There Can Be No Better World Museum of Contemporary Art & Design(MCAD) / Manila, Philippines

November 19, 2012

There Can Be No Better World was an exhibition of 3 artists – Felix Bacolor, Tiffany Chung and Michael Lee – concerned with the very idea of a future world but the works actually suspended a conventional sense of time. As the accompanying essay stated, ‘The future we conjure up is often littered with imaginings cobbled from the past and present fears that unsettle us of certain expectations’.

Lee’s series of paintings, titled Dwelling (2012), most immediately captured the disconcerting affect of not knowing if we are looking forward, backward or caught in a suspended present. Culled from the architectural plans of destroyed, abandoned and unrealized buildings, his black and white, skeletal renderings are ghostly signs of idealized visions of the future; and, as ghostly, become testament to the fears and failures such visions reveal when past.

Chung’s ambitious installation of a seemingly submerged architectural structure possesses a similar rhizomatic quality. Titled Twigs, Bones, Rocks and the Giant Tortoise (2012) – in reference to Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Galapagos – hundreds of small, ornate, glass tortoises congregate atop part of the enormous translucent roof. Suggesting a post-disaster scenario, here the end signifies a new beginning, as the peculiar life forms begin to migrate across newly foreign territory. Bacolor transformed an independent space in the gallery to a terminal-like waiting room, complete with digital clocks that torturously register passing time. Though inspired by Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, the installation exchanged literary interest for something blunter or more pedantic.

Like any well-curated show, There Can Be No Better World unites artworks in a non-reductive way; and encourages deliberation on a theme through diverse references, but not wildly so.

The significance of the title of the show unfolded with the suggestion that we occupy the present in a vexed manner, aware of the past and anxious of the future. Why this should be so is the question we ultimately gain, thrown at us by images, objects and artifacts that refuse to soothe.

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