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An Interview with Gary-Ross Pastrana

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An Interview with Gary-Ross Pastrana

Gary-Ross Pastrana, a Filipino conceptual artist and curator examines the very nature and identity of objects in 99%, an exhibition presented by Silverlens at the Gillman Barracks. Pastrana, who at the heart of his process questions and breaks down the very construct which surrounds an object, also decidedly gives it a new identity and makes it almost whole. He thus implores the viewer to choose a focus, between the 99% completion or the 1% which will always elude the final pieces.

Aspects of the process of deconstruction reconstruction is one of the things we talk about in my interview with Gary. We take a peek into his method, which often requires a philosophical approach in that it requires self-awareness on how we bestow meaning to objects. 

We also look into the transformation process which takes focus in a lot of Gary’s works.

In Two Rings, which is probably one of your most quoted works, you shed focus on the process of transformation as the art itself, what lead you to this direction?

Gary-Ross Pastrana: I’ve said before that I’ve always been interested in transformative processes, but I also have a fascination with puzzles. Take the Rubik’s cube for example, I see it as some kind of an ‘eternal puzzle’ in that the problem and the solution are contained in object itself, there is no need for external attachments, periodic updates, etc. after solving it you just have to disarrange the colored blocks again and continue on solving and playing with as long as you like. I really like how this profound concept can somehow be contained in this small object. I think I somehow hope to achieve this in my work as well.

And it seems that the the outcome of this process is something you decided on before starting the work. Is this the case? How important is the awareness of an outcome for you? Or is this something you let unfold?

GRP: I’m not sure if it was the outcome that I was already aware of more than the process – I had an idea how things might turn out but the actual final form that the work took actually surprised me in that I wasn’t able to completely remake one the rings due to the amount of gold lost during the process. This was something I didn’t foresee and i clearly learned from it and made me interested to make further works that could address this loss.

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In Two Rings, 2 borrowed gold rings were melted to form a sword used to draw blood from Pastrana. The same sword was melted again to form the original shapes.

Your deconstruction of found objects to get to its 'thingness’ or to find the art seems to be found in a lot of your work (Stream 2008, Set Fire to Free in 2009). Do you also find the art in the nomination of ready-mades (as an example, Duchamp's nomination of the urinal)? Do you share this concept?

GRP: In a way yes I do, although I also believe that artists, (and everyone else working in other fields of endeavor for that matter) should always try build upon and extend the works and discoveries of their forebears, merely nominating objects could be seen as just repeating what a lot of other artists have already done in the past.

Philippine art is probably most identified by its figurative, nationalistic approach, and there’s still a lot of commercial galleries that tend to promote this image of Philippine art. Is there room for and what kind of support is there for conceptual art in the Philippines at the moment?

GRP: Strange as it may seem, the plain truth is that the only real patronage for conceptual work that exists comes from our peers, artists who are in a better financial situation. The only reason that I’ve come to know the big collectors in the Philippines is that my dear friends are very good and successful painters. Most of the support and opportunities still come from outside the Philippines. One good thing is that some local galleries still give time/space for concept driven exhibitions in their yearly roster of shows. I really hope this continues.

You’ve worked with Roberto Chabet in the past as a curator and as an artist, do you get the sense that young artists today, here in Asia have a unique perspective to share if asked to collaborate with a more established artist such as yourself now. In other words, for you to collaborate with a younger artist, what will you be looking to get from the experience?

GRP: I actually like the dynamics of collaborative work, I find this shared authorship really interesting in that it allows me to go beyond myself and my usual reach, so to speak. If I ever get the chance to work with younger artists, I’m sure I will appreciate the opportunity to vicariously feel excited about the process of discovery again, of everything being open and new, of having that drive, hunger and energy to pursue things that I may already take for granted.

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99% By Gary-Ross Pastrana runs from May 9 to June 15, 2014 at the Silverlens Gillman Barracks.

 


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