13 April – 10 May 2016
1F Galleries, UP Vargas Museum
(click on images for artwork details)
Thresholds and Portals by Tessa Maria Guazon
Mark Justiniani gathers an ensemble of works from his Infinity series and presents them in another venue, this time a space bathed in light. The challenge lies in negating this very attribute, to plunge the museum’s ground floor spaces into darkness. To be in this crafted dimness is to dwell in a landscape of portals and cliffs, or more fittingly to be ensconced in a capsule surrounded by screens of modulated light. Our experience of Justiniani’s installations greatly rely on revising the surroundings that contain them – light is modulated, space is made to contract and expand, our bodies become conflated with vision. It is transformed into compass inside this materially constructed environment and intricately woven universe. Much as sound is contained in space, the body and its sensorial registers are cued to scenes the artist lays before us. He alters our perception of depth through light, by splicing images, doubling and multiplying them until the material body becomes fragmented like an echo that lingers in a room.
A sound is contained in space, both sound and its vessel melding with each other to allow us to perceive tonality, distance and texture. Shrill and soft, piercing or soothing, the traces of sound also marks our location in the world. Justiniani’s latest exhibition employs acoustic location as metaphor and model for the manner contemporary art constructs temporality by way of crafted environments. In this and other variations, the artist traces the paths of an artistic practice that activates the imagination through surfaces and screens, or better yet through windows and portals, engaging thoughts about existence and being, asking how art and its manifold modalities manifest how it is to be in our worlds. Intensely connected yet dangerously fragmented, it is imperative we imagine this world in the plural, albeit a discomfiting kind.
The scenes depicted in the environment before us depict those already familiar, all the more because they are places we encounter in our daily lives: the tunnel of our city roads, the chambers of our commute, alleys and streets of our urban maze, the perpetual building that is the hum of our urban labyrinth. More than means by which we traverse points, mark goals and reach destinations; these images also speak to the depth of our human ambition, the pinnacle and pit of our yearnings and failures, illusions that beguile and ensnare, and of heftier weight, realities that reinvent the fabric of our shared sympathies. Justiniani deftly deploys spatial depth, layering screens much like a proscenium theatre or virtual reality. He frames for us a familiar and enchanting world. Yet these are devices by which he draws us deeper into otherwise shallow space. Pits and caverns lie before us, tunnels and tracks beckon, alleys and lanes draw us in – to plunge, cruise and tread. Yet all are threatened meanderings, where we are bound to get lost or trapped, whereafter we lose track, become a trace, indeed, be ‘out of time’. These enticing visions are akin to an hour glass – time falling and precipitating; beyond this dim, enchanted cocoon is the glare and snare of the outside world.
These techniques point to the marked emphasis on staging and framing to activate viewer experience of contemporary installation. Mark Justiniani however, crafts ensembles that constitute encompassing environments; relying on his keen sense of scale, the fastidiousness by which he executes his vision, the intricacy that underlies his understanding of grandeur, and the sharp probity that guides his art. Known to many as a painter, these more recent ventures into multidimensionality broadens the breadth of his ruminations on art making. His experiments with technique are founded on reflections on appearances, on seeing and becoming. Visions can be enlightening but they can also lead astray. It may be recalled Justiniani had long incorporated mirrors in his works, notably in his early assemblages with texts. This preoccupation with vision is indeed a persistent strain in his art. Installations and the environments that result when he orchestrates them into ensembles immerses us in space and concurrently, in time.
Here, time is unmoving because it is darkness pierced by shards of light. Our vision however, beckons – toward caverns, pits, alleys and tunnels – plunging us into a void replete with sensations. Fascination fuels our curiosity and perhaps, ferries us to a port of wonder. We imagine entering a room freed by light, that or we crawl into a rabbit hole to confound the senses. In this register of being, we become one sensate public, art as cipher of how it is to be in a moment so beguiling it allows awe. This is the manner Justiniani makes place, ferrying us to that forgotten island of curiosity and wonder where we are only allowed to linger from knot to knot in the moments that make the skein of time, which the artist knows leads to an outer world where we render our imprints more acutely, lengthening, unraveling the strands that make time coalesce within or be consonant with the outside world.