably, as its primary producer, the artist precariously stands at its center.
“Marathon,” Lyra Garcellano’s latest exhibition at Finale Art File, is a pointed but truthful exposé of the various negotiations and compromises enacted by the artist in order to progress in the field. Labels such as “Philippine contemporary artist” or “Southeast Asian Artist” are capriciously applied to anchor one’s standing. There is, perhaps, the desire to be memorialized as a national artist, to have one’s works included in an international exhibition; to achieve “glory” as dictated by a complex system controlled by the powerful few. “Marathon” is a candid admittance of how Garcellano participates in this system. To serve as a bookend for her series of exhibitions, which include “Double Consciousness” and “Dear Artist,” tackling the theme of referencing her footing in the field, the artist not only puts herself in the mirror, but also challenges her peers. This self-reflexivity allows her the perspective of an art-world insider, but it’s a double edged sword: does she have the distance required for pure objectivity in critique? The test of true criticality is measured in its commitment to the search for the middle ground. “Marathon” is a continuation of that conversation. Through wit and play, her satirical commentary addresses issues that are easier concealed and forgotten. August 4 to 29, Warehouse 17, La Fuerza Compound, 2241 Chino Roces Avenue, Makati; 810-4071; finaleartfile.com.