“The Extra Extra Ordinary” exhibition at MCAD, Manila brings together pieces by Chou Yu-Cheng, Tromarama and Gary-Ross Pastrana.

This group show underscores how differently artists from Asia take in and explicate the day-to-day.

“The Extra Extra Ordinary”, 2018, featuring artists Tromarama, Chou Yu-Cheng and Gary-Ross Pastrana at MCAD, Manila. Image courtesy Javelyn Ramos.

“The Extra Extra Ordinary”, 2018, installation view at MCAD, Manila. Image courtesy Javelyn Ramos.

When the word “extra” is doubled and made to be the title of an exhibition, chances are visitors will think of it as an exaggeration or an uncreative way of labelling the collection being shown. In the case of the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (MCAD)’s current show, which features Taiwanese artist Chou Yu-Cheng, Indonesian art collective Tromarama and Filipino artist Gary-Ross Pastrana, the “extra extra” in its title “The Extra Extra Ordinary” is only fitting, as what it really does is put together the ordinary. More specifically, it puts together materials, issues and practices that are commonly found in a contemporary art exhibition.

Among these is the mounting of gradient paintings on plain walls, the transferring of things often seen in an urban landscape into a white cube, the bringing attention to practices and processes that are overlooked, the hoarding and arranging of a particular household accent and the usage of current technology.

Tromarama, ‘Soliloquy’ (detail), 2018, installation, lamps, software, social media, #kinship, dimensions variable. Image courtesy of MCAD.

Tromarama, ‘Soliloquy’ (detail), 2018, installation, lamps, software, social media, dimensions variable. Image courtesy MCAD.

If everything seems so typical, what makes “The Extra Extra Ordinary” worth one’s visit then? Basically, it has to do with fact that the pieces in the show have more to express than what is seen by the naked eye. For instance, the eye-catching collection of decorative lamps by Tromarama found towards the end of the ground floor gallery are not simply behaving like Christmas lights. Their random lighting indicates that someone has published a Tweet with any of these hashtags: #24hours, #being, #others. Meanwhile their absence of light means that they have reached the end of one Tweet. Given that there is no prolonged absence of glimmering lights, this work, which is entitled Soliloquy (2018), reflects man’s non-stop active engagement with social media, regardless of whether someone replies to the content he published or not.

Museum visitors surrounding Tromaroma, '24 Hours Being Others', three printers, paper, software, social media, #24hours, #being, #others, dimensions variable. Image courtesy Javelyn Ramos.

Tromaroma, ’24 Hours Being Others’, 2017, three printers, paper, software, social media, dimensions variable. Image courtesy Javelyn Ramos.

Also employing Twitter is 24 Hours Being Others (2017), another piece by the Indonesian art collective. Composed of office printers and this time triggered by the hashtags #24hours, #being and #others, this work proves that most of the content that is published is insubstantial, and this just goes unnoticed due to the way it is presented (the Tweets are formatted as if these were poetry) or due to the amount that is produced (the printers just keep spitting out papers, creating a pile of papers on the gallery floor).

Speaking of things unnoticed, Gary-Ross Pastrana‘s three-channel projection reveals the meticulous process behind piano-making and the nature of termites. Pastrana’s work reveals how somehow one’s product of hardwork can easily be destroyed not just by termite infestation, but also by people’s lack of appreciation for it. These days, children taking up piano lessons are becoming lesser and lesser. What is to happen to the art of piano-making then?

Gary-Ross Pastrana, 'Rewilding' (video still), 2018, three-channel projection, 8m:40s, dimensions variable. Image courtesy Javelyn Ramos.

Gary-Ross Pastrana, ‘Rewilding’ (video still), 2018, three-channel projection, 8m:40s, dimensions variable. Image courtesy Javelyn Ramos.

What is interesting about Pastrana’s Rewilding is how it is able to mirror art-making. Aside from it being a slow process, the end product is never set in stone; moreover, the creation and consumption of an artwork is not a step-by-step affair. The clips in this piece were shot randomly, then rearranged. Further, despite the rearranging, audiences can consume the channels in any order and still make sense out of these.

How the mind makes sense of images is another matter that “The Extra Extra Ordinary” touches. In Tromarama’s Quandary, we automatically see a narrative being formed by two channels when really the footage projected by the two are independent of each other. The act of immediately dismissing images close to each other as connected is somehow innate. The mind is so used to linking nearby images that it somehow fails to consider that these can be viewed separately.

Chou Yu-Cheng, 'Chemical Gilding, Keep Calm, Galvanize, Pray, Gradient, Ashes, Manifestation, Unequal Dissatisfaction, Capitalise, Incense Burner, Survival, Agitation, Hit Day, Day Light. V', mixed media installation, painting, dimensions variable. Image courtesy Javelyn Ramos.

Chou Yu-Cheng, ‘Chemical Gilding, Keep Calm, Galvanize, Pray, Gradient, Ashes, Manifestation, Unequal Dissatisfaction, Capitalise, Incense Burner, Survival, Agitation, Hit Day, Day Light. V’, mixed media installation, painting, dimensions variable. Image courtesy Javelyn Ramos.

Immediately greeting visitors of this exhibition is Chemical Gilding, Keep Calm, Galvanize, Pray, Gradient, Ashes, Manifestation, Unequal Dissatisfaction, Capitalise, Incense Burner, Survival, Agitation, Hit Day, Day Light. V by Taiwanese artist Chou Yu-Cheng (b. 1976). Made up of galvanised sheets that are hung like chimes, spick-and-span gradient paintings and tires carrying loose change, this installation reminds us that art can take different forms, and that the purpose of an object and man’s relationship with it changes. The galvanised sheets, which often signify cheap housing, for instance, have been turned into an expensive piece of art. Meanwhile, the coin-filled tires, when transported from one corner of the gallery to another, transforms from a vehicle part and a piece of art to a plaything or an object of nuisance.

Gary-Ross Pastrana, 'Rewilding' (video still), 2018, three-channel projection, 8m:40s, dimensions variable. Image courtesy Javelyn Ramos.

Gary-Ross Pastrana, ‘Rewilding’ (video still), 2018, three-channel projection, 8m:40s, dimensions variable. Image courtesy Javelyn Ramos.

Looking at the many elements of Chou’s piece, viewers wonder if they ought to build connections among the objects or avoid this as not to fall into the trap put forward by Tromarama’s piece Quandary.

All in all, this exhibition curated by Joselina Cruz and Esther Lu at MCAD is a breath of fresh air. Despite showing familiar imagery and themes, the pieces in “The Extra Extra Ordinary” bring forward unexpected elements, providing a better understanding of who we are and our relationship with our surroundings.

Javelyn Ramos

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“The Extra Extra Ordinary” is on view from 20 September to 18 November 2018 at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design, Ground Floor, Benilde School of Design and Arts Campus, Dominga Street, Malate, Manila, Philippines. The exhibition is co-presented by the Taipei Contemporary Art Center and supported by the Edouard Malingue Gallery and the National Culture and Arts Foundation.

Related topics: Filipino artists, Taiwanese artists, Indonesian artists, installation, museum shows, events in Manila

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Brittney

By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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