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Anselm Kiefer — “Superstrings, Runes, The Norns, Gordian Knot”

A major exhibition (IMO anyway) of Anselm Kiefer’s new work is closing next week, so I thought I’d actually write this in time. I have had this on my to-do list for quite a few weeks, but when you haven’t exercised that part of your brain that is required to accomplish particular tasks, these things appear to be more daunting than they were and/or really are.

Bohemia Lies by the Sea (1996)

The first work I ever encountered of Anselm Kiefer’s was Bohemia Lies by the Sea which is on display at the Met. I didn’t really know anything about him (or any other artist at that time, really), but my dad was so obviously moved by this image that both the image of my father (an unexpressive man when it comes to tender or overly serious emotions) and the image of the work itself remained with me for years and years.

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I went to see Superstrings, Runes, The Norns, Gordian Knot at White Cube Bermondsey with my flatmate, Laura, who is also a massive Kiefer fan. This was particularly exciting for me because the space is massive and all the work on view would be new.

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As far as my observations go, Kiefer’s work has always been loaded with meaning and history, and this continues on with Superstrings… with an emphasis on a variety of iterations and thoughts around the notion of, essentially, the string. Right from the entrance, in a large-scale installation that responds to the idea of string theory — a piece comprised of 30 vitrines after which the entire show is named — and the inherent connectedness of everything with everything else. The point is driven very, very obviously, and although on the whole it was compelling with a scale that’s astounding, I can’t really help but feel like this was a bit too on the nose an execution for an idea that could have been handled with a bit more subtlety. It almost feels like handing someone some Cliff Notes that begins with: “This is what this means.”

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Towards the end, I spent a lot of time with this work, Die Sieben Siegel, die geheime Offenbarung des Johannes, which was completed between 2016 and 2018. The title translates to something that is, at the same time, innocuous and terrifying: The seven seals, the secret revelation of John. The red splotches in the distance looks like a row of burning fires.

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This series of paintings reminded me of something W.G. Sebald wrote about in a very early chapter of The Rings of Saturn, which I am only mentioning in passing because I haven’t finished it and don’t want to pretend that I have. But, you know, a bookmark for later expansion, if you will.

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My favourite out of all of the pieces, of which there are many, is Ramanujan Summation — 1/12 which occupies the smallest room by itself. It is titled after a “mathematical technique used to assign value to infinite series,” an attempt at connecting the spiritual and the scientific, enjoining the sky with a field, the past and the present, “the celestial and the terrestrial.”

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I’m not sure if I buy that explanation, but I spent a good 20 minutes, I think, looking at this massive piece. There is a lot of other work on display, but I remember being enraptured by this one the most. Even though it wasn’t the first one we saw, nor was it the last. I remember the way my dad felt about Bohemia Lies By the Sea, and although I absolutely did feel enthralled by the work itself — whether it be because he’s a genius or still going at 74 years old, I very much believe that a part of me felt a little bit closer to my dad, even though right now, we live a thousand miles away from each other.

Anselm Kiefer
Superstrings, Runes, The Norns, Gordian Knot
White Cube Bermondsey, London, U.K.
15 November 2019 — 26 January 2020

Three Things No. 6

Three actual things that have preoccupied me in the last couple of days. (Someone said that the end of the year this year is worse than usual because of a lot of Saturn placements, so I guess I’ve had a lot of time spent at home.)

“Psycho” — Red Velvet

Look, I haven’t really tried very hard to branch out of BTS in terms of my K-pop fixation. I just love them, because they make me happy (lol) and not particularly because I find their music, you know, brilliant or amazing. They’re catchy and I listen to them a lot, but you know, I think my enjoyment has a lot to do with watching them interact and stuff, too. Is that a stranger reason? Perhaps.

In any case, I haven’t been particularly interested in listening to a lot of K-pop girl groups, for whatever reason, aside from a little 2NE1 (because Sandara) and a little SNSD/Girls Generation (because, IDK, makeup looks). But: “Psycho” was floating around the internet and was met with amazing reviews. It wasn’t until I was sort of force-fed it that I realised — wow, they’re actually really good and I love them all?

This song is legitimately catchy, the choreography is so good, THE LOOKS! I have this weird feeling of both Yeri and Joy getting like… the worst styling (usually), and I’m not like an expert or anything, but yes. Even they look really good in this one. Love the makeup, love everything.

(In case you were wondering, I love Wendy the most.)

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Fire! Emblem! Three! Houses! Okay, so I got a Switch Lite a month and a half ago (not a Switch~ as I previously posted, completely unintentional error) and mostly used it to play Pokémon Shield, which was okay and fun and all of that, but I have not touched it since getting my second game: Fire Emblem: Three Houses. I am not a gaymer by any stretch of the imagination, but I spent 160+ hours in the last month and a half on this game. It’s a little embarrassing to admit lol, but it’s really so good. If you have Switch/Switch Lite, please get this gaaaaame. I’m so obsessed.

I am on my final run (fourth ending) and am dreading actually finishing it and moving on. Even though my brother got me Zelda (BotW!) for Christmas. And I also got Witcher 3 on sale, lol. They are harder tbh because I’m not used to games like that, but yes. FE3H. So good. I’ve been on subreddits for it, because I am insane but also cautiously backing away because we all know that when I find a rabbit hole, I kind of… fall in and wallow in it, like, voluntarily.

Knitting and mukbang videos, but together

So, if this wasn’t enough of a deterrent to my getting my life together like a proper adult, I taught myself how to knit. On New Years Eve. Alone in my house. Yep. This is 31.

I finished a couple of seasons of lame T.V. (I’m not telling you what shows, but there are honestly better shows out there for you to watch, cross my heart) whilst knitting but found out that my happy place is watching mukbang videos on YouTube while knitting. Particularly Stephanie Soo’s because she talks about weird-ass conspiracy theories and true crime crap while eating good food (as in, not just always — though sometimes — a ton of indulgent fast food takeaway). I’m close to halfway done with my ugly, hole-y blanket, and I have a ton of yarn in my shopping cart (that I might just x out of because, again, obsessive rabbit hole).

I wish I had more exciting things to share with you, but I literally haven’t been doing much outside of the house except looking after myself, occasional raket, gaming (lol), knitting and mukbang. I do have a new planning system that I adopted this new year, which I think is working out really well so far, and I can make a post or a video about that if anyone was interested in that stuff maybe? Let me know!

Happy holidaze, trying to get back on my feet, and things of that ilk

Hello. I am happy to report that my Christmas celebrations have been a fun one.

I haven’t spent Christmas at home in three years. The first time I was away, I spent it by myself in halls because I didn’t know that public transportation didn’t run on Christmas day, which I was meant to have spent with Richard in Brighton. I lived in halls and everyone else was away for about two weeks (a rare gift!), so I found myself leaning into the solitude and a clean kitchen. I was lucky that the Tesco close to me was open. I was lucky that I was happy with eating sausages and that by that time, my little room was starting to feel like home.

The second year, I had Daniella and Minhae over, and all we did was drift in and out of naps, rising only to eat (Korean pancakes and stew, Greek cookies, a Filipino breakfast) and drink while watching notable Christmas classics, The Gremlins and Chalet Girl. Loose-lipped on a fair bit of boozy drinks, we played a highly revealing game of “Never Have I Ever,” because we are all obviously adults, and relished the feeling of not having to be anywhere, and not having anything to take us to faraway places on that day anyway.

This year, Minhae is back in Korea (though sorely missed). We sent her a picture, and she sent us some back of some food she is having: the salad Daniella made for us last year. I spent Christmas eve with Moki, who is finally here, studying at LSE, Aleks, and Daniella. This was Moki’s first time at my house and she said that she knew she was at the right place because she could smell the adobo I was cooking from the outside.

Christmas day was spent inside with Spanish tortilla (torta in Filipino, lol) and the chicken I make when I’m too lazy and sad to make anything else. We saw, in order: Ready or Not (we were not), Clue, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, and Death Becomes Her. For snacks: a Russian treat (salmon caviar on poppy seed baguette) with prosecco, popcorn, Greek cookies, and chocolate jewel tiles I made instead of earl grey biscuits. We ended up reading towards the end of the night, because a movie about death and impermanence is bound to make you think about your own, and all you can do sometimes is temper the flames of despair, if you can.

The next day, we put on Paddington.

So, my little year-end essay is going to be a little early, because if I don’t do it now, I will either forget or run out of steam. It was a mix of really good and really bad, as I’m sure most years are, though to varying degrees. This year, I finished my masters programme (graduating with okay enough marks: a 2:1), gave a talk, quit my job very unceremoniously, found other things to do, had the best summer, ended up living in a house with someone who ended up being a very good friend. I found a way to stay in London, which at times still makes me stop in my tracks because I’m hit with the realisation that this is where I live now. I’m trying to see where I fit in all of this.

It’s been a struggle to think about moving forward when you think that you’ve gotten rid of the thing that made you feel so stuck, but also losing a little bit of anchor that’s meant to keep you from floating away. Floating is good; it just gets a little scary when you don’t know how to find yourself back to where you’d like to be. I have not been very good at taking care of myself, but I’m trying harder now and moving within myself more carefully, instead of giving into that voice inside my head that keeps telling me I can’t do it. I can’t make it. I don’t fit anywhere.

Raymond assured me that I’m not a mess, and reminded me to take one step at a time, to put one foot in front of the other. “I remember how Pedro Almodovar described Volver once,” he said. “The story of a woman whose life is falling apart and has no choice but to put one front in front of the other to get her and her daughter out of it.” I trust him because Raymond is smart.

In the grandest grand scheme of things, I know that I don’t have super serious problems. The kind that stops your life in its tracks. My life isn’t falling apart, although it sometimes feels like it is. I don’t have a daughter, but I have me, and I owe it to myself to see this through and fight against falling apart.

Life Lately No. 9

Yesterday, I met up with Bea and we were both talking about how much we missed reading blogs and writing in our own blogs (lol) and about how what we enjoy most is when people get sort of unscripted and somewhat personal in theirs. Following my last post, which was another one of these life update things, I thought I ought to write something “substantial” (whatever that means) that wasn’t another one of these wala lang posts. But then, it was like, “Well, what’s wrong with just writing these things?” Nothing, that’s what. I have nothing to prove. Nothing with this blog, anyway. (Silent lol.) So here we go.

(I’ve been thinking, for example, of writing lots and lots and lots of exhibition posts because I have lots and lots and lots of pictures. But here we are. You get my navel-gazing instead. Lucky.)

So, I made it! I’m back in London. Two days after I’d written the last post, I got my endorsement from the Arts Council (which was surprising but also what I’d hoped for) and then I flew to Manila shortly thereafter to file stage two of the visa application. Yes, it’s An Ordeal. Yes, I’m very grateful that I am even able to think of this route as a possibility. Anyway, I got my visa application approved shortly after filing. And then I spent the last remaining weeks I had allotted for waiting just enjoying the company of my family and friends. Schmoopy way to say that I enjoyed my holiday, but I’m in a mood.

Anyway, so I’m back here and I’m trying to get a handle on things again. I tend to take a while to acclimate back to my routines when I take a break to go home, but I’m uh… trusting in the process. I have sent out a very large handful of job applications, and I am trying to get back into studio life. It’s… really hard, lol. But I am still in that place where I think it will be worth it. I’m probably going to go in and out of this state in the next couple of months, so I’ll be bracing myself.

Left for 4.5 weeks, what the fuck happened to Hackney Wick?!

Truthfully, I am equal parts terrified and excited, but as is my natural tendency… I am not quite in the place where I am willing to really feel the excitement of possibility. I don’t ever think that I have something until I have it, if that makes sense. (It probably doesn’t.) So, I think maybe that has been affecting my ability to properly go about my life. Even though I have taken fairly productive steps in the looking for a career department, I have also spent a huge amount of time watching the telly and… playing games.

(In a moment of weakness, I got myself a Nintendo Switch that was on a Black Friday promotion. I am considering it either a birthday present or a Christmas treat. But we all know it’s an attempt at crisis aversion.) It’s been fun. I’m trying to not let it consume me, and I’ve introduced some gaming aspects into my life, making deals such as: if I send out at least 15 job applications, I can get Fire Emblem: Three Houses.

(It is a very good game. I sent out 17 applications before caving. I’ve received one rejection already. Swift and harsh, but better than withering in wait.)

Other than that, elections are giving me second-hand anxiety. I’ve usually coped with this by thinking that everywhere in the world is bad, but rather than give me a boost of assurance, it has proven to make me want to stay in bed and entertain the dread. I have, however, not been doing that. Here’s to trying very, very hard to be optimistic, and I hope that when we see one another on the other side, it’s not going to be a place that is completely doomed.

Life Lately No. 8

Reader (whoever you are), a lot has happened since you were here last.

Minhae, one of my uni classmates, flew back to Seoul last weekend. I miss her already. I dumbly assumed that we had the same visa dates, but she actually flew over here earlier, so I had another month. Anyway, we had a nice little party for her at my house, which made it feel like it was my house too, rather than just my flatmate’s, which was odd but nice.

I’ve been able to spend a nice chunk of time with some friends from home, too. Angel, who is actually now based in Malmö, came for a visit and we spent the day at Tate and walking around King’s Cross.

Had ramen and mochi with Ken, which was quite fun, because we hadn’t really met each other outside of Instagram up until then. He was in town for meetings on the forthcoming Nam June Paik show at Tate.

I met up with Marga, who I work with a lot but never really hung out with a lot, too, and it was the best sort of day where you just eat and walk and have coffee and talk about what :) kind :) of :) internet :) anxieties :) you have in common, lol. Met Kat, too, who’s based really, really, really close to me, which was cool.

People often ask me if I miss Manila, and absolutely I do, but it’s more because of the people, really. And the dogs, of course. I’m lucky to have such a great support system here, but so many people I love are back home, and it’s nice to see them here every once in a while.

I’ve been reading a lot, too. (It’s because of all the visa waiting.) I’m going to post short reviews (one-minute videos?? 30 secs??), I think, but here’s what I’ve read so far in 2019, in case you were curious.

And then, well.

Truthfully, I have been having a hard time looking for jobs. I’d like to think it’s due to the visa restrictions (in that, if I don’t hear good news soon, I’d have to leave by the 21st of October, which is, of course, a less than ideal situation between me and any and every HR department in existence), but it could also be due to what feels like a skewed notion of value ’round these parts. I have, for example, worked as design lead for quite big global companies in the Philippines. Do they care? Doesn’t seem like it. Like, what even is the Philippines? It’s frustrating, but what can you do? Nothing. Offer up my fate to God and the universe and try not to rot in destitution.

And also, I guess, set up a Patreon.

Truthfully (again), I feel a little bit weird about it. Although I am very much an online person, I’m not sure I am the type of online person who attracts Patreon users. IDK. I’ve only ever contributed to one group, which I had to of course stop, because as we’ve established, I’m not exactly Scrooge McDuck over here. Maybe I’ll have my 20’s changed into 1p coins and attempt a little swim. A little swish, at least.

But yes, in case you are inclined, I’ve gone and made a Patreon. I’m probably going to overshare (it’s exciting in my head, and then scary, and then embarrassing, but mostly exciting), but behind a paywall. Does it make sense? Potentially not, but this is where we are at. I’ve been wanting to do videos and stuff like that for a long-ass time. This is probably the “go signal” I was waiting for. (Sidenote: I can’t help but feel like if I’d been more of a mess, I’d get more followers. Is this a logical conclusion?)

Other than that, I’m running a sale of sorts on my print shop, Bluest Press, for the next two weeks. For purchases £15 and up, for example, I’m throwing in a free print of your choice. I think if you asked nicely, I’ll throw in another one. I’m soft like that.

The last few days have felt a little icky because everything feels like a money-grab situation, which, of course, rationally speaking, it’s not — I am just trying to earn money so I can pay rent, etc. I can’t exactly look for employment at this moment yet, so it’s kind of a bit of a pickle. Did I lead myself into this pickle? Signs point to absolutely yes, but even so, I’d like to get out of it.

Some nice friends have commissioned some paintings and work, so that’s been lovely and heartwarming and all that. It’s a little scary to be confronted by a) absolute alone-ness in this kind of world, i.e. the arts~, that I’ve always felt rather at home in, and b) THE POSSIBILITY THAT YOU DO NOT HAVE WHAT IT TAKES.

I realise this is more an unfurling of a crisis rather than a light-ish life update, but honestly, this is where I am most of the time. I try to get work done and usually, it works out, but other times, I am paralysed by a concoction of big and small fears, and then I am roused out of it again, because no one is going to take care of me for me. Is that an obvious thing I have overlooked in the last three decades? Possibly. I am feeling the brunt of it now, though. I think it’s because I am doing my laundry, I cleaned the house, and I paid for my rent yesterday. I know I have it better than many other people, but it doesn’t mean that these things don’t keep me up at night, because they do.

And now I feel extra gross, because. Well, you know.

I had a really nice dinner with Isa and Rach last night, who are staying at the same hotel as fucking HAIM, and it put my situation in a manageable perspective for me. We ended up going around King’s Cross for about an hour and a half before finally being able to eat because Friday night, amirite, lol.

But yes. Isa: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Rach said that no matter what happens, just roll with the punches. Whatever happens to me, I know this isn’t the end. I’ve always been very observant of signs and what they might mean, but I was reminded that what could be a “no” doesn’t mean that I don’t belong here. It doesn’t mean that I should stop trying. I think, after all that’s happened, I can’t afford to anyway.

Tomorrow is my birthday. I turn 31. I don’t know what that means other than I’m a year older, but I guess we’ll see, won’t we?