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Life as Perpetual Tentativeness: A Short Analysis of Madadayo (2013) by Ringo Bunoan

Filipina artist Ringo Bunoan’s Madadayo (2013), which was previously exhibited at the Manila Contemporary last 2013, is an installation composed of a series of grayscale photographs, and a reconstructed boat. At its core, it is an artwork that is influenced by Japanese notions of beauty, reflecting the philosophies of wabi (侘, understated beauty) and mono no aware (物の哀れ, pathos of things).

Within the photographs hanged around the walls of the space, the central figure at the foreground are road islands or islets. These are the elevated portions at the center of the main roads, which usually serve as either delineators between the two ways of the road, or signifiers of turns.

At the center of the space is a reconstructed boat made of the woodblock pieces derived from one of the installations of Ringo Bunoan’s late well-loved professor, Roberto Chabet, a luminary of conceptual art in the country. Using the Japanese technique of fixing things using golden lacquer, kintsugi (金継ぎ) or kintsukuroi (金繕い), the artist built up what has been left off by her dear professor, celebrating its completion with the thought that not only is the boat beautiful amidst its brokenness, but it is actually made beautiful because of its brokenness. This gesture reflects the Japanese notion of making denotatively-negative things palatable, showing beauty that is not usually made given – wabi.

The photographs and the reconstructed boat are held together by the title of the installation – madadayo (まあだだよ, not yet). It is actually based on a Japanese film of the same title, which narrates the relationship of a professor with a group of students. Every year, these students would visit their former teacher, and being aware of the age of the professor, they jocundly ask him when he is going to die. Year after year, the professor would consistently respond: madadayo, ‘not yet’.

The title of the installation succinctly wraps the artworks up with the notion of life, with its highs and lows, its forwards and backwards, its triumphs and setbacks, its deaths and rebirths, and its milestones, as a journey that is perpetually changing, perpetually tentative. The status quo will always be disturbed and moved, similar to the life that is ‘not yet there’. This worldview is central to the philosophy of mono no aware – sentimentality over the transience of things in life, which the Japanese believe that which actually brings forth the beauty in being alive. manilaartscene_favicon

The images were taken during Art Fair Philippines 2014, last February 2014 at The Link Carpark in Makati City.

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