The archipelago of the Philippines has always been home to seafaring people, creating deep bonds between inhabitants and the bodies of water they border. This relationship has grown increasingly complex: scientists project that by 2050 there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish, and the Philippines is one of the largest markets for single-use plastic. American inventors patented the flexible, plastic food pouch in 1955, and by the 1980s these sachets inundated the Philippines and other worldwide markets, eventually polluting international waterways.
Considering the contemporary implications of a unified, global outcry for the health of our oceans, Pintô International is pleased to present multi-faceted site-specific projects by four artists who, in the specter of climate change, respond to the call of the sea, the “mother boat” for us all: Olivia d’Aboville, Basia Goszczynska, Camille Hoffman, and Joanna Vasquez Arong.
The troubling flood of plastics preoccupies French-Filipino artist Olivia d’Aboville. Her installation “Catch of the Day” reminds viewers that our relationship to the sea requires re-evaluation and maintenance. Her work simultaneously engages with the contemporary crises of climate change and oceanic pollution. Working with local artists, d’Aboville sewed thousands of discarded plastic sachets into a light-reflecting installation. While d’Aboville’s work urgently confronts viewers with a visceral representation of humanity’s waste, several works from the series, most notably her woven wall work “My Womb is Your Ocean,” also become a poetic counterpoint that honors the life-giving role the world’s oceans play.
The choking of our shared waters with consumer waste is an international issue and Brooklyn-based artist Basia Goszczynska’s sculptures create a trans-pacific dialogue with the work of Arong, d’Aboville, and Hoffman. Goszczynska creates her vessel-like forms from shards of discarded ones that she and fellow artist Don Elwing find washing up in Hawaii: baskets, crates, and bottles, all patinated by the sun, salt, and sea. Stitching together these fragments into a new whole, the work emphasizes the artist’s desire to repair not only objects, but the earth. Each vessel rests on its own pedestal — which also serves as the shipping crate for the work — built from salvaged wood scraps and stamped with cautionary “fragile” symbols.
New York-based artist Camille Hoffman also uses discarded materials, but from her own life, to create works that relate to the seafaring history of her ancestors in the Philippines. Her twisting, vessel-like wall works evoke forms of the ocean’s inhabitants and forces: shell- and wave-shapes worn by the water, bleached by the sun. Juxtaposed against an immersive wall-installation of water imagery, Hoffman’s works conjure a sense of the sacred via use of materials from the present; they are made from plastic mermaid-printed tablecloths, healthcare letters, and plaster. On one hand, Hoffman creates a meaningful dialogue about the adaptive reuse of the detritus that pollutes our waterways, but also she uses these visual metaphors of the ocean to ask: what does it mean in this day and age to connect with her ancestors’ history and culture from a distant place?
Confronting viewers in the main gallery space, both as an usher and a bookend to the wider installation, Joanna Vasquez Arong’s video “Sampit sa Dagat (Call of the Sea)” immerses viewers in sweeping, meditative shots of the ocean, and establishes an environment for the other works in the exhibition. “Sampit sa Dagat” begins with fishermen pushing their boat through the ocean swell; a kite-surfer miraculously seems to defy gravity; culminating with the artist taking us beneath the surface. Becoming an apt metaphor for our subconscious, the Filipino artist’s video tours us through the deep with arresting views of life undersea. Throughout the film, a narrator speaks in Cebuano, and another woman sings us a lullaby. We are momentarily transported as the film shifts between drama and calm, the contemporary and ancestral.
The exhibition is inspired by the Philippines’ complex relationship with the bodies of water that surround the archipelago, and it encourages us to reshape our relationship with the ocean. Together, these works form a constellation of meditations on the sea that yield both regional and global implications. With the specter of climate change ever present, our world is becoming more and more liquid by the day. The works in this exhibition make a case for the continued importance of the ancient mother boat — the ocean — that connects us all.
About Pintô International
Pintô International was founded in 2017 in New York City with a mission to promote the work of contemporary Filipino artists on an international stage. Founded to support the mission of its parent institution — museum and non-profit foundation Pintô Art Museum in the Philippines — Pintô International is the New York-based entity that drives Pintô’s global exhibitions and programming. The organization is committed to supporting the careers of pioneering contemporary artists of the region and to fostering global connoisseurship for their distinct artistic practices. For more information, please follow Pintô International via @pinto.art and visit the organization website. By appointment only. Located at 431 East 12th Street, 5B, New York.
PHOTO: “Sampit sa Dagat (Call of the Sea),” 2019 by Joanna Vasquez Arong, Film Still from 10:30 minute video. Courtesy of the Artist.