no title (umbrellas)
no title (umbrellas) is a reconstruction of Roberto Chabet's installation first presented as part of the Side B group exhibition, which he curated at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 1987. Composed of several common black umbrellas, each weighed down with stones and hung upside down from plywood planks suspended from the gallery's ceiling, the work recalled his early kinetic installations in the 70s, such as An Environmental Work (1972), Bakawan (1974), and Waves (1975). In these works, he transformed space and incorporated light and movement as integral elements, creating not just a purely visual experience but also an immersive environment.
Chabet's umbrellas also refer to the famous line, "As beautiful as a chance encounter between a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table," by French poet Comte de Lautreamont, whose writing had a major influence on the Surrealists. This incongruous pairing prompted Andre Breton to declare the surreal condition as moment of "resolution of two seemingly contradictory states, dream and reality, in a kind of absolute reality, a super-reality." Max Ernst likewise defined it as "a linking of two realities that by all appearances have nothing to link them, in a setting that by all appearances does not fit them."
The role of chance and the enforced juxtaposition of entirely unrelated objects became the guiding principles of Surrealism and informed much of Chabet's own practice as well. In his installations and collages, he challenged rational order and preconditioned perceptions of what constitutes art and reality by bringing together a trove of "anxious objects" – plywood panels, shelves, boats, clocks, canes, parachutes, mirrors, neon signs, arrows, bells, envelopes, maps, books, photographs, drawings, torn magazine pages, and other detritus of modern life. He sought meaning not only in the banal materiality of these objects but in the unexpected slippages brought on by their chance connections.
– R. B.
"Why do these strange thirsts surge in me?" This expresses her desire to communicate, penetrate, absorb. What is she thirsting for? We left from the rain and went on to the stars. The light flows and she wants to swallow it, but stays fresh and humid. Thirst can be replaced: why do these questions surge in me? The thirsts are the questions for which she thirsts and which make her thirsty. First question: Why do they say to me that I want to understand bodily. "My God, communicate me with them." These strange thirsts are not thirsts for water. She tries to say the questions she asks of the stars and that the stars ask of her. She tries to say the astonishment of being put into question. And every question is a question of the two.
– Helene Cixous, Agua Viva, Reading with Clarice Lispector
Strange Thirst is a new installation by Lani Maestro. The work's idea began as a conversation with artist, Roberto Chabet's no title (umbrellas) in the adjacent space. Maestro recalls her introduction to Japanese haiku during her early studies with him in art school. Without much elaboration, this started Maestro's fascination with light verse, the relationship with word and image or the possibilities for words to become image themselves.
Strange Thirst consists of hundreds of painted pages in the manner of drawing which the artist has engaged in as a meditative gesture. The many slow hours of marking becomes a process of simultaneous remembering and forgetting where each mark becomes concrete with an unfolding subjectivity. An experience with and of "things themselves."