More light than heat

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more light than heat

more light than heat published on the occasion of More light than heat

Lesley-Anne Cao and Lao Lianben

Calle Wright 1890 Vasquez Street 1004 Manila, Philippines

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more light than heat

Arianna Mercado

More light than heat was an exercise in translation. The works on display spoke with a specific language that could only be fully deciphered by the artists who made them. The task to decode is left up to the viewer and to those working alongside these artists, though much like how literary translation can often leave gaps between languages, so can the translation between ideas, material, and text.

Lao Lianben, a painter since the sixties, is most known for his massive, monumental, and abstract paintings that employ a minimal palette of blacks and whites. Lao’s paintings are almost sculptural. He layers on thick brush strokes, etchings, and other material such as wood and cement on his canvases. In More light than heat, instead of paintings that loom over and engulf, Lao shares with us subdued works that are small pockets of his sentiments found in between shelves. On an afternoon spent in Calle Wright, I once asked Lao what his paintings were about. In his perspective, to paint is akin to speaking his own language. Painting is, for him, looking within and the only way to externalize these thoughts is through these particular forms and colors. His paintings are personal and its process speaks to a very specific state of mind.

Lesley-Anne Cao’s video work, though at first glance is a stark contrast to Lao’s steady and unshaking canvases, shares similarities regarding renderings, conversions, and metamorphoses. In her work, Lesley collaborates with filmmaker Dennese Victoria in creating hushed, reserved videos spread throughout the space. Cao’s work collects and makes physical discrepancies between translations. Apart from her coming together with Victoria, Cao’s

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videos also involve collaborations with a seamstress, a tombstone engraver, and her brother. Her process-driven work embraces the input of other makers, acknowledging that her words and directions will be understood in varied ways, not necessarily as she had imagined it. Cao’s work dissipates any notion of fidelity as her objects pass through several craftsmen and eventually through a screen.

Both Cao and Lao were brought together by Lani Maestro after school of love. The choice to bring these two artists together perhaps outwardly felt like an unlikely combination. However, the more time spent with these works, one begins to realize the amount of similarities that these artists share despite differing mediums and generations. Cao and Lao create silent works that play with visibility and ambiguity, encouraging an investigation and exploration. Cao’s series of video works skirts around the limitations of our notion and perception, showing us the glint of metals and portals into spaces outside of the gallery. Lao’s paintings come from his personal collection and are expansive scenes that allow us to be immersed in simplicity and stillness.

The two artists work through their intimate devotions in More light than heat by employing specific languages and methods. The paintings that Lao has created over the years from within himself bridge the gap between speaking to his inner self, and to ours, as we navigate our own minds confronted by empty scenes. Cao’s work, on the other hand, articulates a devotion to her process, a continued steadfast gesture towards an actualization of imagined objects and phenomena. Devotions, while understood as containing a strong degree of passion and as monumental declarations of love, are

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unpacked by these artists as they distill intensity into quiet, transient actions that evidence prolonged and persistent loyalties. Attempting to decode the work of these two artists reminds me a lot about what Édoard Glissant wrote about opacity. Glissant’s texts on opacity explain a person’s right to remain opaque, which is to say unclear, obscure, and indeterminate. He wrote extensively about opacity in a cultural and sociopolitical sense, explaining that minorities did not owe colonizing forces an explanation to learned and sustained values, actions, and behavior. Glissant leaves us with an underlying point in saying that not everything can, will, and should be understood by people who face different experiences than yours. It may seem mismatched and even misguided to appropriate Glissant’s work on cultural minorities towards objects and screens purposefully arranged, but it is in the sheer vague haziness of their work that I make this connection. It is difficult and near-impossible to decipher the exactitude of what Lao was meditating upon when he created his paintings. It is likewise unachievable to understand what image exactly Cao was thinking of, especially as her work undergoes processes that challenge the accuracy of image and memory itself.

The translation will never be as pure as the idea, but More light than heat sought to find itself in between, looking towards an acceptance of what we cannot fully see and understand.

Devotions are personal rituals. These rituals transcend through both language and any sort of attempt in a fully whole explanation. It is difficult to articulate why we spend so many hours committing, toiling, and working on particular actions, objects, and people. It can be even more difficult and futile to attempt to fully understand the

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fixations of others when these rituals are practiced, ingrained, and often highly specific to a person. To translate devotion into an ideal form comprehensible to everyone would be an unattainable gesture when attempts in translation go through multiple eyes, minds, and hands, each losing the fidelity of the last. Cao and Lao share their lingering devotions with us, intimate and lasting actions, permeating through language and form.

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A vitrine, then a window (Tender machine), Lesley-Anne Cao video (looped, no audio), 1 minute, 51 seconds 2019

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A vitrine, then a window (Silver rectangle), Lesley-Anne Cao video (looped, no audio), 3 minutes 2019

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still from A vitrine, then a window (Tender machine), Lesley-Anne Cao video (looped, no audio), 1 minute, 51 seconds 2019

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a reunion before the world

Dennese Victoria

It took a long time before I heard the first sentence. All throughout March, then April, and finally, May, I was just thinking, Why are we still here? Why are still talking about this?

The days moved (mother’s cousin catches the virus and loses). I could see again (not long after, the husband follows). We have been pushed into this new world. How can I speak about this now? Tell the truth to begin. What of then is still true? The invitation came long after I had said yes to writing. I don’t like doubting what I love and yet I do it all the time. I am looking at the branch where I had filmed the dress. It was dead then and the tree it was attached to, halved. Now I must tell you that it had lived. There are new leaves in place, though I can’t seem to look at it without seeing the dress. Gold thread running along its edges, you called it a door. I see it up close and then from a bit of distance. I see the version I first thought of but never got to make, the one where it’s just falling, continuously from a high place. I remember deciding the risk was too high. The thread’s real, after all. Maybe I was scared to execute it, maybe there was not enough time, maybe I wanted to take care of it, to keep it safe.

I see it now too the way you had first let me see it. Dark room in Hong Kong, pictures resized to fit the palm, a mental image of your friend trying to sew parts of the cloth together. Difficult, she said, and you relayed. I know I’ve returned everything to you and yet somehow, even with the new growth, with this new covering, this one is still here. Memory believes before knowing even remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders. Faulkner,

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Chapter 6, in a novel called Light in August, though I didn’t receive it from the original. Rather, I found it through Sally Mann; first in a recording of her conversation with Paul Holdengräber, and later as I was reading a book she had recently released. The title, Hold Still, a memoir with photographs.

I should be moved; by life, by the resurrection. I had really grieved (as I did for the other tree that used to stand beside it years ago) waking to find that tree cut in half. And yet I still also see myself climbing on our roof, almost a year ago now, trying to catch what little light was available before it rained. It was a game you had invented, I would later tell people when asked. A world built with objects that I (the player? the borrower?) had to occasion to move.

Not that this was the instruction, but I felt that it was what was being asked for. Document, you said. Though each time an object landed in my hands, I instead heard, Move me. Turn me into something other, more than what I am.

And perhaps, indirectly, or because we had discussed it in the first meeting (the twins, the scales, the mirrors), a game of surprising, yes, but also a game of pleasing. You prefer to call it work, I know. Passed through, also words that you like to use. So maybe it is I who tends to ask (demand?) more from images. I have been trying to return everything to you. I wonder if you’ll take them back. I wonder if you still like any of it. Why ask objects to move? Why give a version? You had agreed to let me render them however I wanted to though most of the time it

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was only in whatever way I could. It wasn’t question and answer, but more of question and response. My work was to make attempts, and it stopped each time you agreed, each time you decided to say you were pleased. I happened to be there on their last day at Vargas and I was surprised, then pleased, at seeing them again. I didn’t expect you’d show the objects like that and because of this I loved it even more that they were just lain there. I wondered what had finally moved you to do so. At rest and not in my hands, they were again themselves and perhaps more yours. I could both look and see them. Nothing to wrestle with, no need to find its right place. I could just behold.

This was a worry that I had carried for More light than heat. People were coming for you and instead they were going to see versions, they were going to see my rough translations. It is the work, I know, I understand. You had directed everything and we played for you, with you. But I was worried about taking care not just of the objects, but of your work. Would something of what is unseen from you, and therefore more real, be carried through? Would it find a way to live? So here am I asking again, and I hope, for not too much.

When I was beginning to recollect what I knew of my time with the objects, I thought I was going to write about ghosts. But we, all of us now, are too far, and they cannot touch us. Where do the objects go? I remember asking you then when I realized that you were used to exhibiting not the object themselves,

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but renderings of the objects made by people you happened to choose. Home is the answer I remember you giving. You bring them home.

Still, I wonder where else they are present, where else they live—your memory, your brother’s impression, the versions we had agreed and the ones not unmade, but interior therefore untarnished, all light.

still from A vitrine, then a window (Tender machine), Lesley-Anne Cao video (looped, no audio), 1 minute, 51 seconds 2019

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stills from A vitrine, then a window (Silver rectangle), Lesley-Anne Cao video (looped, no audio), 3 minutes 2019

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presences and absences, space and energy

Mercedes Marie Tolentino

In a span of a few months, our understanding of space and dwelling changed to become not only places of respite and care, but of enforced confinement. It stems from the conditions of contagion and vulnerability; the unanticipated tumult of systems, protocols, and institutions, and the enforcement of stringent public practices, communal isolation and policing of freedom of speech. This disorder severely impacts how we also deal with the spaces of museums, galleries, and artist-run spaces. The once sensual gestures and gatherings in the art world are on a standstill, until we return to a cautious, monitored far-future. I present this reflection of the exhibition More light than heat on how space carried intangible energies between art and space. The exhibit’s approach on minimalist space stimulates impressions of stillness and meditation and invites further explorations of a twofold paradox; the richness of spirit and of life, which complements its hollow emptiness, tabula rasa. These dualities were imparted through the artistic practices of Lesley-Anne Cao and Lao Lianben, capturing their shared passions with the transience of moments, gestures, and objects. My focus will be on Lao Lianben’s body of work, its incorporation of Zen aesthetics into the exhibition space, and how it carries a sense of familiarity in solidarity of our current times. The exhibition is poised like a response, or an inverse reflection of Calle Wright’s backdrop in Malate, Manila. It stands in sharp contrast to an energetic city held together by architectural acculturation, and tropical, helter-skelter sensibilities. This permutation of factors accompanied by our wanton desire to occupy every blank space completes a visual image of horror vacui. Calle Wright itself echoes similar hybridities, as a house built in the 1950s that is given a

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second life as an art space.

Unlike the formalist white cube standards of exhibition practices, More light than heat exercised the dual nature of dwelling and exhibit space. By employing the presence, weight, and color contrast of hardwood furniture, it underscores a visual poetry lent by Lao Lianben’s monochrome paintings. It captured the image of an inviting home, while lending to an ascetic visual energy. The austerity of wooden household furniture was utilized as sculptural elements that further enhanced the exceptionally subtle placements of Lianben’s paintings—tucked in drawers, corners, or overwhelmed by the massivity of surrounding objects. Lao Lianben’s visionary concern is the material’s spiritual essence. He extracts an element of materiality and construction, whether crude or elegant, to create a minimalist impact of presences and absences. This shows Lianben’s resistance to the exuberance of color, working solely in the spectrum of black and white; binary extremes that can define an excess or emptiness of color. It is captured by his older works such as Piece of Light (1997), defined by the raw, textural quality of acrylic and modeling paste held by the sensitivity of paper and color gradation. Light (Night) (1999), in the same breadth, appears as a scenic view, but painted in a mesmerizing texture of black, only broken by the window of white light in a horizon.

Lianben’s paintings also share deep affinities with Zen aesthetics. These are mediated through his keen insight and intuition, unhampered by judgement. Imbuing his paintings with the solemn mysticism of nature, through his brush, he carves simple dynamic gestures that cut through the immaculate energy of a canvas. Under the Influence (2011) shows an innate control of clean, dark

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brushwork radiating against a white slab. In the exhibition, it was reinvigorated through an installative dimension, as the painting was laid visible in an open drawer of a wooden cabinet. Its compelling sculptural and installative element employs these minimalist aesthetic principles, contrasting the rich texture of wood with the white slab. Meanwhile, Buddhist Table (2018) paints an abstracted gray, rectangular table. The painting is made to be the visual anchor of lightness, as a floating image that paints across the dense, dark colors of wood. It also utilizes the table furniture as a sculptural element, as our way of instilling energy within household objects. From the early 1960s until the 1980s, the early trajectory of abstract art in the Philippines drew strong influences from traditional Asian aesthetic philosophies through minimalism and Zen, though proliferated by way of the orientalising trends from American art movements. It was able to sustain itself from the highly influential artistic expressions of artists such as Lao Lianben. From his initial attentiveness to natural materials such as twigs, branches, he was able to organically form geometric assemblages according to the material.

Lao Lianben’s contemplations in the exhibit More light than heat, was molded from his fervent provocations of life and energy. Intuitive and thoughtful, his gestures and interpretations within the exhibition space leave a lasting imprint of personal solitude and emptiness, balanced with the fullness of energy, and binding of cosmic forces that reside in the potency of tabula rasa. In visualizing the exhibition, we are met with the ebbs and flows of energy, and memories of belonging and connection to the space, to each other, and more intimately, with Lianben’s body of work.

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Piece of light , Lao Lianben acrylic, modeling paste on paper 1997

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Light (Night), Lao Lianben acrylic, modeling paste on paper 1999

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A vitrine, then a window (Golds), Lesley-Anne Cao video (looped, no audio), 11 minutes, 44 seconds 2019

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stills from A vitrine, then a window (Golds), Lesley-Anne Cao video (looped, no audio), 11 minutes, 44 seconds 2019

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a purple prose written sideways Seven narrations on seven videos listed according to the flow of the exhibition.

Iris Ferrer

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There is promise in being set in marble and painted in gold: that you will last forever, that the flesh did not matter. The man says it was the first time he has carved a drawing; he asks if it was a dog.

Funny how skin and a red string dulls gold against a setting sun, a rising moon. Maybe if one squints, it will dare shine again. We counted sixteen glints of moving gold on the way to an abandoned alley. No one really knew who put the mirror there, but we were happy to see that at least the sun had someone to play with. As it started setting, we wondered if the moon would like a playmate too.

The obsession began in the playground, when this glittering ‘thing’ was seen in the sand. I imagined a kid encountering a treasure, feeling the allure of a secret. Upon closer look, it turned out to be a rock—to which was not really explained if it brought frustration or relief. “Strange how gold is just brown with a wink,” she muttered. We laughed at its truth.

Since then, she has created an archive of photographs that had gold. It was really everywhere: in the most common spaces, if one looked hard enough. Maybe it was the need to relive the thrill of the search. Maybe it was the need to prove mundanity in what is usually glorified and valued. Maybe it was the need to hold onto something more than earth. With every image, I kept wondering what that young kid would say about this collection.

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As a child, she wanted to be a detective and a librarian.

We never really figured out who owned the white dress. It stayed on hanging for weeks. People had their theories, because there are only a few moments in life that would warrant wearing white: it could be for a graduation, wedding, funeral or anything that would point to a significant moment. We sat close to that tree every afternoon, waiting and observing endlessly, but no one dared to confirm or claim it.

We were taught to see ourselves as either the virgin, the mother or the whore. Whiteness was, of course, delegated to the virgin for its purity and innocence. The mother and the whore were stained, either from the cries of a birth or the stillness of it. We were told to be careful because there was no turning back.

We are virgins by birth, a prized position that should never be given up so easily. As one grows up, you branch out into this either/or. Of course, all girls wanted to be the mother; and no one wanted to be the whore. There is pride in childbirth, in being able to create and nurture the next generation. It gives you purpose, finally becoming a useful part of society. However, there is freedom in being the whore. It meant being able to wear whatever, do whoever and be whoever you wanted—the stain can never be cleaned anyway. We asked our mothers if boys had the same pressure to choose from an either/or. They laughed and said that the answers will come when we get older.

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As the clouds crowded over the waning sun, the white dress danced with the wind as it hung on a lone branch. The kids in the neighborhood gathered beneath it, as though waiting for a prize to fall. Remember the game we used to play as kids? It was so easy then to make things appear and disappear. Do you remember how? Close your right eye; now your left. Tilt your head to the side and now to the other side. Now, squint both eyes. Do you see the difference? Is it gone now?

The outline of the house was traced with a gold chain, documented and then removed. For a moment, there was gold throughout the house. For a moment, it was shimmering lightly.

Like a shadow in the afternoon that inconspicuously moves through corners, she wore all black as she squatted to enact the task. The thread was first laid out to cover the curves of the floor—two taps to ensure every side is lined and three when the angle got weird. The spool of golden thread was held on the right hand, carefully getting uncoiled at the wrist, as a hair-like cord stretched out in space in preparation for the next areas. A cluster of rocks also sat close by, cautiously felt out one by one by her fingertips before putting them in place to hold the line. We took fifteen steps to get to the back garden to have a smoke. She got nervous when I asked her questions. We conversed about being seen and on why the evidence of

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the process had to be removed: wasn’t the point to entice with the sparkle? Didn’t she feel like a ghost? Her stance softened and with a chuckle she responded, “I don’t think any of it really disappears. The trick there however is to always look sideways. That way, you see the glimmer but don’t embarrass the ghost.” I nodded slightly: once the dust settled, maybe none of it really mattered. The rain came that afternoon, as the smell of the earth fractured through the clean, crisp air. We ran back to the house believing arrogantly that we knew how it was to dwell courageously into not knowing.

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Water, Lao Lianben plexiglass 2004

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A vitrine, then a window (A neck or a wrist), Lesley-Anne Cao video (looped, no audio), 19 minutes, 41 seconds 2019

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Water, Lao Lianben plexiglass 2004

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stills from A vitrine, then a window (A neck or a wrist), Lesley-Anne Cao video (looped, no audio), 19 minutes, 41 seconds 2019

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stills from A vitrine, then a window (A neck or a wrist), Lesley-Anne Cao video (looped, no audio), 19 minutes, 41 seconds 2019

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the fourth luminous mystery

Itos Ledesma

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“Mirrors and copulation are abominable, for they multiply the number of mankind.” — Bioy Casares quoting an entry from The Anglo-American Cyclopaedia from memory in “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” (1940) “For one of those gnostics, the visible universe was an illusion or, more precisely, a sophism. Mirrors and fatherhood are hateful because they multiply and proclaim it.” — The Anglo-American Cyclopaedia, Volume XLVI in “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” (1940) “I hope I haven’t wasted this quotation by using it now.” — Agustín Fernández Mallo, Nocilla Lab (2009)

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Two Rivers, or The Secret Heart of the Mechanism

One curves toward stasis. This model favors achieving a sense of stability, and there are notions of health inscribed within the operation. What is hidden must remain hidden. There are mysteries that must maintain a shroud of uncertainty that occludes what is assumed to be absolute or what has previously been understood as the essence. The lacunae, the absences must all be sustained in order to perpetuate motion. Components are motorized by spaces in between each part. The incomplete must remain as such. Positions refuse to change until everything is part of everything else. The other resembles a plane in the process of folding and unfolding itself—all the edges are curved and each vector terminates itself. The arc is long and bends toward the outside. This amorphous structure emphasizes the inevitability of its own dissolution. Sequences resolve themselves and are rendered obsolete for a limited duration; each path empties itself of its contents and then expels all that moves into other vessels placed beyond the outer limits of this system. There are similar structures surrounding the first. Its discharge is siphoned, converted, and transformed as the procedure repeats itself until all possibilities are exhausted.

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In a room, the residue of a departure. In another, a flash. In the hallway, a pause. Lining the perimeter, a spell to ward off the darkness. Within its confines temporarily deactivated. Outside, repetition of unrelated phrases. Inside, once again until it is quiet. The Fruit of the Mystery

Such a being carries its ‘other’ within itself. It is symmetrical, hence dual—and doubly so, for its symmetry is both bilateral and rotational; and this state of affairs must in turn be viewed through the dual lens of space and time, of cyclical repetition and linear repetition. At the same time, the living being constitutes itself from the outset as an internal space. Very early on, in phylogenesis as in the genesis of the individual organism, an indentation forms in the cellular mass. A cavity gradually takes shape, simple at first, then more complex, which is filled by fluids. These fluids too are relatively simple to begin with, but diversify little by little. The cells adjacent to the cavity form a screen or membrane which serves as a boundary whose degree of permeability may vary. … A closure thus comes to separate within from without, so establishing the living being as a ‘distinct body’. … The membranes in question generally remain permeable, punctured by pores and orifices. Traffic back and forth, so far from stopping, tends to increase and become more differentiated, embracing both energy exchange … and information exchange …. The whole history of life has been characterized by an incessant diversification and intensification of the interaction between inside and outside. (Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space)

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The behavior of light itself is in the process of prolonging a mystery, vacillating from one method of articulation to another, the perpetual dance in between situations. Another longstanding question that haunts the physical sciences is the existence of mass. Is it an acquisition or an assumption of form? What is measured is not the object but a temporary collection of vapor.

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How the Thing Sings (Convulsive, or Not at All)

“We’re all looking for a body, or a means to make one sing” — Bill Callahan, “The Sing” (2013) “all resonance grows from consent to emptiness.” — Rosmarie Waldrop, “Inserting the Mirror” (1987)

A sputtering fit, hesitant until urged into motion. The cough, the howl, and then the hum becomes the air itself, a prolonged fricative, thickening, hanging over the sheet where the light must bend to swim through. A blanket of texture, and the funeral parade of mist, flowers of the invisible unfurling before a pop. Celebration becomes caesura, coiled on itself. The reticent worm of the indivisible splinters into a constellation. The drop or the glitch when all pauses are equally worthwhile.

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Adrift in the Cosmos

The Master had been lost in the tempest of thought until the spirit stirred and urged him to speak. “This is what has been revealed to me on this day,� he said. A small bird passed outside the window and alighted on a branch. The knot came undone as the bird began its song. The Master stood up and left the room.

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Slow to wake in the stolid haze of mourning. Limbs orient themselves toward the infinite until the light reclines to slice through the unsettling dream. In the pale sun, the floating world abstracts itself, resembling the terminal virulence of isolated molecules or an irritation of dust. The sky groans and drifts into a loose geometric formation, innumerable points joined by trajectories still undetected. The shape casts a formidable yet indeterminate shadow. An eye opens, struggling against the adhesive substance of sleep. An opening widens, a position assumed and swiftly thwarted by the dull pain of being. This persistent sensation rushes to the foreground and folds into the scope of perception until it is indistinguishable from all that is visible. Whispers from the anesthetic darkness vanish without a trace. All that follows is a test of endurance and an attempt at recovery. The outer limits begin to blur as the atmosphere undulates, vanquished by a torrent of heat in the service of nothing in particular. The wind rises. The blinds are drawn. The roaring afternoon symphony dispersed into a thousand small daggers piercing through an absence, redirected by a wall. In the afterlife of an unyielding cycle, the echoes of the interminable grind borne from the elusive rhythm of the everyday remains unfinished, dampened only by the porosity of a softened focus. That which conceals also contains. When the supplement wanders across the vastness in between fixity, all that becomes hidden moves from portrait to landscape, joined together by the phantom entanglements of the fabric that engulfs each component. Awash in the ocean of absolute volume corresponding to the imperceptible, each figure acquires mobility through a new axis. The sensuous dimension unravels itself, and all movement is ceaseless corporeal

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stimulation; extremities flail, and the difference between swimming and drowning dissipates into the ether. The horizon folds in on itself and is consumed as texture comes into depth.

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Songs from the Second Floor (Selection of a Place)

I think we are in rats’ alley where the dead men lost their bones1 and in the forest of my mind’s exile a merciless memory winds its horn2 and yet an upright silence, a stone evading the devil’s staircase.3 The moon begins to be real.4 I brewed my blood5 and death laid eggs in the wound.6 Between both vulnerabilities sits the bottomless vase holding all sunsets.7

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

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TS Eliot, “The Waste Land” (1922). Charles Baudelaire, “The Swan.” from The Flowers of Evil (1857). Translated by Richard Howard. Paul Celan, “Crowned Out” from The No-One’s-Rose (1963). Translated by John Felstiner. Fernando Pessoa (as Alvaro de Campos), “Excerpts from Two Odes” (undated). Translated by Richard Zenith. Arthur Rimbaud, “Lives” from Illuminations (1886). Translated by Wyatt Mason. Federico García Lorca, “Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías” (1935). Translated by Alan S. Trueblood. Roberto Bolaño, “The Nurses” from The Romantic Dogs (1995). Translated by Laura Healy.


A lineage of ruin encased in crystal, identity procedurally generated, code consuming and emitting itself. The automatic engine starts. The infinitesimal recurrence of the interior circles back to the beginning; nothing diminishes in spite of the repetition. The tendrils of the imaginary reach across the sprawling void until there is an object entangled. Remnants of other territories find themselves magnetized by the sheer force of the incomplete. The vision often walks unfettered until there is a coupling that breathes itself into life. And yet, they are not here, gathering around a different narrative, collecting another history. This is all that is known.

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Practice for Death

“There are people so wretched they don’t even have a body.” — César Vallejo, “Stumble Between Two Stars” (1937)

“The body is a source. Nothing more.” — Eavan Boland, Anna Liffey (1997)

Fluctuations in the pure automatism of the mundane mistaken for the enigma of haunting, patterns disrupted by the presence of the immaterial, activating and subtending frequencies pulsating through a closed loop. The language of the specter is always already fractal violence coursing through the extremities of the interior. The imperceptible crystallizes itself until it is recognized as a soft outline of what resembles a body—an invitation to be forgotten—in the process of making itself known. An interjection in the form of attempts at postulation:

Topography is lost as the substance merges with the shadow. An object is no longer an object when it intervenes upon another on its own accord. A theory of patches and networks will replace a general theory of the object. Entropy does not account for the natural inclination toward disorder but for the propensity of matter and energy to resist containment. The virtual is parabolic and miraculous. The idea of the illusory might be an illusion. You are not alone as you are always haunted by the presence of unknown variables. All life can be encased within a mineral and hurled into the ocean. There is no information that is not formless. Everything is something either on or in something else.

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Hushed tones from abandoned faculties during the twilight of the kingdom.

Scintillating paroxysm of an emergent limbic system blossoming in the darkness, pulsing in between two words becoming worlds. A stinging sensation emanating from a singular point until question struggles to form before its slips into the half light; no shock or field of vision, or I do not see the seeing, or I do not see it yet. Is this here, or is this elsewhere? Is it not possible that elsewhere is also here? Perhaps for the one no longer bound to the smoke that surrounds or is the body, this is the only truth that is made available through the revelation of the moment. The question returns as the tail end of an echo.

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still from A vitrine, then a window (Who weighs devotions), Lesley-Anne Cao video (looped, no audio), 3 minutes, 37 seconds 2019

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The sound of none, Lao Lianben, acrylic, 2011

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Writing on water, Lao Lianben acrylic, pencil 2019

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a loud, deep cry

Michelle Esquivias

Dispatched 22 January 1992

A ghost bellows deep into the belly of the unkempt garden: a certain frequency holds the warmth in my heart. I hope you are here. You don’t intend it, but you can make out the words from the neighbor’s cable news channel blaring from their television. A strong voice reports that a storm is coming in and as you enter your house, the fuzz breaks off a sentence about a faraway earthquake. You are gently tethered to this world! A puddle forms under the folded, soaking umbrella you are shaking over the floor. I am trying to write a postcard to you. The droplets eventually evaporate. From a site where you are not present, I can only send my messages through tremor. Outside, a teacup you had left out in the sunjust this morning bursts. Its shattered pieces fall open into a bloom and drool out old vanilla tea on the garden table. Don’t worry. Inside, you might have heard a small clink, almost a legible breaking to your ear. You can blame it on me. Two options: the lighting or it’s the neighbor’s cat rushing home. It makes a mess. The porcelain and the rainImpossible. The rain drowns it out. Me? The evening passes by and then it’s time for bed. I’ll be quiet. In the midnight breeze, the wind chimes rustle at the front door. I can just rummage through your drawers later. I hope you can hear.

more light than heat

Dispatched 14 January 1969

What does it mean to be lived in and to live in, a book asks as it dogears itself in a fall. That was a poet’s book. A village in Italy is named after a reed bed, a natural overgrowth made through the occupation of waterlogged depressions by young reeds. There, a ghost sets houses on fire. To the naked eye, washing machines, electricity meters, refrigerators spontaneously combust. Hello. “A devil has been let in,” a priest proselytizes because a chair suddenly burst into flames. You know better. Someone from the holy order will eventually make the rounds, dousing houses lined along the main railway with hoyl water. A gash opens and writes on the water. It’s me. A fire has started in a water pipe. Have you accepted my graceful movement yet? In the same year, a woman named Tina Resch was born. She would later be characterized as an attention-seeking adolescent, but not before she makes a telephone set fly before her very eyes.

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A short, instructive card on cutlery

Drop clean cutlery into the kitchen drawer to make nice, sharp glinty sounds. But also consider that when left floating in the air, cutlery can reflect rays of sunlight onto the beams of the ceiling and on the fur of the old dog. If lucky enough to catch the drawer shut firmly into place, knife hovering before you, you may see a long forgotten landscape in the butter knife’s light slice on the wall.


A note on the disturbances upstairs: A swindling energy is hard at work.

more light than heat

Dispatched Date Unknown

Modern individuals are no longer spooked by the paranormal. Maybe I’m just clumsy. Billowing fabric is just wind to them. I knock things over. Kids these days watch videos about ghosts all the time, even take pleasure from them. I can’t help it. When a door slams shut, something shoots up our pleasure and pain receptors. I am simply trying to get my messages to you. Sometimes we like to be removed from control. Things are all there are. Go, part your curtains and call me “poltergeist.” I don’t know. Are you afraid? Perhaps something about the freedom of not knowing. Don’t be. It’s not really for me. Be here. I prefer to see things as they are.

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Headline 5 March 2015

A man is arrested for arson.

more light than heat

Dispatched 15 December 2015

On January 22, 1992, an extrasolar planet named PSR B1257+12 B was discovered. “PSR” stands for “Pulsating Source Radio.” The other characters are just coordinates. Do you know how I am convinced I am real? This exoplanet is over four times big as the earth. However, it cannot sustain life because of its proximity to a pulsar. I am full of hovering objects and I cannot stay still. It was born in a supernova explosion, a star birthed from a disturbance. The blinking heart of an exploded red giant lighthouses PSR B1257+12 B and the rest of the pulsar planets orbiting it with a constant spin and flicker. A scientist mutters, “a blinking eye makes a sound if you let it,” A certain frequency holds the warmth in my heart. No planet has ever had to speak in order for you to feel it. In two decades’ time, your window will open to show you light. Let me stay still for a second and send a gentle blow.

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A vitrine, then a window (Door), Lesley-Anne Cao, video (looped, no audio), 6 minutes, 15 seconds, 2019

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(top) - Buddhist Table, Lao Lianben, acrylic, gel, 2018; (bottom) - Sense of light, Lao Lianben, acrylic, 2012

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Under the influence, Lao Lianben acrylic 2011

more light than heat

A vitrine, then a window (As drawn by Kuya Johann, temporarily blind—as if looking only through a small, dim telescope—after I described something I had been seeing for weeks but had known would always remember the first time), Lesley-Anne Cao video (looped, no audio), 2 minutes, 1 second 2019

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more light than heat

A vitrine, then a window (As drawn by Kuya Johann, temporarily blind—as if looking only through a small, dim telescope—after I described something I had been seeing for weeks but had known would always remember the first time), Lesley-Anne Cao video (looped, no audio), 2 minutes, 1 second 2019

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about the artists Lesley-Anne Cao Lesley-Anne Cao’s work is a series of processes and divergent practices that revolve around art-making, the exhibition, and fiction. Recent works use recognizable materials such as books, plants, debris, precious metals, and money, enacting displacements and substitutions by way of creating sets and narratives. Cao holds a BFA from the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts - Diliman with a semester’s scholarship at the École national supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France. Recent exhibitions include The hand, the secretary, a landscape at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (2018), a knowing intimacy or a life at the UP Vargas Museum (2019), and the New Cinema Competition program at the 15th Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival in the UK (2019). She has been granted artist residencies in Taiwan and Finland and has also presented work in Australia, Seoul, Hong Kong, and Indonesia. She lives and works in Quezon City.

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Lao Lianben Lao Lianben’s works are often characterized by large-scale paintings that embrace sculptural qualities of textures, materiality, and depth. His paintings are often associated with the simplicity of Zen aesthetics, playing with organic and free-flowing forms within the confines of a canvas. Working through intuition, he embraces stillness, minimalism, and a quiet contemplation amidst layers of complex surfaces and gradients. Born in 1948, he gained his Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from the University of the East. Lianben is a recipient of the CCP’s Thirteen Artists’s Award (1976) and has exhibited in numerous local and international shows. Notable for his minimalist abstract paintings, his works have been shown in the United States of America, Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, China, Indonesia, and Taiwan. Lianben has been painting for four decades and began his artistic practice in the sixties. He lives and works in Manila.

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about the contributors Arianna Mercado Arianna Mercado is a curator and writer based between London and Manila. She is the co-founder of Kiat Kiat Projects, a nomadic curatorial initiative with a focus on alternative exhibition formats. Mercado is the recipient of the 2017 Purita Kalaw-Ledesma Prize for Art Criticism and has worked on projects with Calle Wright, the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design Manila, and the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Her writing has been published through Ctrl+P Journal of Contemporary Art, the Philippine Star, and the Artling Artzine. She is currently completing her MFA in Curating at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Michelle Esquivias Michelle Esquivias is a lawyer, writer, and graduate of English Studies from the University of the Philippines Diliman. She was a Fellow for Poetry in the 12th Ateneo National Writers Workshop. Her poems have been published in High Chair, Kritika Kultura, and Cha: An Asian Literary Journal. In 2019, she obtained her Juris Doctor degree from the University of the Philippines College of Law.

Iris Ferrer Iris Ferrer is an independent cultural practitioner from Manila. She has worked with various local and international platforms and individuals, both independent and institutional, across the contemporary visual arts field.

Itos Ledesma Itos Ledesma is a writer and artist from Manila, whose work has appeared in various forms across multiple platforms. His practice is largely concerned with investigating intersections between disciplines through sound, text,

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and performance. He is currently a member of the Department of English and Comparative Literature at the University of the Philippines.

Mercedes Marie Tolentino Mercedes Marie Tolentino is a curator and cultural worker based in Manila. She is currently finishing her MA in Cultural Heritage Studies at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila concentrating in museum studies. She graduated with a degree in History at the De La Salle University, Manila. She is currently with Bellas Artes Projects as programs coordinator for the Eskwela educational programs and art residencies. She has previously worked as a curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, overseeing the development, coordination and research of local and international art exhibitions.

Dennese Victoria Born in October 1991, Dennese Victoria is an artist living and working in the Philippines. Working across photography, moving image and installation, her work touches on truth, memory, personal history, and the exchanges that occur between herself and those that are reached by the forming and the sharing of her work. Receiving a degree in Journalism from the University of Santo Tomas in Manila in 2012, she has since worked as an educator, cultural worker, and cinematographer, including filming for Shireen Seno’s second feature, Nervous Translation. For the exhibition More light than heat, Victoria collaborated with artist Lesley-Anne Cao to film 7 single-channel HD videos in a work titled A vitrine, then a window.

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Copyright © Lesley-Anne Cao and Lao Lianben 2020 Artwork and captions © Lesley-Anne Cao and Lao Lianben 2020 Photography © JL Javier and Calle Wright 2020 All rights reserved Published by Calle Wright

Calle Wright, 1890 Vasquez St., Malate, Manila, Philippines

Book design and layout by Touki Roldan

Published on the occasion of More light than heat Lelsey-Anne Cao and Lao Lianben Calle Wright 1890 Vasquez Street 1004 Manila, Philippines

Devotions, while understood as containing a strong degree of passion and as monumental declarations of love, are unpacked by these artists as they distill intensity into quiet, transient actions that evidence prolonged and persistent loyalties.

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