Works in the third leg of the exhibition Nothing to Declare evoke a journey whose destination is yet to be decided. Manila and the exhibition sites for Nothing to Declare are temporary stations in a route continuously marked as process, and as being in progress. Movements here may very well be a going back and forth across time, discerned in Karen Marshall’s collages of enlarged photos and scanned items from her veteran father stationed in Pangasinan during the Second World War; or in E.G. Crichton’s redefinition of the artist as ‘matchmaker’ in her breathing, and growing wandering archives. Hannah Israel enlivens cartography in her translucent maps and opaque sculptures of framed places, inspired by the museum’s archives. All three artists breathe life to the past and braid them into the strands that make the present.
Movements across borders at once porous and defining are recalled in Alwin Reamillo’s and Juliet Lea’s installation of wooden boats and delicate butterfly cut-outs of maps. Identity in constant transit is embraced and distilled in Magda Biernat’s video installation, as well in Joo Yeon Woo’s photographs of locations contained in everyday drinking mugs. Biernat mixes waters from the Atlantic and the Baltic Seas in an attempt to make sense of her hybrid self while Joo Yeon Woo contains icons of places inside the confines of a mundane object. In both, there is the bodily yearning to contain, to ingest even the contradictions inherent in a self that straddles two discrete locations.
Christina Ramilo and Melissa Ramos look back through the lens of remembrance. Both severed from their country of birth, they attempt to reconstruct a place by inhabiting a primordial space where the spirit and soul may rest. The former locates this while in a state of trance following her mother’s death and the latter through a filmed recollection of her grandmother’s life in the Philippines. This longing is likewise an apparent strain in Nicole Manzanero’s layered mediations of vision, of objects both seen and refracted. Movements are sometimes necessitated by dire conditions, explored in Leila Hernandez’s dolls from second-hand clothing. Landscapes of labour are reproduced on flimsy yards of cloth and the dolls which, hover precariously on their grounds signify uncertain situations. Much like the cloth from whence they were fashioned, the migrant workers who cross the border in Mexico to find temporary work as maids, gardeners, pickers and harvesters in orchards and farms are regarded as second-class citizens with uncertain futures. The hazard intimated in this risk-taking finds resonance in Angelika Rinnhofer’s reconstructions of islands of waste that pollute oceans and seas. Through wavering clouds of plastic bottle lids, she questions the dubious transfer of hazardous materials from developed nations to third world countries.
Nothing speaks clearly of leave-taking than Martin Sims’s installation of a plastic luggage often seen in Manila on local travels. The artist astutely points to this as the 21st century refugee’s humble luggage as it recalls the makeshift refugee camps and tent for those displaced by conflict or calamity or the living conditions of bare survival of illegal settlers and the homeless across the world. Indeed, the bag’s cavernous mouth and lumbering form calls to mind the perils of crossing borders, as bodies may be ferried back lifeless and maimed. Manila may very well be the best transit point for a project that explores absences and gaps, displacement and slippages, the random outcomes of processes founded on unpredictability, multiplicity and the possibilities inherent in fracture. These sensations are embodied by this fragmented city replete with contradiction and its unusual charms. Yet as the global landscape attests, perhaps other cities house pocket versions of Manila. In these places fraught with struggle, transgressions are fashioned, borders are crossed, and controls eluded. And perhaps these negotiations that mark our increasingly transient and itinerant existence is the language of those marked by silence, those with ‘nothing to declare’. The artist takes on many hats as mediator and someone who identifies new itineraries, as Adair’s piece illustrates. Christian Ramilo takes on one such role, breaking the silence in a piece that maps the nomads Filipinos have become in a global context. While physical presences are amiss, their voices (as much theirs as ours) are transformed through sound permeating space which we claim, albeit momentarily.