curated exhibition

Hidden

The virtual exhibition Hidden showcases a range of material, bodily, and sensorial artwork and literature that are tied to each other by their varied attempts at concealment. We associate the word “hidden” with bodies or objects that cannot be seen—things out of sight and perhaps out of mind. But each of these works visually or viscerally transmits the sense that there are mysterious presences hidden or in hiding. 
 
These works invite us to tease out the details and structures that have facilitated their concealment. What is purportedly hidden then emerges in plain sight. Collectively, the works in Hidden capture “absent presences.” 
 
During the conceptual stages of Hidden, I was influenced by stories of the undocumented in the United States, and I thought about my own family’s connection to this issue. I grew up abroad, and the knowledge that some family members were “TNT” an acronym for tago ng tago or “undocumented migrants” in the United States was always present in our household. Their stories and their existence were known to all of us, but they remained hidden from society writ large. 
 
Only later did I realize that their presence and visibility in our lives came with tremendous stakes. If caught as undocumented, they could have been detained or deported back to the Philippines. When I read about the undocumented, I think about my relatives and how their lives connect to other bodies, communities, spaces, feelings, and survival strategies.
 
I hope that Hidden helps to answer questions that continue to linger: What does it mean to be hidden? What forces govern the in/visibility of people or spaces? How do artists and writers conceptualize the spectral, both phantasms and memories?
 
Curated by Jan Christian Bernabe 
September 2014
 
Special thanks to my curatorial assistant, intern Tanya Tran
 
Maraming salamat to all the contributors to Hidden.
 
Kimberly Arteche, Lek Borja, Marylene Camacho, Carina A. del Rosario, John Yoyogi Fortes, Mik Gaspay, Luisa A. Igloria, Farsad Labbauf, Lin + Lam, Kang Seung Lee, Jessica Lichtenstein, Senalka McDonald,  Michelle Peñaloza, Barbra Ramos, Chris Sicat, Jeffrey Augustine Songco, Laura Swanson, Kenneth Tam, Maria Villote
 
Hidden is made possible through the generous support of donors.
 

Into the Burl

Christopher Sicat

2011 Graphite on oak burl. 36 in. x 24 in. x 8 in. Courtesy of the artist.

contributor

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Christopher Sicat

b. 1968
image description
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Christopher Sícat was a long time Los Angeles artist and curator before relocating to the San Francisco Bay Area. He graduated from Otis/Parsons School of Design (B.F.A.) and the New York Academy of Arts (M.F.A. cum laude). His recent sculptures investigate the natural environment as a platform for process- and performance- based art making. Sicat has exhibited his works at the de Saisset Museum in Santa Clara, CA; Space 47 and Art Arc in San Jose, CA; Palo Alto (CA) Art Center; and Swarm Gallery, Southern Exposure, and Intersection for the Arts in the San Francisco Bay Area, CA. In the past he has also shown at JAUS, Track 16 Gallery, and Black Dragon Society in Los Angeles, CA; Intramuros Museum in Manila, Philippines; and Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, CA. Sicat directed the infamous Hatch Gallery, which hosted the controversial “Rejection Show” that was highlighted on the BBC The World.

location

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  • Born: Pampanga, Philippines
  • Based: San Jose, CA, USA

comments

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Into the Burl

Christopher Sicat

2011 Graphite on oak burl. 36 in. x 24 in. x 8 in. Courtesy of the artist.

contributor

X

Christopher Sicat

b. 1968
image description
  • See All Works
  • visit website

Christopher Sícat was a long time Los Angeles artist and curator before relocating to the San Francisco Bay Area. He graduated from Otis/Parsons School of Design (B.F.A.) and the New York Academy of Arts (M.F.A. cum laude). His recent sculptures investigate the natural environment as a platform for process- and performance- based art making. Sicat has exhibited his works at the de Saisset Museum in Santa Clara, CA; Space 47 and Art Arc in San Jose, CA; Palo Alto (CA) Art Center; and Swarm Gallery, Southern Exposure, and Intersection for the Arts in the San Francisco Bay Area, CA. In the past he has also shown at JAUS, Track 16 Gallery, and Black Dragon Society in Los Angeles, CA; Intramuros Museum in Manila, Philippines; and Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, CA. Sicat directed the infamous Hatch Gallery, which hosted the controversial “Rejection Show” that was highlighted on the BBC The World.

location

X
  • Born: Pampanga, Philippines
  • Based: San Jose, CA, USA

comments

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Tulips Teeth (Drawing 1)

Farsad Labbauf

2007 Color pencil on paper. 20 in. x 16 in. Courtesy of the artist.

contributor

X

Farsad Labbauf

b. 1965

Farsad Labbauf (Persian: فرساد لباف ) is an Iranian artist living and working in the New York area. Best known for his linear figurative paintings, he immigrated to the US at thirteen. After enrolling in Rhode Island School of Design in 1982, Labbauf received his Bachelor of Fine Arts, followed by a second degree in Industrial Design. His linear figurative paintings are inspired in part by Persian calligraphy, tile works, and studies in Quantum physics, revealing his reverence for such ideas as Unity and Monism. The origins of Labbauf's work lie in Figurative Expressionism, a style he practiced for more than two decades, leading to the creation of his linear figurative painting style. His paintings have been featured in more than sixty group shows across the globe, including at the Saatchi Gallery in London and Ex Aurum Museum in Pescara, Italy. He has, in addition, been the subject of solo exhibitions in New York, NY; Boston, MA; Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Tehran, Iran; and the Esfahan Museum of Contemporary Art, Iran. Labbauf's work can be found in numerous public and private collections, including the Salsali Museum, Dubai; the Saatchi Gallery, London; Carsten de Boer Art Collection, Amsterdam; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Esfahan.

 

Photograph by Linda Thompson. 

Over the past decade, the focus of my work has been directed on expressing ideas of singularity and exploring themes regarding the subject of Unity. Original inspirations for these ideas were found in studies of Rumi's poetry, Quantum physics and Monistic belief systems.

In addition to my figurative linear paintings, a second method of application also evolved simultaneously, using lines to overlap different content. Examining unrelated themes and conjuring new relationships, a labyrinth of lines were born by overlapping different subjects. Mrs. Heinz (2003) was a hybrid image of a Japanese geisha and a Ketchup bottle, weaving contemporary flavor to an allegory for taste and traditional customs of pleasure. Rabbit-Face (2003) was a cross between a man's head and a rabbit, referencing a merge between the intellect and the beast inside. These works were followed by the Tulips-Teeth series (2007) and The Golden Rule (2012) which continued to explore a mélange of content, examining connections among iconic figures and such themes as nature, beauty, and decay.

To express and manifest ideas of singularity, different mediums and a variety of contents are continually explored. Irrespective of content, however, my work is a continual meditation on what lies beneath the form: a universe within which subject and object merge into one. A place where there is no separation between the teacher and the thought, away from duality and into the subterranean landscape of union. Even though sources for most of my content are external, my work is often an attempt for the union of the internal.

location

X
  • Born: Tehran, Iran
  • Based: New York, NY, USA

comments

X

Tulips Teeth (Drawing 2)

Farsad Labbauf

2007 Color pencil on paper. 20 in. x 16 in. Courtesy of the artist.

contributor

X

Farsad Labbauf

b. 1965

Farsad Labbauf (Persian: فرساد لباف ) is an Iranian artist living and working in the New York area. Best known for his linear figurative paintings, he immigrated to the US at thirteen. After enrolling in Rhode Island School of Design in 1982, Labbauf received his Bachelor of Fine Arts, followed by a second degree in Industrial Design. His linear figurative paintings are inspired in part by Persian calligraphy, tile works, and studies in Quantum physics, revealing his reverence for such ideas as Unity and Monism. The origins of Labbauf's work lie in Figurative Expressionism, a style he practiced for more than two decades, leading to the creation of his linear figurative painting style. His paintings have been featured in more than sixty group shows across the globe, including at the Saatchi Gallery in London and Ex Aurum Museum in Pescara, Italy. He has, in addition, been the subject of solo exhibitions in New York, NY; Boston, MA; Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Tehran, Iran; and the Esfahan Museum of Contemporary Art, Iran. Labbauf's work can be found in numerous public and private collections, including the Salsali Museum, Dubai; the Saatchi Gallery, London; Carsten de Boer Art Collection, Amsterdam; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Esfahan.

 

Photograph by Linda Thompson. 

Over the past decade, the focus of my work has been directed on expressing ideas of singularity and exploring themes regarding the subject of Unity. Original inspirations for these ideas were found in studies of Rumi's poetry, Quantum physics and Monistic belief systems.

In addition to my figurative linear paintings, a second method of application also evolved simultaneously, using lines to overlap different content. Examining unrelated themes and conjuring new relationships, a labyrinth of lines were born by overlapping different subjects. Mrs. Heinz (2003) was a hybrid image of a Japanese geisha and a Ketchup bottle, weaving contemporary flavor to an allegory for taste and traditional customs of pleasure. Rabbit-Face (2003) was a cross between a man's head and a rabbit, referencing a merge between the intellect and the beast inside. These works were followed by the Tulips-Teeth series (2007) and The Golden Rule (2012) which continued to explore a mélange of content, examining connections among iconic figures and such themes as nature, beauty, and decay.

To express and manifest ideas of singularity, different mediums and a variety of contents are continually explored. Irrespective of content, however, my work is a continual meditation on what lies beneath the form: a universe within which subject and object merge into one. A place where there is no separation between the teacher and the thought, away from duality and into the subterranean landscape of union. Even though sources for most of my content are external, my work is often an attempt for the union of the internal.

location

X
  • Born: Tehran, Iran
  • Based: New York, NY, USA

comments

X

Tulips Teeth (Drawing 3)

Farsad Labbauf

2007 Color pencil on paper. 20 in. x 16 in. Courtesy of the artist.

contributor

X

Farsad Labbauf

b. 1965

Farsad Labbauf (Persian: فرساد لباف ) is an Iranian artist living and working in the New York area. Best known for his linear figurative paintings, he immigrated to the US at thirteen. After enrolling in Rhode Island School of Design in 1982, Labbauf received his Bachelor of Fine Arts, followed by a second degree in Industrial Design. His linear figurative paintings are inspired in part by Persian calligraphy, tile works, and studies in Quantum physics, revealing his reverence for such ideas as Unity and Monism. The origins of Labbauf's work lie in Figurative Expressionism, a style he practiced for more than two decades, leading to the creation of his linear figurative painting style. His paintings have been featured in more than sixty group shows across the globe, including at the Saatchi Gallery in London and Ex Aurum Museum in Pescara, Italy. He has, in addition, been the subject of solo exhibitions in New York, NY; Boston, MA; Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Tehran, Iran; and the Esfahan Museum of Contemporary Art, Iran. Labbauf's work can be found in numerous public and private collections, including the Salsali Museum, Dubai; the Saatchi Gallery, London; Carsten de Boer Art Collection, Amsterdam; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Esfahan.

 

Photograph by Linda Thompson. 

Over the past decade, the focus of my work has been directed on expressing ideas of singularity and exploring themes regarding the subject of Unity. Original inspirations for these ideas were found in studies of Rumi's poetry, Quantum physics and Monistic belief systems.

In addition to my figurative linear paintings, a second method of application also evolved simultaneously, using lines to overlap different content. Examining unrelated themes and conjuring new relationships, a labyrinth of lines were born by overlapping different subjects. Mrs. Heinz (2003) was a hybrid image of a Japanese geisha and a Ketchup bottle, weaving contemporary flavor to an allegory for taste and traditional customs of pleasure. Rabbit-Face (2003) was a cross between a man's head and a rabbit, referencing a merge between the intellect and the beast inside. These works were followed by the Tulips-Teeth series (2007) and The Golden Rule (2012) which continued to explore a mélange of content, examining connections among iconic figures and such themes as nature, beauty, and decay.

To express and manifest ideas of singularity, different mediums and a variety of contents are continually explored. Irrespective of content, however, my work is a continual meditation on what lies beneath the form: a universe within which subject and object merge into one. A place where there is no separation between the teacher and the thought, away from duality and into the subterranean landscape of union. Even though sources for most of my content are external, my work is often an attempt for the union of the internal.

location

X
  • Born: Tehran, Iran
  • Based: New York, NY, USA

comments

X

Tulips Teeth (Drawing 4)

Farsad Labbauf

2007 Color pencil on paper. 20 in. x 16 in. Courtesy of the artist.

contributor

X

Farsad Labbauf

b. 1965

Farsad Labbauf (Persian: فرساد لباف ) is an Iranian artist living and working in the New York area. Best known for his linear figurative paintings, he immigrated to the US at thirteen. After enrolling in Rhode Island School of Design in 1982, Labbauf received his Bachelor of Fine Arts, followed by a second degree in Industrial Design. His linear figurative paintings are inspired in part by Persian calligraphy, tile works, and studies in Quantum physics, revealing his reverence for such ideas as Unity and Monism. The origins of Labbauf's work lie in Figurative Expressionism, a style he practiced for more than two decades, leading to the creation of his linear figurative painting style. His paintings have been featured in more than sixty group shows across the globe, including at the Saatchi Gallery in London and Ex Aurum Museum in Pescara, Italy. He has, in addition, been the subject of solo exhibitions in New York, NY; Boston, MA; Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Tehran, Iran; and the Esfahan Museum of Contemporary Art, Iran. Labbauf's work can be found in numerous public and private collections, including the Salsali Museum, Dubai; the Saatchi Gallery, London; Carsten de Boer Art Collection, Amsterdam; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Esfahan.

 

Photograph by Linda Thompson. 

Over the past decade, the focus of my work has been directed on expressing ideas of singularity and exploring themes regarding the subject of Unity. Original inspirations for these ideas were found in studies of Rumi's poetry, Quantum physics and Monistic belief systems.

In addition to my figurative linear paintings, a second method of application also evolved simultaneously, using lines to overlap different content. Examining unrelated themes and conjuring new relationships, a labyrinth of lines were born by overlapping different subjects. Mrs. Heinz (2003) was a hybrid image of a Japanese geisha and a Ketchup bottle, weaving contemporary flavor to an allegory for taste and traditional customs of pleasure. Rabbit-Face (2003) was a cross between a man's head and a rabbit, referencing a merge between the intellect and the beast inside. These works were followed by the Tulips-Teeth series (2007) and The Golden Rule (2012) which continued to explore a mélange of content, examining connections among iconic figures and such themes as nature, beauty, and decay.

To express and manifest ideas of singularity, different mediums and a variety of contents are continually explored. Irrespective of content, however, my work is a continual meditation on what lies beneath the form: a universe within which subject and object merge into one. A place where there is no separation between the teacher and the thought, away from duality and into the subterranean landscape of union. Even though sources for most of my content are external, my work is often an attempt for the union of the internal.

location

X
  • Born: Tehran, Iran
  • Based: New York, NY, USA

comments

X

Tulips Teeth (Drawing 5)

Farsad Labbauf

2007 Color pencil on paper. 20 in. x 16 in. Courtesy of the artist.

contributor

X

Farsad Labbauf

b. 1965

Farsad Labbauf (Persian: فرساد لباف ) is an Iranian artist living and working in the New York area. Best known for his linear figurative paintings, he immigrated to the US at thirteen. After enrolling in Rhode Island School of Design in 1982, Labbauf received his Bachelor of Fine Arts, followed by a second degree in Industrial Design. His linear figurative paintings are inspired in part by Persian calligraphy, tile works, and studies in Quantum physics, revealing his reverence for such ideas as Unity and Monism. The origins of Labbauf's work lie in Figurative Expressionism, a style he practiced for more than two decades, leading to the creation of his linear figurative painting style. His paintings have been featured in more than sixty group shows across the globe, including at the Saatchi Gallery in London and Ex Aurum Museum in Pescara, Italy. He has, in addition, been the subject of solo exhibitions in New York, NY; Boston, MA; Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Tehran, Iran; and the Esfahan Museum of Contemporary Art, Iran. Labbauf's work can be found in numerous public and private collections, including the Salsali Museum, Dubai; the Saatchi Gallery, London; Carsten de Boer Art Collection, Amsterdam; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Esfahan.

 

Photograph by Linda Thompson. 

Over the past decade, the focus of my work has been directed on expressing ideas of singularity and exploring themes regarding the subject of Unity. Original inspirations for these ideas were found in studies of Rumi's poetry, Quantum physics and Monistic belief systems.

In addition to my figurative linear paintings, a second method of application also evolved simultaneously, using lines to overlap different content. Examining unrelated themes and conjuring new relationships, a labyrinth of lines were born by overlapping different subjects. Mrs. Heinz (2003) was a hybrid image of a Japanese geisha and a Ketchup bottle, weaving contemporary flavor to an allegory for taste and traditional customs of pleasure. Rabbit-Face (2003) was a cross between a man's head and a rabbit, referencing a merge between the intellect and the beast inside. These works were followed by the Tulips-Teeth series (2007) and The Golden Rule (2012) which continued to explore a mélange of content, examining connections among iconic figures and such themes as nature, beauty, and decay.

To express and manifest ideas of singularity, different mediums and a variety of contents are continually explored. Irrespective of content, however, my work is a continual meditation on what lies beneath the form: a universe within which subject and object merge into one. A place where there is no separation between the teacher and the thought, away from duality and into the subterranean landscape of union. Even though sources for most of my content are external, my work is often an attempt for the union of the internal.

location

X
  • Born: Tehran, Iran
  • Based: New York, NY, USA

comments

X

Tulips Teeth (Drawing 6)

Farsad Labbauf

2007 Color pencil on paper. 20 in. x 16 in. Courtesy of the artist.

contributor

X

Farsad Labbauf

b. 1965

Farsad Labbauf (Persian: فرساد لباف ) is an Iranian artist living and working in the New York area. Best known for his linear figurative paintings, he immigrated to the US at thirteen. After enrolling in Rhode Island School of Design in 1982, Labbauf received his Bachelor of Fine Arts, followed by a second degree in Industrial Design. His linear figurative paintings are inspired in part by Persian calligraphy, tile works, and studies in Quantum physics, revealing his reverence for such ideas as Unity and Monism. The origins of Labbauf's work lie in Figurative Expressionism, a style he practiced for more than two decades, leading to the creation of his linear figurative painting style. His paintings have been featured in more than sixty group shows across the globe, including at the Saatchi Gallery in London and Ex Aurum Museum in Pescara, Italy. He has, in addition, been the subject of solo exhibitions in New York, NY; Boston, MA; Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Tehran, Iran; and the Esfahan Museum of Contemporary Art, Iran. Labbauf's work can be found in numerous public and private collections, including the Salsali Museum, Dubai; the Saatchi Gallery, London; Carsten de Boer Art Collection, Amsterdam; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Esfahan.

 

Photograph by Linda Thompson. 

Over the past decade, the focus of my work has been directed on expressing ideas of singularity and exploring themes regarding the subject of Unity. Original inspirations for these ideas were found in studies of Rumi's poetry, Quantum physics and Monistic belief systems.

In addition to my figurative linear paintings, a second method of application also evolved simultaneously, using lines to overlap different content. Examining unrelated themes and conjuring new relationships, a labyrinth of lines were born by overlapping different subjects. Mrs. Heinz (2003) was a hybrid image of a Japanese geisha and a Ketchup bottle, weaving contemporary flavor to an allegory for taste and traditional customs of pleasure. Rabbit-Face (2003) was a cross between a man's head and a rabbit, referencing a merge between the intellect and the beast inside. These works were followed by the Tulips-Teeth series (2007) and The Golden Rule (2012) which continued to explore a mélange of content, examining connections among iconic figures and such themes as nature, beauty, and decay.

To express and manifest ideas of singularity, different mediums and a variety of contents are continually explored. Irrespective of content, however, my work is a continual meditation on what lies beneath the form: a universe within which subject and object merge into one. A place where there is no separation between the teacher and the thought, away from duality and into the subterranean landscape of union. Even though sources for most of my content are external, my work is often an attempt for the union of the internal.

location

X
  • Born: Tehran, Iran
  • Based: New York, NY, USA

comments

X

Guilty Party #2

Jeffrey Augustine Songco

2014 Pastel on paper. 28 in. x 40 in. Courtesy of the artist and Steven Wolf Fine Arts, San Francisco.

contributor

X

Jeffrey Augustine Songco

b. 1983
image description
  • See All Works
  • visit website

Jeffrey Augustine Songco is a multi-media artist. Born and raised in New Jersey, USA, to immigrant Filipino parents, his artistic identity developed at a young age with training in classical ballet, voice, and musical theater. Today, he uses these disciplines in the performing arts to produce stories as works of visual art. He holds a B.F.A. from Carnegie Mellon University and an M.F.A. from San Francisco Art Institute. He has exhibited throughout the United States, including the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco and the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts in Grand Rapids. His writings have appeared in Art21 Blog, Bad at Sports, The Huffington Post, and Hyperallergic. He would like to be the US representative to the 2023 Venice Biennale. He currently lives and works in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

My obsessive consumption of superficial goods translates into the production of peculiar appropriation. There’s a lot of stuff out there to play with — things (as objects) and ideas (as language) are my materials. I'm interested in physical behavior, emotional narratives, and performed identities. I believe my artwork produces an infectious feeling of anxiety that can only be alleviated by a) the acceptance of the fluidity of meaning, 2) the impossibility of fully comprehending the absurd, and d) the inability to control your own laughter.

As the commissioned artist for the Center for Art and Thought’s exhibition Queer Sites and Sounds, I created a limited edition digital print titled Confessional. This work is the third iteration in a series of photographic prints depicting my “bag head character” juxtaposed with text from a grand narrative.

In 2012, I wrote my first screenplay titled The Host. The title refers to the protagonist – a white, affluent, suburban mom who is the beloved host on a popular home-shopping television network. The title also refers to the bread that is transformed into the body of Christ and eaten during Catholic mass. Throughout the film, the woman is negotiating her identity as a devout Catholic woman and as a mom to her recently outed college-aged son. In front of a million television viewers, she goes through her own transformation, performing a role that caters to a culturally conservative America, while knowing full well that her gay son is quietly shifting her away from those values. When I wrote the screenplay, I was just a writer with a dream, but I was also an artist with a camera. I created the triptych Hosanna as a way to visually manifest the text of The Host. In Hosanna, quotations from The Host flank the solitary white figure that is performing the role of the host. “Hosanna” is a biblical word that is shouted to express joy and adoration – an old-timer word for “OMG” or a phrase a woman might say when she sees sparkling jewelry.

By dressing in all white and placing a bag on my head, I enact a queer performance of the protagonist – a beautiful and empowered heterosexual white woman with personal anxiety that looms around her as she fulfills her own performance of self. This same concept can be used with the next iteration in the series, the diptych God Bless (Miss) America. I didn’t write a screenplay, but I’ve always been transfixed by pageantry – count me in as part of the demographic obsessed with TLC’s Toddlers and Tiaras who can also tell the difference between the Miss America and Miss USA pageants. The narrative of beauty pageants is so common in American popular culture that it has become a cliché, so I chose to use a clichéd question as the text within the artwork. In front of millions of television viewers, a pageant contestant must answer a seemingly bleak question with something that caters to the pageant judges and, ultimately, the identity of the nation.

I’m currently in the process of writing a screenplay titled The Cast, a dramatic film that focuses on a cast member of a reality television show about five affluent white married women living in San Francisco. Queer Sites and Sounds is the perfect site to visually translate the text of The Cast like I had done with The Host. My new artwork is titled Confessional, which refers to the idea of the Catholic Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. Sharing and confessing sins to a priest in a small room allows the sinner to be absolved from mortal sins and avoid Hell. Decades ago, the word “confessional” was introduced to reality television when subjects of the show were taken aside from the main activity into a small room, and asked to share and confess how they felt about the events that just occurred. Subjects broke the fourth wall and spoke directly to the camera to share all their feelings and provide a proper narrative to the plot. The confessional has aesthetically evolved into what it is today, with the confessional interview being highly stylized and elaborately produced. Bravo Television’s The Real Housewives series provides fantastic examples of stylized confessionals, with characters confessing in front of luxurious backgrounds.

I’ve always had an interest in – some would say obsession with – white people. While I shine the spotlight on an American ideal, I don’t deny the multiple references to a darker side of white America: Christian extremism, political nationalism, military torture, and white supremacy. In Confessional, I chose to display a quotation that revealed a dramatic side of the reality show – adultery. This kind of saturated American identity is the root of my bag head character, which ultimately plays the role of an anonymous white person subject to the projections of any given story.

location

X
  • Born: New Jersey, USA
  • Based: Grand Rapids, MI

comments

X

Guilty Party #3

Jeffrey Augustine Songco

2014 Pastel on paper. 28 in. x 40 in. Courtesy of the artist and Steven Wolf Fine Arts, San Francisco.

contributor

X

Jeffrey Augustine Songco

b. 1983
image description
  • See All Works
  • visit website

Jeffrey Augustine Songco is a multi-media artist. Born and raised in New Jersey, USA, to immigrant Filipino parents, his artistic identity developed at a young age with training in classical ballet, voice, and musical theater. Today, he uses these disciplines in the performing arts to produce stories as works of visual art. He holds a B.F.A. from Carnegie Mellon University and an M.F.A. from San Francisco Art Institute. He has exhibited throughout the United States, including the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco and the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts in Grand Rapids. His writings have appeared in Art21 Blog, Bad at Sports, The Huffington Post, and Hyperallergic. He would like to be the US representative to the 2023 Venice Biennale. He currently lives and works in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

My obsessive consumption of superficial goods translates into the production of peculiar appropriation. There’s a lot of stuff out there to play with — things (as objects) and ideas (as language) are my materials. I'm interested in physical behavior, emotional narratives, and performed identities. I believe my artwork produces an infectious feeling of anxiety that can only be alleviated by a) the acceptance of the fluidity of meaning, 2) the impossibility of fully comprehending the absurd, and d) the inability to control your own laughter.

As the commissioned artist for the Center for Art and Thought’s exhibition Queer Sites and Sounds, I created a limited edition digital print titled Confessional. This work is the third iteration in a series of photographic prints depicting my “bag head character” juxtaposed with text from a grand narrative.

In 2012, I wrote my first screenplay titled The Host. The title refers to the protagonist – a white, affluent, suburban mom who is the beloved host on a popular home-shopping television network. The title also refers to the bread that is transformed into the body of Christ and eaten during Catholic mass. Throughout the film, the woman is negotiating her identity as a devout Catholic woman and as a mom to her recently outed college-aged son. In front of a million television viewers, she goes through her own transformation, performing a role that caters to a culturally conservative America, while knowing full well that her gay son is quietly shifting her away from those values. When I wrote the screenplay, I was just a writer with a dream, but I was also an artist with a camera. I created the triptych Hosanna as a way to visually manifest the text of The Host. In Hosanna, quotations from The Host flank the solitary white figure that is performing the role of the host. “Hosanna” is a biblical word that is shouted to express joy and adoration – an old-timer word for “OMG” or a phrase a woman might say when she sees sparkling jewelry.

By dressing in all white and placing a bag on my head, I enact a queer performance of the protagonist – a beautiful and empowered heterosexual white woman with personal anxiety that looms around her as she fulfills her own performance of self. This same concept can be used with the next iteration in the series, the diptych God Bless (Miss) America. I didn’t write a screenplay, but I’ve always been transfixed by pageantry – count me in as part of the demographic obsessed with TLC’s Toddlers and Tiaras who can also tell the difference between the Miss America and Miss USA pageants. The narrative of beauty pageants is so common in American popular culture that it has become a cliché, so I chose to use a clichéd question as the text within the artwork. In front of millions of television viewers, a pageant contestant must answer a seemingly bleak question with something that caters to the pageant judges and, ultimately, the identity of the nation.

I’m currently in the process of writing a screenplay titled The Cast, a dramatic film that focuses on a cast member of a reality television show about five affluent white married women living in San Francisco. Queer Sites and Sounds is the perfect site to visually translate the text of The Cast like I had done with The Host. My new artwork is titled Confessional, which refers to the idea of the Catholic Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. Sharing and confessing sins to a priest in a small room allows the sinner to be absolved from mortal sins and avoid Hell. Decades ago, the word “confessional” was introduced to reality television when subjects of the show were taken aside from the main activity into a small room, and asked to share and confess how they felt about the events that just occurred. Subjects broke the fourth wall and spoke directly to the camera to share all their feelings and provide a proper narrative to the plot. The confessional has aesthetically evolved into what it is today, with the confessional interview being highly stylized and elaborately produced. Bravo Television’s The Real Housewives series provides fantastic examples of stylized confessionals, with characters confessing in front of luxurious backgrounds.

I’ve always had an interest in – some would say obsession with – white people. While I shine the spotlight on an American ideal, I don’t deny the multiple references to a darker side of white America: Christian extremism, political nationalism, military torture, and white supremacy. In Confessional, I chose to display a quotation that revealed a dramatic side of the reality show – adultery. This kind of saturated American identity is the root of my bag head character, which ultimately plays the role of an anonymous white person subject to the projections of any given story.

location

X
  • Born: New Jersey, USA
  • Based: Grand Rapids, MI

comments

X