In an attempt to disclose the obscurities deeply embedded in the fabric of our society, artist-designer Karl Castro transformed the virtual human experience of photography and video into something physical. Castro rendered images, which are rather considered private and often left not discussed, into actual tangible objects, whose presence is smacked right in the face of the viewer. The artist, then, further explored the evident contrasts between the masculine and feminine agencies exhibited in these obscurities.
Translating activities often caught through virtual media, Karl Castro loom-weaved beads and other materials together — depicting enlarged pixels projected from the black screens of our gadgets. This gesture, which heightens the anonymity of these individuals, suggests that these figures, performing vulgar acts, can be anyone of us.
Complemented by the segregation of the portrait paintings of women by Fernando Amorsolo, Fermin Sanchez and Jose B. David, and the photographs of the male athletes during the last edition of the Far Eastern Championship Games, the distinction between the monochrome beadworks depicting masculine subjects and the colorful beadworks depicting feminine ones is made more apparent.
The beadworks depicting female subjects perform passive actions, whether it be primping one’s hair, pulling down one’s tube top, or putting on one’s lipstick. The lack of promiscuity, and this passivity, however, is compensated by their active agency, gazing directly at the viewers, connoting control and a strong hold on the viewing relationship. This contemporaneity of the feminist stance in illustrating the independence of women is highlighted by the passive agency of the gender in the painted portraits. These women, who cannot establish a direct gaze to the viewer, allows them to glare at their weak innocent faces and bodies.
In contrast with the agency in the feminine counterparts, the male agency, as depicted in the beadworks in the exhibition, is fueled by activity. A man actively addresses the camera in one work, and men commune into sexual acts in the other. The lewdness of the figures can be shocking to some viewers. In the largest beadwork, A man toys with his gadgets (2015), the viewer is led to participate in the voyeurism of the seemingly unaware figure as he bask into the pleasures of his worldly activity. The need to employ deliberate representation of worldly actions and the control granted to the viewer over the male subject further stresses the feminist stance earlier established by the beadworks depicting women.
Weaving, a traditional method used by indigenous people in the country, injects the stories of their community in the motifs and designs. It is in the same way that Karl Castro chose this medium in reflecting the hidden narratives — specifically the stories on the dynamics of gender — in our contemporary society.
The exhibition ran from the 3rd to the 25th of November 2016 at the Vargas Museum in the University of the Philippines – Diliman, Quezon City.