A Menagerie of Bursting Lilies (2011)

No Answer

The obvious does not reveal much. The tropes of love and home largely remain confined to the personal. Outside, these tend to transmute to thought-terminating doxa that Nikki Luna has always sought to counter with nuance. The artist’s preoccupation with the intricacies of human relationship is apparent with the minutae in all her other works—detail of the lace, gold dust, eggshells. And this mania persists in A Menagerie of Bursting Lilies. From one end of the room, light from a projector passes through a maze of brass tubes. On the other end is a projected video documentation of the act of sewing, randomly slit by the negative spaces casted by the tubes. The black lacerations/shadows form a semblance of a cage. The metaphor is obtuse enough. Domesticity is a sad prison.

It is not in the visible that Luna is interested in. One cannot see the flesh where the needle digs in. Outside the frame is the vagina that just gave birth, sewn back to form. In the same vein, what one cannot see on the walls, one can hear.  A confession told through different languages and female voices ricochet through the brass tubes.  Literally a sensual translation of the statement: “Language is skin: I rub my language against the other,” the artist invites viewers to put his/her ear next to the cold metal surfaces of the brass tubes to listen to the narratives. “During my pregnancy, you have the guts to tell me that you can’t give your love to this child because you didn’t love me. I’m alone and I can’t get his father to meet him! You know that I don’t have a friggin’ idea how to play basketball.” “’Jacky, can you give me a breakdown of the monthly expenses? Thanks.’ Makapal din talaga ang mukha mo.”

Pain as visual context and sound reverberates within the metal cylinders, as if it has actual weight and volume. Luna capitalizes on these details—the nuances that make material the incorporeal—to prove the existence/insistence of a struggle that resists itself in fear of betraying its own be/longings. The exhibitions of privacy and persuasions to intimacy trace the meandering doubts going back and forth the transgressive, recreating a thorough fragmentation of the female. The women finally speak out yet they are hidden. The obligation to stay within the borders laid down by religion, traditions, and status quo remains, as they have to keep home. These women confess to nobody and everybody, as the desperate deadlocked seeks no answer. They bear witness to collisions between tradition and modern, body and duty, desire and discipline—the daily injustices and subdued rage collectively translated as dissonant lyricism framing/disrupting their vicious everyday. 

Adjani Arumpac