Igan D’Bayan’s ‘Dioramas of Doom’: They’re nothing like the friendly ones from your childhood

Wherever there is a box, we’d like to see what’s in it. It’s human nature to want to know what’s hidden, as much as it is to want to press a red button with a giant sign that reads, “Don’t even think about it.”

In Igan D’Bayan’s upcoming toy and artwork exhibit, “Dioramas of Doom,” he plays with these inclinations and creates three-dimensional stories of what might actually be in them. Consistent with D’Bayan’s anti-aesthetic aesthetic, these dioramas are not your typical portraits of history told through miniatures, cellophane waterfalls and cotton clouds. You might find a headless horse inside a pristine white box — which might actually be the most tender of the lot.

"The Problems of Philosophy 1" by Igan D'Bayan
“The Problems of Philosophy 1” by Igan D’Bayan

In the following interview, the artist tells us what his dioramas and toys are all about.

GIST: What is “Dioramas of Doom” about?

IGAN D’BAYAN: The first exhibition that I ever saw was the Philippine history diorama display at the Ayala Museum. It was during a school field trip and my classmates were looking forward to the visit to an ice cream factory. I salivated over how you could use toys and dolls (well, to me at that time) in communicating a narrative — a nation’s origin story, history and alternate histories, etc. The Twin Popsies wasn’t the highlight of the day. With the “Dioramas of Doom” show at Secret Fresh, I wanted to make my own versions of galleons and garrotes.

What makes dioramas, boxes an interesting medium for you?

It’s an entire world altogether. No rules apply. You get a box, purchase clay and hardener from Deovir, scour Toy Kingdom for medieval action figures and catapults (yes, found them in the bargain bins), and have some fun by writing these weird stories about “goats in a toilet shitting gold” or some “fascist bunny spewing filth about the New Order.”

You’ve created dioramas on Frida Kahlo, Edgar Allan Poe, Pink Floyd… is this exhibit an extension of these previous creations or is it an entirely different concept?

With those old dioramas, I was really faithful to the ouvres of, say, Poe or Murakami. Every item was related to either book or biography. But with these new ones, it was more about sharing my vision about a cartoony, chaotic world of madness and de-civilization.   

Dioramas are often associated with childhood memories. What’s the intention behind twisting them into carriers of oddities and mysteries that most people might find “scary”?

If you have clowns in them, that’s a double whammy.

For this exhibit, there are paintings, sculptures and toys. Your collectors would buy anything you make, but would you say it’s also the artist adapting to what is “collectible” these days?

I’m not really sure. I went to this sex shop in a shady part of Tokyo and each floor contained “collectibles” — packaged and numbered. You go up each floor and the items become more and more odd, curiouser and curiouser. Even the customers got more peculiar, almost reptilian. I didn’t get the guts to go to the topmost floor. Does that answer your question? Hopefully not, he-he.

"The Problems of Philosophy 2 and 3"
“The Problems of Philosophy 2”
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“The Problems of Philosophy 3”

The toys are based on the characters of a rock opera The Gray Ground, which you wrote and performed with your band, The Black Vomits. Tell us about these characters. Why are they important to you?

They’ve become personal metaphors of alienation, unfulfilled dreams and phantom pain(s) that won’t go away. They’ve become — well, to some extent — larger than and so much different from the experiences that created them in the first place. They’ve become symbols of concepts I don’t even understand myself. That’s why maybe I am turning them into “toys”: to give a semblance of form to the inexpressible. Besides, they’d look good beside my Spawns and Tortured Souls.

What three items would you put in your diorama?

A clown, a goat with three eyes, and whatever’s at the topmost floor of that sex shop in Japan.

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“Dioramas of Doom” A Toy and Artwork Exhibition by Igan D’Bayan will open on March 5, 2017 and runs until March 16, at Secret Fresh Sky Gallery, Ronac Lifestyle Center, Paseo de Magallanes, Makati City.

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