Inventory : MM Yu
MM Yu's photographs capture the reality of the supply and demand of desire through the management of merchandise into patterns of abstraction. What is presented is a set of images juxtaposed against each other to produce meaning that invites the viewer to make connections about material culture towards a multiplicity of interpretations, which constructs a matrix of wanted goods, fantastic ideals, and real needs. Confined within the sanctuary of a four-walled universe are chance elements that when strewn altogether produce a perfect beauty arresting in its chaos. Similarly the laws of commerce apply the same invisible scheme: everything is apparently beautiful when prosperity courses through the grids that control the flows of desire, but terrifying on the other hand when realization dawns to reveal that desire is emptiness and its multiplicity a marker of capitalist casualty. Regulating this energy into codes that translate into control facilitating the rates of exchange, which form into patterns of appearance and disappearance caused by the tides of supply and demand, dictate ultimately the inventory of goods that are displayed like carcass frozen to the gaze.
This desire by design colors the whole field, intensified on larger territories to monopolize, while depressed on certain minor areas. Such a procession of floating signifiers, spectral emanations of things without use of yet, questions the role of photography as objective witness, as a machine apparently incapable of desire, which puts the role of the author back from hiding behind the device into the forefront of art making once more - an awareness that brings "color", i.e. life, to the practice of photography.
Photography as an artistic medium provides a big case of misunderstanding regarding its dalliance between realism and taste, considering the fact that the printed image saturates the whole city, as seen on large billboards, newspapers, magazines, and all forms of advertising. This is where MM Yu’s work actually occurs, in the interstitial space between fact and event, idea and information, aesthetics and design, the real and the imaginary, the producer and the consumer, while blurring art and life. Yu’s work is unique in Manila, where she uses photography in a conceptual manner without falling into the clichés of art photography – those that are actually made for a specific profit pitch using stock artistic conventions. And yet, the pictures she makes are of excellent technique that they appear with the lush like quality of paintings. This is another one of her tricks of the trade, making photography as the new type of painting.
Color is the first thing that comes to mind when looking at MM Yu’s pictures. They are lush with color that almost gives them a painterly touch. This is not surprising since she was trained as a painter, and considers painting as part of her conceptual process, with the thought that painting occurs for her when the photographic image reaches a point of saturation when information is overloaded. Here the image becomes abstract and switches its concerns towards the material – paint. The works then are not sentimental, nor romantic, that distorts reality with emotion, with things outside the picture. Thephotograph’sstarkfrontalcompositionassaultstheviewerspoton,with no meandering ambiguity, but merely the fact raw without excess. They thus appear abstract, composed in space, providing the viewer with a space to reflect, adding meaning. It dares the viewer to do so, at the same time the work cold in its ironic stance. This is where humor comes in, a wry take on the cruelty and ambivalence of life. It is art with a sinister appeal, a dangerous intellect with an attentive heart, unforgettable but rewarding with profound insight.
In MM Yu’s practice, the author-as-artist-photographer returns to frame the stillness of life into a discourse of material exchange, at the same time bearing witness to the secret life of things.
Her photographs evoke the ever-changing cultural texture and topology of Manila as seen through its inhabitants, the city’s infrastructure, and finally its waste product, creating a social life of commodity goods. Photography therefore corresponds to Yu’s concept of reproducibility and reciprocity as thoughts collected and recollected that archives not only the economy but also the ecology of life in the myriad forms it takes in the city. - Arvin Flores
Inventory by MM Yu opens on 19 April, Thursday simultaneously with POSTLOCAL 2012: As Is, Where Is by At Maculangan and Jonathan Ching and EMPIRE by Costantino Zicarelli in Silverlens Galleries.