The New York-based Filipino non-profit and artist residency, Pintô International has a mission to welcome international artists into its project space for a quarterly exhibitions program. Pinto sees to fruition dynamic and ambitious site-specific commissions that relate to and dialogue with the pioneering contemporary art of the Philippines and the South East Asian region.
For its first project of the 2020 year, the non-profit commissioned site-specific projects by artists Olivia d’Aboville, Basia Goszczynska, Camille Hoffman, and Joanna Vasquez Arong. The exhibition, entitled “Mother Boat,” serves as a collective response to the reality of global pollution and the effects of climate change on both nature and civilization alike. Referencing the influx of discarded single-use plastic and waste, the works presented in this exhibition call attention to the compromised present state of the world’s oceans and serve as a renewed call to action towards creating a sustainable future. “Mother Boat” contextualizes this urgency in light of ancient and sacred traditions of the Filipino, but moreover the global, ancestral past.
Until the community is safely able to reconvene in a post-COVID-19 reality, A Women’s Thing is showcasing an exclusive online preview of Pinto’s exhibition and conversation with the artists about what inspired their respective bodies of work, and how they approach their creative processes.
Pinto’s director, Dr. Luca Parolari, poses four questions to each of the artists with the goal of eliciting highly personal responses that add color and depth to their respective bodies of work.
Dr. Parolari: In two sentences or less, how would you describe the work(s) you’ve contributed to Mother Boat.
Camille Hoffman: Two vessel-like wall works made from nature calendars, plaster, paint, and medical records that float within a tropical beachscape of warped plastic wallpaper. Spanning two large gallery walls, these vast vinyl paradise contain the smaller intricately collaged works, which resemble something between a bleached sea shell, topographic map, and human bone.
Joanna Vasquez Arong: After what seemed like a long period of not being inspired to create anything new, “Call of the Sea” was somehow a call to explore the sea, a place I have always gone to, for retreat or contemplation, whenever I had been stuck in the past, or was facing a new phase in life. In the end, I suppose the sea was similar to retreating back to the womb, or the unconscious, to draw inspiration from.
Basia Goszczynska: “Mended Vessels” challenge entropy. These objects, carefully stitched together fragments of vessels-past, represent an effort to heal and regenerate. The artifacts rest atop pedestals resembling icebergs and clouds, motifs correlating to human activity with climate change.
Olivia D’Aboville: As a textile designer, textile has been my medium of choice… Here, I have used handwoven and hand dyed silk textiles, industrial fishing nets, and recycled packaging to create works that [reflect upon] the themes of oceanic pollution.
Dr. Parolari: Each of your bodies of work presented in this exhibition adopts, adapts, and manipulates materials and material sources (in the case of film) in unique ways. Can you briefly explain what draws you to your materials and artistic sources: What influences are you calling upon in your work and what role do they play?
Camille Hoffman: I see my accumulated and fragmented materials — plastic, medical records, mass-printed nature calendars, etc. — as painterly and ceremonial extensions of my lived experience. Being an American painter of Filipinx descent, I think a lot about the beauty and baggage embedded within romantic American landscape painting of the 19th century and critically consider its violent legacy both within the US and its territories which formerly include the Philippines. My work is a means for reclaiming sacred and bodily space within the current anthropogenic climate.
Joanna Vasquez Arong: Sound design and music are two elements I pay a lot of attention to in my films, as they help evoke emotions and the unconscious. I am not sure if I was consciously thinking of any particular influences in my work, but I found it interesting to contrast this piece with an essay film I made, related to the storm surge that overtook a town in the Philippines. “Call of the Sea” is really more impressionistic or dream-like. I did not set out to dedicate “Call of the Sea” to a friend who suddenly passed away, but in the end, that’s what called to me—those moments of laughter we shared as she actually recorded the lullaby, originally intended for the other film, ended up making it to “Call of the Sea” instead.
Basia Goszczynska: I am drawn to materials that have inherent symbolic value or that speak to our contemporary moment. In particular, I am fascinated by plastic and its effects on our environment. The weathered fragments in my “Mended Vessels” tell the story of a tough and resilient material that persists even in the harshest of conditions. I also employ plaster in the work, a material I associate more with broken limbs than precious art objects. They represent our capacity to regenerate. In the biomorphic pedestals I reference icebergs and clouds, but also Grecian columns, objects that bring to mind geological time and reveal my fascination with the concept of an Anthropocene.
Olivia D’Aboville: I first started manipulating fishnets when I was still a student in textile design in Paris. I fell in love with that material in Cambodia while doing an internship there. I found it so beautiful, its transparency, fluidity, how much it could expand, how fragile it looked but how strong of a material it actually is. But for this show, I showcased it for what it is: a net. The material I used in “My Womb is Your Ocean” is silk shibori, handwoven and hand dyed in Palawan by women weavers of Rurungan sa Tubod Foundation. I’ve been working with them since 2013. I love working with their textiles and I’m glad I can contribute to their livelihoods.
Dr. Parolari: How do you see your work taking on new meaning when placed in dialogue with that of your fellow participating artists?
Camille Hoffman: It’s such an honor and privilege to be in conversation with Olivia, Basia, and Joanna in this space and at this particular time. Between the Philippines and New York, It’s exciting to witness how each of our unique material and aesthetic voices amplify one another in a shared vision for environmental justice.
Joanna Vasquez Arong: My intention for “Call of the Sea” was to evoke the mystery and beauty of the seas. Hopefully, this provides contrast, reminding us of the destruction and pollution choking our oceans and the life it sustains.
Basia Goszczynska: Floating among the other works in Mother Boat, my drifting pieces become less like isolated islands and more like storytellers of a singular, global narrative.
Olivia D’Aboville: The issues related to ocean pollution are urgent and climate change is the single biggest threat to humanity. People all over the world, especially the youth, are making themselves heard and as artists, we can tap the emotions of people. Our voices in this show are united, and visually I thought the delivery was beautiful and strong. I felt proud to be part of this show.
Dr. Parolari: In light of our current circumstances, with COVID-19 on the forefront of our community’s consciousness, how are climate change and the health of the world’s oceans prescient and evermore important to keep in mind right now?
Joanna Vasquez Arong: I feel what COVID-19 has really forced upon us, is reminding us how the world is connected on a human level and in terms of access to the world’s resources. I feel The Butterfly Effect theory really has its place. All efforts, big and small, at preserving our environment, whether it be the forests or the oceans, are key to progress, and perhaps even our future survival. Short-term thinking in dealing with our environment is simply not sustainable, and a coordinated effort, globally, is now more imperative than ever. @ronganna
Camille Hoffman: The current pandemic is not shedding new light, but rather amplifying what we have already known to be true about the deadly impact of unsustainable human industry on our planet. In the wake of great human loss and socioeconomic devastation, we have a duty to structurally reimagine how we as humans live and operate not as owners of but as guests on our shared Earth. @camillehoffmanstudio
Basia Goszczynska: As COVID-19 seems to have emerged from a meat market, the current health crisis exemplifies Nature’s ruthless response to exploitation. The crisis highlights our vulnerability as a species, but also the importance of widespread cooperation when it comes to our survival. In parallel, it will serve us well to acknowledge the damage irresponsible human activity causes our Ocean and to respond with a unified front that puts an end to the harmful practices that pose an existential threat to us all. @basia_gosz
Olivia D’Aboville: Everything and everyone are linked. We realize it now more than ever before. Like diseases, climate change has no boundaries. We should all work together as inhabitants of planet earth to make sure we avoid the catastrophic scenarios we are heading towards. Earth lives its own life regardless of human activities, it will survive. But we need our planet healthy in order for us to survive. For the first time in history, the whole of humanity is putting all its resources and is fighting together to stop its current enemy, the novel coronavirus. When this passes, will we do the same to fight climate change? @oliviadaboville