This Side Facing You (2008)

Central to this batch of Nikki Luna’s work is the space—the production and the reproduction of meanings in a space/s, wherein her experiences as a female individual determine her products. A child of the unsleeping Metro Manila, with its fast-paced living and the continuum of movement and departures, Luna sees her works as the sum of her metropolitan perceptions. 

To date, Luna is working on a series of images intimate to New York, where she is temporarily residing as an artist/painter. Seeking new daily living rituals, seeking a break from her usual fare, a change perhaps in scenery and exchanges, Luna aims for a brand new state of living in another site. This series feature photographic captures of her daily rituals in a novel space. On the walls of her studio in Cooper, New York, is a transfer of photographs showing the usual images she sees in her daily walks—such as tiles of the subway floor, the windows the railings, the doorknobs the elevator she usually takes. The usual suspects in daily life caught in digital data and put together in a collage show her everyday repetitive experience. 

And the whole image formed is cruel. There is nothing quite new. The message is clear—the metropolis, wherever it is situated, has been rendered quite homogenous by the uniform mechanisms of commerce and technology. Hence, Luna’s transfer from Metro Manila to New York, both centers of commercial activities, was rendered quite futile in the sense that the images, the experience and the patterns of existence are essentially the same—unchanging, like the detail of a ray of light reflected on the subway train’s door that this artist chose to feature.

This image of light in a mode of transportation captures Luna’s metropolitan experience—that of mobility and displacement, both situated in the inevitable sameness in a site where difference was anticipated but not achieved. 

The reflection of light on the door surface suggests that universal form of reproduction and life—the vulva. And this was what Luna chose to photocopy, multiply and intensify by painting the image into large canvasses in her latest batch of artistic endeavour. And against and with this strong image is a looped video of the artist in her daily rituals. This is the travelling, empowered female juxtaposed against a flux of sameness. This is the displaced female as essentially the site of production of meanings regardless of the space/context. 

Luna’s works strike a strong feminine significance—that of the female seeking identity away from states homogenized by state apparatuses such as capitalism. And what’s more striking in this new series, Luna’s works inside her personal domain, the studio, point to her works inside the public domain, the gallery. Luna calls for recognition, the placement of the intimate female in the public, the display of the oft hidden but constantly changing feminine essence in the infuriatingly consistency of spaces, disparate but all held by technologies of power determined by the institutions too often seeped in alpha maleness. 

And this time, the feminine is not under the gaze of the male but that of a woman with the facility to produce images and meanings. Nikki Luna, in this sense, is quite the female champion. And that’s not new but quite well and often, if not urgently, needed.