Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bea Camacho's New Exhibit

Bea Camacho
Conversion Factors

20 – 29 November 2007

Mag:net Katipunan
Curated by Roberto Chabet

Bea Camacho's works tackle the experience of distance, separation, absence and the endlessly revolving interplay of connections and disconnections. As the title of her latest exhibit, Conversion Factors, suggests, her most recent work is grounded in logic and the rationality of calculations. These calculations, however, do not involve the mathematics we are familiar with. They are not based on pi or the golden ratio, but rather on some unknown mathematical constants - the constants that convert the feeling of separation into a crocheted cord, the fear of forgetting into a traceless sheet of paper, and the impulse to communicate into a blank white wall.

Conversion Factors describes translations of experiences. In The Distance Between Me and My Brother, the physical distance between Manila and Boston is translated into the experience of the time taken to travel that distance, which is in turn translated into the experience of an object produced over that time. Similarly, in Ten-Minute Phone Call, a ten-minute long-distance phone call is considered in terms of its cost, and converted into an object using a given amount of yarn with the equivalent value. Yet despite these transformations, the final objects bear a conscious resemblance to the nature of their origins. The crocheted cord has the suggestion of distance in its length and Ten-Minute Phone Call seems to act as a connection between two points. Like Vik Muniz's Cloud photographs, Camacho's works examine the relationship between the actual and the implied.

All of the works operate in layers – layers of conversion, of photocopies, of paint, of rows of crocheted yarn. Each successive layer serves to limit the audience's access to the work. The audience is always one, or more, steps removed from what the work explicitly refers to. In the Portrait Series where portraits of her family were photocopied until no traces of the images remained, the audience is not presented with what are visibly "portraits," and in her performance piece, the text described in the title is completely erased using white wall paint. Camacho privileges the audience with only partial knowledge, but in doing so, she draws the audience into an act of investigation. She prompts you to probe, to question, and ultimately, to engage in the infinite possibilities inherent in the void.

Like many of Camacho's earlier installations, Conversion Factors exhibits a deliberate bareness. The chameleonic pieces sparsely populate the gallery. With gray on gray floor and white on white wall, the works do not only hide behind layers of translation, but also attempt to hide themselves physically within the exhibition space. In these works, Camacho undertakes a continuous distancing, where each step pushes further an exploration of spectatorship.

Conversion Factors is Camacho's second solo exhibit, following Blind Transmission, held last year at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. She recently graduated with honors in Visual and Environmental Studies from Harvard University where she received the Albert Alcalay Prize for outstanding work in Studio Art and the David McCord Prize for Achievement in the Arts. Outside the Philippines, she has exhibited her work in New York, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Melbourne.

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