Berlin

Trisha Baga, Blindness, 2021, oil and acrylic on canvas, 56 1⁄4 × 78".

Trisha Baga, Blindness, 2021, oil and acrylic on canvas, 56 1⁄4 × 78".

Trisha Baga

Société

Time travel is possible. All you need, at least according to Trisha Baga’s thirty-five-minute 3D video 1620, 2020, is an old onion and lemon, a few connecting wires, and a computer running on a chirruping dial-up modem. Such is the gizmo that, per the Filipino-American artist’s labyrinthine narrative here, transports a present-day experimental theater troupe, DNAUSA, back to the beginning of colonial American history—the landing at Plymouth Rock in 1620—in order to perform gene therapy on the country itself, opaquely repairing flaws in the “narrative DNA” encoded in the rock. The performers accomplish this by reenacting the vaunted landing and, from there, clad in Pilgrim garb and accompanied by a pantomime horse, moving forward in time to various moments (1774, 1834, and 1921 among them) when the rock is moved, broken, and, symbolically, causes the foundational American narrative to increasingly fragment and crumble.

As you might gather, the video—a disorienting palimpsest of constantly sliding layers, floating texts, and overlapping dialogue in English and Tagalog—is a lot in Baga’s long-standing maximalist style, and might leave one unsure as to what is eventually achieved. As the players tumble around in time, occasionally losing connection with the base camp that’s monitoring their progress, they get mixed up with footage of Korean boy band BTS; the B-52s make an appearance, too. But it’s notable that Baga (who, according to the gallery, prefers gender-neutral pronouns but is identified as “he” in the materials accompanying this particular show) has mainly cast themself along with other Asian American performers in the film, thereby displacing America’s origin story and its whiteness from the get-go. It’s also pertinent that this repair work involves an ad hoc mini community. Baga is big on the transformative power of the group—this show was titled “Hive Mind,” and the other larger part of it, a group of busy works on canvas, had its roots in a collaborative painting club, P_Lub, that started during the pandemic. Once a week, Baga, artist Lu Zhang, and curator Herb Tam would jointly create a painting whose image they’d distribute while advertising an upcoming conversation between artists and cultural workers on Instagram Live.

The paintings here, made since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, were galumphing, tactile, thickly worked amalgams, frequently as layered and viscous as 1620, and often seamed with violence. In the apocalyptic Blindness, 2021, a group of figures, palely outlined, grimace as a massive roseate explosion goes off behind them. In SQUARES, 2021, set amid tropical greenery at the edge of rippling water, the foreground is occupied by heaps of what look like cheese cubes, while in the middle distance two fallen humanoid figures have been pixelated into orange, brown, and green squares and a screen-shaped rectangle in a tree glitters with rainbow static. The pictorial logic, such as it is, resides partly in the title, partly in the fusing of worlds. STUD, 2021, looped us back somewhat to the video—according to the handout, the latter inspired some of these paintings—featuring the silhouette of a horse in front of which a knot of figures are clustered together. (Judging from their hair, I’m guessing they’re BTS again.) Besides the repeated tang of ambiguous peril in these paintings, what seems most germane are the organic and initially communal process that spawned them, their mingled registers, and their unworried elision of the analog and the digital, like using fruit and veg and the internet to transport a pantomime horse through time. What they offer—what Baga energetically advocates for—is a vision of mutuality and coexistence, however disordered it might be.