Pineapple Lab’s ‘The Undercurrent’ wants to challenge labels in contemporary art

Photos courtesy of Fiona Lazaro from Pineapple Lab

Art is truly subversive, whether its creators, cultivators, and consumers intend it or not. Works have a way of unconsciously challenging meanings, including the way we make sense of things. Beyond what makes art “good” or “bad,” a work perhaps achieves its purpose when it creates a transaction beyond the bill with its audience.

When a viewer is mesmerized, then it doesn’t so much mean that a piece is “good” as much as it invites us to form our own ideas around the work. For gallery manager Fiona Lazaro, this is precisely the project’s intent throughout the process of curating and organizing the gallery’s latest exhibit called The Undercurrent: 30 Artists under 30.

“The event was inspired by the Forbes 30 under 30 list. We wanted to continue the spirit of celebration of youth achievement [this time] in creative industry,” Lazaro expounds. The featured works span mediums, subjects, and styles from digital manipulation, androgynous self-portraits, concept art for comic books, all the way to wood carvings and figurines.

Some artists have made a modest name for themselves in their respective fields, such as comic creator Rob Cham, graphic designer Claudine Delfin, and painter and teacher Alfred Marasigan. (Not to mention our very own Jill Arteche and Che Bantayan!) Regardless of the level of each creator’s familiarity, all works display a certain caliber and appeal to audiences which Lazaro describes as a mix of a unique voice with a mature fluency in one’s chosen medium. According to Lazaro, “stand in front of [such a] work long enough and you won’t run out of things to think about or suggest.”

Conversation piece: Featuring art from up-and-coming artists, Pineapple Lab’s The Undercurrent: 30 Artists under 30 is inspired by the Forbes 30 Under 30 list.

A single question, what is contemporary? launches a rich, nuanced discussion on the spirit of the age if it even exists. As such, a second question arises organically throughout our chat: what is contemporary art?

Despite their professional backgrounds, rather than seeing themselves as experts, featured artist Marasigan, along many of the artists present, see themselves as part of a collective endeavor trying to learn about itself as it goes along. This is what the word contemporary tries to convey: a shared movement in a period of time, a co-arising, and an interconnection.

It’s not so much that there is a certain “something” that separates millennial art from previous eras. Marasigan and Delfin both acknowledge tradition as a factor that continues to inform us today, as well as the fact that today will also become history tomorrow.

Despite their professional backgrounds, rather than seeing themselves as experts, featured artist Marasigan, along many of the artists present, see themselves as part of a collective endeavor trying to learn about itself as it goes along. This is what the word contemporary tries to convey: a shared movement in a period of time, a co-arising, and an interconnection.

Even the term movement is challenged by Marasigan as he contrasts what academics term the “modern art movement” with today’s contemporary art. Modern was noted for an emphasis on a projected future. Today the focus is on the present itself. The mindset was a linear movement across time, from Point A to Point B. For Marasigan, network replaces movement: things arise simultaneously as we “collaborate, co-create, co-direct, co-something.”

Delfin also recognizes that the attempt to define contemporary is circular: while Marasigan speaks of a “hot mess” that we today must “acknowledge and engage” by creating art or engaging with works, eventually, someone will once again label the whole thing as a movement.

Previous eras however, were keener on labelling and categorizing styles and forms. For today’s artists, however, labels can wait, as necessary as these are given the demands of human nature. The conversation turns full circle as Marasigan recounts a TED talk suggesting that, rather than “defining” things, we could instead “in-fine” meanings. Whereas the former implies finitude or setting limits, the latter implies infinite possibilities.

There is no single, solid statement of today’s spirit. What matters is that the attempt to engage with the times, through creative endeavor, never wanes. And each uniquely crafted artwork invites us to precisely this: That ever-enduring questioning, that never-ending sense of wonder.

Catch The Undercurrent: 30 Artists Under 30 at Pineapple Lab, 6071, R. Palma Street, Barangay Poblacion, 1200 Makati. The exhibit has been extended to August 31, 2017. For inquiries, you can contact Pineapple Lab at info@pineapplelab.ph.

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