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“Double Vision”

NUS Museum, National University of Singapore
50 Kent Ridge Crescent, University Cultural Centre
June 9, 2016–July 31, 2016

Shireen Seno, Shotgun Tuding, 2013, 16-mm film, 13 minutes.

There is a silence around hegemony—a lack of diverse voices, born not of subaltern complicity, but of structural acceptance and, sometimes, forgetfulness. It is thus no surprise, in the global theater of art and film festivals, where hegemonic spectacle subsumes other projects into its main narrative, that an exhibition such as this one is so rare.

Curated by Singapore-based Siddharta Perez, the show features video work and experimental film by David Griggs, Gym Lumbera, Miko Revereza, Roxlee, Shireen Seno, Angel Velasco Shaw, Stephanie Syjuco, and Kidlat Tahimik—artists working in the Philippines or belonging to its diaspora. An incisive look at the country through the lens of American culture and Cold War policy, the exhibition imagines the Philippines as a “doubled” land and nation. For example, Syjuco’s abstract video work Body Double (Platoon), 2005, presents excerpts of Philippine jungle footage from Oliver Stone’s Vietnam film, Platoon (1986).

American tropes are recurrent in the other works presented, such as Seno’s video Shotgun Tuding, 2013, an appropriation of spaghetti western films; Tahimik’s Perfumed Nightmare, 1977, inspired by Voice of America radio broadcasts; and Grigg’s Where’s Francis?, 2013, a short film about two Filipino extras acting as severed heads in the film Apocalypse Now (1979). The satire and appropriation in the works rouse us with disquieting revelations, nowhere more poignant than in Where’s Francis?, when a protagonist, after thirty years of being stuck in the mud, claims that “Sheen had a heart attack and so now they forgot about us”—referring to actor Martin Sheen’s medical crisis that almost derailed the filming of Coppola’s classic.

Breaking the silence, “Double Vision” inspires an uncanny terror in the encounter with something insidiously familiar, returning our attention to the important, wordless, often forgotten implications of brushing against the soft power of a hegemonic culture.

Kathleen Ditzig