A Piso for Your Thoughts: Kolown’s P1soNET2022

Art collector Joshua Manalo ruminates on CCP Thirteen Artists awardee Kolown’s interactive and provocative installation: P1soNET2022

Words Joshua Alexander Manalo
Kolown and Patrick Kasingsing

Kolown, photo courtesy of the CCP, Header: P1soNET2022 at the Thirteen Artists Awards 2021 show

Entitled P1soNET2022, Kolown’s highly interactive work for the CCP Thirteen Artists Awards 2021 exhibit was an installation simulating a Pisonet internet café. Complete with used monobloc chairs and an array of computer screens inviting interaction, the work was intriguing, if not immediately striking. Part analog nostalgia, part metaverse, and part critique of digital media today, the initial impression it gave me seemed more like fragments of information rather than something concrete. Interactivity with the artwork is a must to derive its essence. As someone who has had the chance to track the artistic trajectory of this enigmatic collective, I thought, what tricks does the elusive Kolown have for us this time? 

The way we value art today rests on our perception of authenticity: It is the reason why anyone can save an image of a trending cute cat online but also how you can get a ton of money for the same image when minted via crypto or in the blockchain as an edition of one. Authenticity in art rests on many aspects, one of which is process; it is what makes the advent of artificial intelligence and its effect on how art is generated a flashpoint between its supporters and detractors. We will not delve into this fractious topic today, but it is plain to see that now, more than ever, the advent of technological advancement with art production is a double-edged sword: one that grants ease of creation, speed, and a democratization of the craft on one hand, but also one that leads to its commodification and potential destruction.

However, I still believe that no matter the technological advancement, the human mind is still the source of art’s beauty and power, as well as its primary interpreter. This is depicted in P1soNET2022, by the presence of the webcam. Kolown the creator is part of the entire scene that is viewed, exposed, and examined. At the same time, the viewer stands in the way of the lens as if Kolown did not exist at all.

P1soNET2022’s tableau brought me back to the early 2000s, specifically during my high school computer classes (I suddenly miss Microsoft Solitaire!). Perhaps memory has the effect of giving clarity to the current situation. But more than just reliving the past, I feel empathy. Just as the computers in P1soNET2022 seemed dated, I too, wonder if I am turning into that kind of person who has regressed and cannot keep up with technological changes. P1soNET2022 beckoned to a period when the average human brain took more time to both record and process new things.

Stills from P1soNET2022

One thing that P1soNET2022 showed without question was humanity’s growing dependence on technology. The work had a weather component called “Colors of the Wind” that showed the wind speeds of various locations in the Philippines from the CCP Lawn to Siargao. We have increasingly required machines to handle and process basic information. And I don’t mean highbrow tech stuff. I am talking about everyday functions that we tend to overlook: calculating, text messaging, writing this essay, posting photos, and so on. It is what has enabled man to land on the moon and on a more recent note, allowed both working professionals and students alike to work and study, to stay ‘online,’ within the comforts of one’s home during the pandemic lockdowns. As a ‘state’ or ‘mode’ borne out of technology, the term ‘online’ naturally carries both its good and bad sides. It can be associated with access to new learning tools, tolerance, diversity, access to information and freedom of speech, inspiration, and communication…but also be associated with misinformation, addiction, gambling, porn, bullying, and other online activities that carry mental health repercussions.

In “Liwat Gihapon Nimo”, another component of the work, random imagery of everyday objects was flashed onscreen, coming in and out in rapid succession. Often a lot of the images Kolown uses, whether from popular culture or as direct baggage left behind from colonialism, demonstrate the notion of power. How does power work in images and why do certain images still affect how we see ourselves today? How can we put an end to fear, ignorance, and marginalization? How can we do our part in the redistribution of power? Then there is also the matter of worldly trash (physical trash, online trash, fake news, trolls…) that in a way, also exerts power in itself in its toxicity, only leading to decay and destruction when left unchecked. P1soNET2022 uses this irony of depicting visuals of inanimate objects devoid of humanity to (hopefully) bring humanity back on track.

Still from P1soNET2022

Production of P1soNET2022 started around the middle of 2021. The work in itself was not sleek or flawless and this is all by design. I believe the intent here, and the same goes with Kolown’s other works, only makes sense when viewed not from the standpoint of a collector such as myself. This is not some art fair piece that I am dying to take home. What really drew me to it, beyond its wit and insight, is that it was addressed not just to the usual art “stakeholders” such as curators and collectors. Instead, it addressed everyone; only fitting within a show that sought to showcase the nation’s artistic zeitgeist. Acts of truth and courage can be found in the mundane and unassuming as the installation showed.

With P1soNET2022, the enigmatic Kolown sought to once again chip at the foundations of a few more colonial and societal constructs, revealing the inequality they have created, allowing us to reflect on its continued hold and the possibility of freedom beyond it. The installation’s interactive aspect allowed it to morph from object to moment, forming a union with the observer and allowing the creation to become a medium that encourages birth, be it that of insight or ideas. P1soNET2022 corroborates without a doubt Kolown’s inclusion within the hallowed roster of CCP’s Thirteen Artists. •

Thirteen Artists Awardees and proxies, photo courtesy of CCP

Joshua Alexander “Joey” Manalo is a classically trained pianist having navigated through scores on his own from the age of six, eventually taking private lessons and graduating cum laude in 2009 at Rutgers University with a Minor in Music and a Major in Psychology. He was then taken under the wing of pianist Jovianney Emmanuel Cruz and had his orchestral debut in February 2011 in Insular Life Theater under the baton of conductor Marlon Daniel. Joey currently manages Outlooke Pointe Foundation’s projects and art collection. The non-profit organization was founded by his father, Jesulito Manalo in 2007 in a bid to support emerging artists and foster creative collaborations, “with the vision of utilizing art as a tool for nation-building.”

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