Common Oddities Silverlens
Subject/Object, MM Yu’s latest solo exhibition of new photography-based works at Mag:net Gallery Katipunan, embarks on an experiment where the photograph embodies both the intentional and accidental, the found and the perceived.
In the show, Yu shares over a hundred photographs of random scapes and objects, shot in spaces inhabited by her contemporaries from the Philippine art scene: areas where the artistic and utilitarian, personal and professional, merge and create an interface.
Out of these visual investigations, Yu produces photographs of accidental sculptures or still lifes, perceiving uniqueness in the nondescript, intention in the incidental. Yu limits her interventions in the compositions to framing; she chances upon the scenes as they are in artist’s studios and homes, documenting what she sees at random, selecting frames based on visual impact and interest. She engages in a form of documentation that privileges intuition, aesthetics, and randomness.
Yu also includes in the show several actual objects, their ambiguous presence perhaps alluding to how subjects simultaneously become objects on display, and demonstrating the process of borrowing as a means of documenting presence.
Yu’s photographs also seamlessly pose the question of how the boundaries between art and “non-art” may not be so delineated after all. The artists implicitly represented in Yu’s photographs are noted for their diverse contributions to the advancement of Philippine contemporary art, yet none of their names are literally denoted or alluded to in the carefully composed and vivid images of spontaneous and generally anonymous settings, except for a few context clues related to their works. Yu intentionally puts less focus on artworks that hang on the gallery walls and focuses her lens on objects and spaces related to processes or activities prior to exhibitions or the production of actual works: desks, rooms, tables, exercise balls, tools, raw paint, the work wrapped up or in a state of completion.
In choosing inhabited spaces, personal effects, and artworks as subject of her photographs, Yu casts a new aspect to the act of documenting contemporary art practice.
In Standstill, MM Yu continues her incursion into photographs as visual traces of the past. In a collection which recalls her winning show Thoughts Collected, Recollected, Yu presents vivid and expectant photographs which act as significant pauses in time’s passage. The works, simultaneously documentary and fragmentary and taken by Yu at various places and in different periods of time, are jarring for their startling crispness and striking imagery that are juxtaposed with the vagueness of particular events each photograph alludes to. Nearly devoid of actual humans but rife with signs of human presence, the pictures quietly evidence the incidence of time in the overused, the disposed, the accumulated and the forgotten—normal visual occurrences in the hubbub of everyday life which can be, as Yu clearly sees, potentially poignant as well.
These random snippets of time enjoin the viewer to contemplative action and the absorption of the momentary. Acting like serene interludes to the mundane, these photographs surmise the plausible and are ultimately invitations to the latent possibilities held within the tranquil act of standing still.