Michelle Dizon’s work of video tends to resist the global dynamic of alacrity and the movement inhering in her history of migration. Her vision “dilates” and settles, nearly never having to blink, if natured let it. But then again, it is the technology that makes her witness, a medium that compels her to cut, connect, render, thus the tension between mediation and reflection, “between the eye’s glance,” pace the peregrinate Sebald. Video itself “discloses and withholds” even as memory tries to fight its logic. Born and raised in Los Angeles with Filipino descent and American citizenship, Dizon is adequately troubled by the colonial production of her current global. This is why she returns, as it were, to several primal scenes of the beginning of a new year or the death of a youth of color, both taking place in the haunting, ominous darkness of night. Two important works surface in this promising repertoire: Civil Society (2008) and Empire, In Fragments (2010).
The artist and curator Mary Kelly describes the former as “prescient in the way it offers a wider frame of political reference and inciting the urgency of critical recall.” She regards the artist’s practice as happening in interstices, between modalities and discourses, constantly slipping away from the grasp of the graphic, with the desire to remember being always incendiary. In the latter work, the ready recognition might be Andy Warhol’s eponymous work, except that in Dizon’s hands, time is not impeded, not contrived as modernist, bohemian spectacle. Rather, it is restored as real, perhaps to recollect the “other” who had been feared in the colonial realm as “falling out of time.” Also, while Warhol’s monument or totem confidently rests on the fulcrum of world power in Manhattan, hers is in Manila, surrounded by haphazard development and a democracy stunted by the rule of the rent-seeking elite. It is a tower of a media conglomerate that controls water, light, broadcast, and cinema. In and of itself, it is an obelisk of perversion, from which mystifications of democracy emanate. Dizon stares at its tumescence as imported or improvised pyrotechnics, crackling like ricochet, rival its presence. This piece is part of a larger syntax on global history, with images of a movie theater in a former military base in the Philippines, the walls of the Spanish colonial fort, and an American facility in the south of the country.
It is at this crossing that the two works condense: in a dated but still rather liminal space called the Third World within the nation-state and the global sensorium of banlieue and hurricane, in which racial riots play out, slums and skyscrapers herald origin and expiration. Dizon confronts this scene with insistence, with both voice and seeing exasperating, and then lilting into nothing.
-Patrick D. Flores
Patrick D. Flores (born 1969) is Professor of art history, theory, and criticism at the University of the Philippines at Diliman, and is a curator at the National Art Gallery of the Philippine National Museum in Manila. A recognized scholar in the fields of Philippine and Asian art, Flores has organized several national and international platforms, including “Luz: Traces of Depiction” at the National Museum of the Philippines (2006), and “Under Construction: New Dimensions of Asian Art” at the Japan Foundation Asia Center (2000-2003). Flores is the author of numerous articles and several books concerning Philippine art.