The Visceral Mindscapes of Tarzeer Pictures’ Hemispheres

‘Progressions,’ PLEASE MAKE IT STOP by Aya Cabauatan. 2023, archival pigment print on Hahnemühle. 98.5w x 10.5h in.

In the Tarzeer Pictures group exhibition Hemispheres, the titular term refers to divisions both geographic and anatomical, drawing a throughline between the halves of the earth and the brain. Seven artists gather to contend with these rifts and connections, each searching for eccentric ways to grapple with the dynamics of personal and societal change. “The mind,” according to the show notes, “does not create itself; it is done and undone by many variables.” 

Throughout the show, a range of elements attempt to provide structure and shelter for the mind. Light crackles and colors metamorphose. Faces transform and disfigure. Shapes fold and unfold. In Aya Cabauatan’s ‘Please Make It Stop’ series, scans of her cerebral and lumbar MRIs materialize as a vibrant bloom of reds and blues, a progression that narrates the artist’s longstanding history of chronic migraines. Meanwhile, within the circling motion forms of Colin Dancel, we encounter an embodiment of the artist’s anxieties. Dancel’s process to create these frantic prints involves setting a camera on a surface and then drawing with a flashlight in the dark. These circular forms act as retrievals of a mind’s impulses, brought to the surface by an atmosphere of darkness. 

‘Grounding 1’ by Colin Dancel. 2023, archival pigment print on Hahnemühle. 10w x 11h in.

Hemispheres deals with themes of hyperactivity and transience as consequences of technological entrapment. E.S.L. Chen’s ‘Frozen Fragments’ series deploys the iPhone’s long exposure mode to create blurred landscapes. Chen’s collages mesh different textures, colors, and forms to document a mind in motion, refusing to settle on a fixed state. The ephemerality that conditions Chen’s pieces also features prominently in Nash Cruz’s video project ‘The Babbling Corpse’, which registers freakish moments when “his devices act on their own. His efforts yield to error in outputs that would otherwise be pronounced dead.” The video features a loop of glitchy squares, momentarily fractured and disappearing, wielding hardware malfunctions to draw connections between the life and afterlife of digital devices. 

Cabauatan and Dancel’s pieces deal with the turbulence of our mental faculties, and the fraught, sometimes erratic, relations occurring between the mind and body. Through the artists’ effort of reckoning, they discover forms that allow varying representations of the mind to coexist, shaping them in ways that rupture and reveal at the same time. That intertwining and untwining, these works suggest, can yield surprising, disarming results.

Elsewhere in the show, psychological tensions manifest as a result of digital culture’s fixation with surfaces and appearances. Augustine Paredes’ ‘Obliterations’ series features facial manipulations of analog and digital photo booth pictures. Spliced, scratched, burnt, and painted over, these contorted photographs reveal obscure and surreal images in the process. A Filipino artist working in Dubai, Parades treats the photograph as a visual language of displacement, where a migrant’s search for home is in unending flux, but also one of deconstruction, where the possibilities of making and remaking the self are abundant.  

‘Obliterations II’ by Augustine Paredes. 2023, archival pigment print on Iridium Silver. 8w x 10h in.
‘video playback.mp4,’ The Babbling Corpse by Nash Cruz. 2023, still from single-channel video.

Experiencing the exhibition can feel like rapidly toggling through different channels of the brain. It’s a grab bag of eccentric interests and flashy media, united not by any grounding theory or concept but by some improvisatory and intuitive sentience. The show accommodates the sparse geometric forms of Micaela Benedicto as well as the buggy sublimation prints of Nash Cruz, the homespun jottings of Colin Dancel and the elaborate assemblages of E.S.L. Chen. All these juxtapositions and transversals set in motion an aesthetic that thrums with energy fused by an all-consuming imagination. It’s a visceral showcase of various minds in the midst of spiraling, wanting and trying to pick themselves back up—trying, by sheer and uncompromising effort, to make themselves whole. 

Hemispheres, featuring Augustine Paredes, Aya Cabauatan, Micaela Benedicto, Colin Dancel, E.S.L. Chen, Nash Cruz, and Rhaz Oriente, runs from 21 September to 23 November 2023 at Tarzeer Pictures in Makati City. 

Sean Carballo is an art writer from the Philippines. He recently graduated with a degree in English literature from the Ateneo de Manila University. His writing has been published in ArtAsiaPacific, Cartellino, Plural Art Magazine, and Cha: An Asian Literary Journal.

Images courtesy of artists and Tarzeer Pictures.