Hollow wooden houses obscured by tin sheets, wrapped and fortified with discarded found objects can easily denote an artistic conceptual framework of altering an environment or object by means of intervention. This familiar scene found in urban landscapes of Manila is rather perceived as a symptomatic of the quasi-dystopic and utilitarian society we live in. In Jan Balquin’s Colloquials, she investigates the Filipino mindset of discreet resourcefulness or diskarte by mirroring our cultural reality found in our architecture and explores the line between ingenuity and haplessness; creativity and tactlessness; novelty and our sense of uniqueness.
In using the word Colloquials [sic], Balquin asserts her vision by appropriating the word’s meaning, a non-conforming language that over time becomes normal, to the objects and structures’ tactility and specificity. In her exploration, she creates rules and limits on what materials to use; how the buildings, houses and objects’ crass semblance be transposed into
miniatures; and how the absurdity of modern urban life can be traced back to each sculptures. Balquin’s subject and their analogues construction is a reminiscent of Sol Lewitt’s dictum on conceptual art: ‘Irrational thoughts should be followed absolutely and logically.’
In leaping through the constraints of wall-bound works, Balquin allows her viewers to experience the freedom of the three-dimensional space with her sculptures while confronting them with the limits they present. Balquin is able to present us hyperbolic representation of haphazardly constructed structures from her house with oversized rock paperweight to her grasscovered wall enclosing the dwelling within. This concealment of reality through parody reveals a hint of human condition and cultural psyche that
prevails in our society. Her mini urban landscape reflects our microcosm of truths.
Balquin’s undertaking of sculptural segments of odd places and misshapen objects compels us to see through the profundity in the unnatural backdrop created in small scales. As we examine through the cracks, the drips, the entanglement of each elements, one may find that the actuality of these farce depictions are the same things we find inside our private spaces; that they are deeply embedded in our culture, our way of life – of stoically letting things be.
Words by Le Cruz