PIO ABAD: 1975 – 2015

SYDNEY. 14 MAY – 9 JULY 2016.

4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art presents the first Australian exhibition of London-based Filipino artist Pio Abad, 1975 – 2015. While much of Pio Abad’s work is concerned with the so-called ‘conjugal dictatorship’ of former Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda Marcos (1965-86), this exhibition expands this historical concern. For 4A Abad has established a historical framework, which begins in 1975 with the evacuation of United States forces from Saigon, Vietnam, and concludes in 2015 with a body of work that attempts to recalibrate the archiving of several conflicts spanning post-Marcos Philippines to the Balkans conflict of the 1990s.

Pio Abad employs strategies of appropriation and replication to reveal the social and political impact of specific objects usually consigned to the sidelines of history. Underpinning Abad’s telescopic practice is an ongoing interest in the social and political narratives that domestic objects play in our lives. Using inexpensive reproduction techniques that contrast with the opulent objects he replicates, the works presented in 1975 – 2015 draw connections between these otherwise disparate historical narratives.

A key work in this exhibition, 105 Degrees and Rising (2015) takes its title from the secret radio code used by the United States Army to signal the evacuation of Saigon. In this custom designed wallpaper, Pio Abad conscripts two found visual sources: the ERDL camouflage developed by the US military for the jungles of Vietnam, and the well-known 1976 pinup photograph of American actress Farah Fawcett. While the original radio call signalled America’s final dramatic retreat from its ignominious war in Indochina, Abad’s wallpaper proffers an alternative history of authoritarian rule, which is at once aggressive and seductive. As an aggregation and overlay of cultural artefacts, 105 Degrees and Rising suggests a complex reading of history which acknowledges the sustained colonial influence of the United States across Southeast Asia.

Pio Abad choreographs familiar objects and narratives, animating them to initiate a critical conversation on the discourses of singularity, surplus and semblance. He looks at his source material as traces of something sordid, a body of evidence that exhibits morbid symptoms of a possible psychopathology of power. By presenting these discrete bodies of work, Abad attempts to unpack his own interest in the artifice and its claims to originality, whether it is art that is not replicable, or national leader who found their own narratives of fabulation.1

1. Patrick Flores, The Collection of Jane Ryan & William Saunders, Jorge B. Vargas Museum, exhibition notes, 2014.