The GedAze Project, traversing a lineage of contemporary artists pushing the boundaries of textile. Together, both artists have a common thread – from materials and process, to their interest in engaging viewers to interact with the work – the tactility, both a reflection and reminder of familiar objects, and the stories bound within.
Based in New York, Ged Merino collects objects, either discarded incidentally or intentionally. Living in NYC nearly half of his lifetime, Ged Merino’s current practice has its origins in textiles. At an early age he was attracted to fabrics. When he was young he watched his mother recycle old fabrics and use various techniques to give the old fabrics new life. It was a way of life for her. The era of repair and repurposing. Living in NYC nearly half of his lifetime, a realization came to him after spending several years in Manila working on projects, the contrast of poverty versus waste. Haunted by possession and disposal, discarded materials eventually became his focus. A way of collecting artifacts from people’s lives, and repurposing textiles and various materials into his artistic process. As if archiving sentimentality. A transposition of experiences made possible by migration and settlement.
Manila-based artist, Aze Ong is a visual and performance artist working with fiber as medium. Integral to her creative process is intuition and spontaneity – rooted in her discoveries having lived with the Talaandig tribe. Crochet, knitting, knotting, embroidery, macramé, and sewing – these are just some of the techniques she use to create immersive installations, both tactile and interactive. Ong’s art, performative and functional aims to challenge previously gender-bound limitations and create.. This leads to an intended ambiguity regarding meanings and themes that encourages debate and individual appreciation. The conscious effect leads to association to relevant issues from self-healing, the environment, science, politics, cultural appropriation and feminism.
Aze Ong is an Asian Cultural Council grantee,
The Topography of Living
In describing boundaries, the works of artists Ged Merino and Aze Ong refer to the qualities of textile and thread - fibrous. Boundaries are fibrous in structure and in system. They are constructs emerging from personal, cultural, and political domains spun together into solid lines on the maps. And like these solid lines they are drawn to suggest and identify, but in reality, never to actually define. Exploring boundaries through fabric and thread is a method of contrasts. Fiber diffuses as much as it filters. Ged and Aze ask: what are the limits of boundaries?
The artistic practices of Ged and Aze are as much narrative as they are material. Their experiences of a life in transit has them familiar with a particular kind of map, one that grows, shrinks and changes through footsteps that are not always their own. Ged’s work draws from the metamorphic act of memory, where fabric both protects and changes the current experience of the past. Aze’s work is experiential in its dynamic forms, enacted through the dedication in her craft and the further layers she creates in her performance. Both artists incorporate external elements into their work: found objects, other people’s objects of recollection and images.
Steadfastly rooted in the condition of living, the artists navigate and create spaces of exchange ever-present at the edge of the boundaries. In their work, each stitch is a wall as much as a window, and every thread a line of connection.
Fiber and Threadbare Lives
The works of Ged Merino and Aze Ong thrive on fiber. It is fiber that in the same vein thrives on the work of others. Such work may come in the form of a found object or from the labor of memory. These are lingering habits of very basic lives. In other words, the work weaves around impulses around it; and it leaves traces of itself and of the stimulus. In the course of the process, fiber turns into some kind of structure or shelter that becomes part of a larger intricacy, an architecture or an atmosphere. As there is painstaking effort to tie, knot, twine, crochet, entangle, cut, or suture, so there is the generosity of the art to belong to or spring from an existing form, be it of machine or of nature. The thriving work inevitably resembles a species of the wild that is akin to weed after rain that either disfigures the garden, or enhances the ecology all together.
Merino looks at the tricycle as a vehicle in many senses. It is a public transport, but it is also a private space. He speaks of situations in which the tricycle undergoes a cycle of improvisations, refunctioned according to need and the ingenuity of what may well be a translator of materials. From this tendency of the tricycle translator, Merino is inspired to spin his own mediations around the flexible and versatile tricycle. It is an equivalent gesture of adornment, a way of proposing another life to the already storied existence of the tricycle.
Ong likewise addresses the condition of scarcity that underlies the creative necessity with which the tricycle is crafted. It is tempting to romanticize resilience; and the artists try to resist this by insisting on the prospects of transformation. For Ong, the diligent sourcing of clothes from multiple piles and the sensitive putting together of the yarns of the years references a possible defense against both the political elements and nature. The facture of art becomes a procedure of resistance against deprivation and discrimination. To be exposed to the vagaries of social weather is to be vulnerable and bare. It is this condition that touches Ong and moves her to offer a shelter or a swarm of fabric to richly surround bodies susceptible to exploitation.
While Merino’s silhouette intuits a recognizable object, which is the tricycle, Ong’s configuration intimates looser and freer forms which are less indebted to iconography. This being said, the tricycle in the long run sheds its original carapace, as it were, when it takes on the livery of complex thread work and elaborated upon extensively and with spirit. These artistic productions thus finally transcend the opposition between order and chaos, stasis and inventiveness, as they reveal the contingencies of survival that delicately test the limits of both the agency of humans and objects and the ecology of life forces. What might be of interest in the future is to see how the fiber that has been aestheticized as textile is given the opportunity to unravel, to fray, and to let those who must survive remember, always, the struggle to stitch in time. (Patrick D. Flores)
"Passage" is a commissioned work by the Singapore Art Museum for Imaginarium 2018
The Well-Worn World
by Patrick D. Flores
Ged Merino and Aze Ong weave a cosmos at the imaginarium of the Singapore Art Museum. The name of the place where this potential cosmos plays out is intriguing. It sort of confirms our doubts about the inadequacy of the word imagination. For how can imagination stand on its own in the conceit of a fully formed force? We have always thought that in order for it to stand and deserve its formidable, much-vaunted force, it must first find its ground, its copious space. This is what the imaginarium offers. The filmmaker Terry Gilliam, auteur of the dystopic Brazil,came up with The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassusin 2009. The origin of the project was a critical moment of passage: “The beginning idea was of the little traveling theater arriving at a modern city, with nobody interested in it. We didn’t have much other than that at first. The concept of the imaginarium and people going through it came up as we were working on it, which allowed me great freedom with the fantasy imagery on the other side of the mirror.”
Surely, the imaginarium speaks of a transition, a fantasy or a memory machine. Or a state of what the felicitous French feminist philosopher Hélène Cixous calls a “present passing.”But this conjuration in the hands of Merino and Ong happens to be a bundle of filaments, threaded through, twined, knotted, stitched to become a hovering canopy that is ultimately a “sheltering sky.”Merino refers to the situation being staged as a kind of stargazing in which his fiber work resembles the stars and meteorites; and Ong’s mimics the comets. While such a moment seems to be one of repose and contemplation, it actually derives from a scenario of intense skirmish. The sky tends to conceal the violence of the elements that takes place so that forms might congeal oftentimes in sublime ways.
This tension between the attractiveness of earthly forms and the upheaval in the heavens reveals what the poet Wallace Stevens portrays as an “always incipient cosmos.”The incipience delays or disrupts the capture of the artistic process through object-making. The procedure of the facture of the work of Merino and Ong, as may be viewed in this commissioned work for the SAM Imaginarium, lends to this sense of unraveling or fraying. It is open, prone to makeshift, quick-change decisions even as it demands trance-like, sometimes manic, absorption in the time-consuming task. This brings us back to the phrase “sheltering sky,” which is taken from the 1949 novel of Paul Bowles. The playwright Tennessee Williams comments that “in this external aspect the novel is, therefore, an account of startling adventure. In its interior aspect, [it] is an allegory of the spiritual adventure of the fully conscious person into modern experience.”The mingling of the internal and the external resonates with the intention of Merino and Ong to complicate the boundary between earth and that which lies beyond it. It can only lay bare the layers of the universe as porous as if it were a tracery. And this is the point at which their material and the reality that they intuit elaborate on each other with intricacy. The art and the cosmos become membranes through which light streams or beyond which new eons are heralded. The artists desire this permeability as a way to signify forms that are to a great extent fragile, or constituted in vulnerable ways because sometimes they refuse to be tumescent as in the largely crochet-based work of Ong or they refuse to be completed as in the pieces of Merino. And so, no matter how rigorous or taut, lovingly or cogently, the strands of fiber are gathered, they seem to leave gaps or fissures, loose ends or evolving edges that resist closure. They seem to be in the process of wearing out, so to speak, because they are meant to be at once the craft and the consciousness of the well-worn world. People dwell in textile, in a constellation that tells time and locale.
This vulnerable form, however, is further rendered complex by its condition of possibility: excess and repair. Merino and Ong are scavengers of fabric and related appurtenances. They are also bricoleurs who repurpose the tell-tale signs of excess. This alternation between surplus and repair animates the work of these artists. It brings their gesture closer to reflections on economy and skill, sweat shops and the fashion industry, accumulation and agency, verily, to both rags and riches.
Moreover, their disposition towards ornamentation is salient. When Ong configures natural and human semblances, she does it with lyricism and sentimentality. When Merino puts together his sundry resources, he does it with idiosyncratic expression. In inscribing these sentiments in their projects, they create scenarios of story-telling and are able to imply narratives through the cloth-work that they so earnestly and affectionately bring forth. Such concern for the narrative, be it biography or anecdote, reminds us of the work of another Philippine artist, the exceptional David Medalla whose Stitch in Time(1968) has sought to fulfill the double coding of the word relaciónin Spanish: it is at once ties and tales. In the work of Medalla, people are invited to stitch into a suspended cloth a plurality of preoccupations and beliefs, of memory and current fixation in a time of both labor and leisure. Like the imaginarium, the stitch-in-time performative initiation of Medalla is very much about a realm of urgent recollection, or a collective of memory-makers suturing temporality or temporariness together in an atmosphere of conviviality. After all, in Philippine popular consciousness, as translated into its elusive lexicon, stories are sewn (nagtatahi ng kuwento) and that lies are spun because sand is supposedly looped (naglulubid ng buhangin). Nothing less than fabricating.
Terry Gilliam, interview by Fernando Croce, Slant, December 23, 2009.
Hélène Cixous, “From the Scene of the Unconscious to the Scene of History,” trans. by Deborah Carpenter in The Future of Literary Theory, ed. by Ralph Cohen (London: Routledge, 1989), 7.
Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky(London: John Lehmann, 1949).
Wallace Stevens, “July Mountain,”Atlantic Monthly, April 1955.
Tennessee Williams, “An Allegory of Man and His Sahara,” The New York Times, December 4, 1949.
To create fabric, the fingers twist and pull material along the flat of the palm, forming with a
flick of the wrist what could be a stitch that continues or the ending knot. The fabric, in this
manner, seems to bloom beautifully from the artists’ hands through a process no less delicate
but absolutely devoted. There is meaning to be found in the smallest stray thread as there is
meaning we find gazing at the finished work.
While the road has led to unkind places, Ged Merino and Aze Ong’s works flourish earnestly
through the cracks in the worn pavement and along encumbering walls as their hands fervently
reclaim, akin to nature when it takes back what man leaves in his tracks towards progress. They
reclaim self within the oppressive sense of displacement like the roots that pierce concrete;
they reclaim sight when they are lost like the seed that seeks light and emerges in the crevices
In STEM, Merino and Ong’s works bloom slowly and silently, resilient as the hands that knit,
sew, and crochet a fabric where every thread reaches out to grasp resolutely and head towards
the other side of the wall.
Photos of Aze Ong performance by Bumbo Villanueva
Open Threads at TOPAZ ARTS features textile-based work by two artists, The GedAze Project, traversing a lineage of contemporary artists pushing the boundaries of textile. Together, both artists have a common thread – from materials and process, to their interest in engaging viewers to interact with the work – the tactility, both a reflection and reminder of familiar objects, and the stories bound within.
Philippine artists Ged Merino and Aze Ong have been engaging in a series of collaborations named The GedAze Project. TOPAZ ARTS provided a Summer Residency for the artists to create new work both individually and collaboratively. Open Threads is the culminating exhibition and is their fifth collaborative show.
Based in New York, Ged Merino collects objects, either discarded incidentally or intentionally. Living in NYC nearly half of his lifetime, Ged accumulated things and objects reminiscent of home. A realization came to him after spending several years in Manila working on projects, triggering an immediate reconnection with his roots and culture – most strikingly the contrast of poverty versus waste. Fascinated by the questions of why we buy and hold on to things, while some are thrown away – discarded materials eventually became his focus. Currently, Ged uses personal belongings and objects discarded by other people as his subject matter, a way of collecting artifacts from people’s lives, and repurposing materials into his artistic process.
Manila-based artist, Aze Ong is currently an Asian Cultural Council grantee, immersing herself in New York City and culture. The nature of her work involves a tedious process, spending countless hours crocheting pieces to assemble into larger installations. Armed with needle and yarn in hand, crocheting in parks, concerts, festivals, bus rides, subways and wherever she goes, unintentionally inviting conversations with onlookers, crocheters and curious folks – fascinated and empowered by the experience of engaging in natural conversations that have inspired her current process.
Open Threads exhibition includes a performance by Aze Ong during the opening at TOPAZ ARTS and a collaborative video presentation created with Ged Merino “New York Minute Performances” – capturing live performances by Ong in public spaces throughout NYC, seen moving within wearable art.
Curated by Todd Richmond and Paz Tanjuaquio TOPAZ ARTS NY
Animating an Ecology
Patrick D. Flores
To exist is to be caught up in a knotwork. Ged Merino and Aze Ong take a keen interest in both the matter and the mindset of a tangled existence -- and its mythology. In this task of tracing the structure of a state and a struggle, they revisit their material and the skill and the talent with which they harness to work on this material. Whether recycled or ready-to-wear, remnant or recently made, the material becomes, all at the same time, figure, ornament, and artifice.
Both artists work with fabric, which is mainly filament that becomes thread or strand or yarn or textile. They are drawn to the logic of the medium: to ceaselessly spin and flesh out fiber in the realm of everyday narrative and the unknown elsewhere. Thus, they are inspired by the patience and the prowess of the spider, the emblematic spinner and the exemplary weaver, tirelessly creating webs that become dwelling, trap, or refuge. In many ways, the delicate but tough web is a fitting metaphor of the art and the labor of the artists.
Merino twines and ties intensely; he raises a forest. Ong crochets with both wonder and flourish; she grows a garden. In both their methods, the expectations for a figure to alight are by turns frustrated and fulfilled, but only through the density of the craft and the intelligence of the vision. At that moment when figure tends to loom or image is about to be stitched by the eye, the viewer would realize that all this is fabric, finding its future in forms that intimate their nature and their fantasy.
And so, there is in this careful and diligent process of fabric making the afterlife of cloth, redeeming it from everyday use, excess, and a throwaway society. At this point in this exploration, the impulse may appear personal and formal in which the form is shaped by a series of translations from a certain state of emotion or from a certain state of things. In the former, the act of making could perform the travail of thinking through and feeling, of living out a memory, or deciding about the intricacies of existence. For the latter, the facture could allude to considerations of technique, volume, rondure, texture, and silhouette. These are the possible sources of what is visible to us: the conditions under which the form emerges.
But this is only one level of the proposition. The other one pertains to the opportunity of a collaboration. With Merino and Ong coming together to do an exhibition, they are able to conjure an environment in which the two dispositions towards emotions and things merge and fabricate an ensemble. This is a prospect that is concretized in this instance, and it is a promising one because it mingles remarkably the instincts of conversion and the procedures of technology. By the latter we mean the very mode of fleshing out presence through the string that is a series that is a lace that is a trace of a pattern, a semblance of a familiar scene in actual life, a figment of reverie, a hybrid of details, a network of accouterments, a train of thought, a lattice of intentions.
For now, there is a lot of whimsy involved in the exercise, and expectedly so to the extent that this is largely an experiment and perhaps destined to be of an ongoing sort. In such a situation, the artists express the desire to reach out to viewers, catching their attention through the robust appearance of the art and the manner by which it is installed. It hangs, it sprawls, it amasses. In other words, the environment – the forest and the garden with their thickets and trellises -- invites the intuition to touch and also hear how the objects speak, sometimes literally. This engagement animates the ecology and elicits impressions of a theater and of a dreamscape.
What might be a challenge in the future for the artists is a further conversion of the very economy of the material as it relates to the very economy of their aesthetic attitude towards it. We anticipate that stage in their relationship with the medium that the worldliness of the cloth transfigures into performative gestures of that world itself: how it has come to be, what is wrong with it, and why it should, like the cloth in their deft hands, change. This possibility is not at all beyond the ambit of the temperament and sensitivity of Merino and Ong. As they are acutely aware of their skill and their material, so should they be touched and moved by the forces that make them work.
Ripples form when an object falls on a fluid surface and creates consecutive waves echoing each other and dissipating when the inertia in each wave runs out. The usual form they take are of consecutive layers of circles growing bigger and thinner as they go farther away from the center.
Aze Ong responds to the ripples - formed when Sanso rescued himself from his tormentors in World War II by jumping into the Pasig, no matter how momentarily those ripples may have been in the slow flowing river; or how static they are for that matter in the flowing water and crashing waves of Sanso’s Brittany series; and to the music of Beethoven’s concerto rippling melodiously in sound, repeating chords and building up with intensity, hearing as Sanso got inspired by it and painted “The Golden Beaches.” Ong creates her own ripples which cascade down from a central circular core, creating three-dimensional sculptural ripples in thread and wire, in dialogue with those that Sanso created.
Ged Merino picks out images of works made by Sanso off the internet: images which may have inspired others unconsciously, affecting their own creative work unknowingly, showing up in various forms, like ripples of patterns that repeat themselves through time and space. A printmaker like Sanso, he layers the images to create patterns - in dialogue with Sanso’s own textile designs These are some of the inspirations of Ged and Aze for Ripples and Layers, their exhibit for Fundacion Sanso.
The duo team up for the GedAze Project, a year-long collaboration exploring the medium of textile in expressing their art. Using the image of ripples and layers, Fundacion Sanso responds with its own inquiry at its role in preserving and promoting the legacy of Juvenal Sanso.
(Photo Credits: Troy Sylvestre, Fundacion Sanso and various friends
Prelude takes off from “Common Thread” a group show on textile works exhibited by the Drawing Room Contemporary Art last July 2016
The works created for “Prelude” is the essnce of the working concept of Ged Merino and Aze Ong’s collaboration. using Textiles, they explore color, form and material as a medium to articulate their recent personal experience investigating also the relation of self on an emotional and intellectual level
Prelude is a show by Ged Merino and Aze Ong that is a precursor of the direction of their collaborative project. Presenting new works for Fundacion Sanso “Ripples and Layers” May 18 and “Existence” at the UP Vargas Museum May 12 with a public reception May 24. ( supported by the Drawing Room Contemporary Art )
"Illuminati" a collaborative project by The GedAze Project at the Artfair Philippines 2017 at the Drawing Room Contemporary Art's booth with other collaborations by Manuel Ocampo and Jigger Cruz , Raffy Napay and Niel Pasilan
The GedAze Project officially launches at Bliss on Bliss Art Projects Oct 9, 2016 in New York with their collaborative project "Sound in Our Head" with guest collaborations by Writer and Poet Luis H. Francia and music performances by Carmen Arrojo, Manila based band The Band of Brothers, and Brooklyn based musicians The Kings Refrain
Photo credits :Happy David, Sari Sari Books, Marietta Ganapin, and Perry Mamaril
Transitional Object in Blue and Dark Blue
Transitional Object in Red
The GedAze Project
2016 London Biennale Manila Polination Metropolitan Theatre
"Bathala" is the supreme being in Philippine Mythology and from whose name used in the saying "Bahala Na" derived from "Bathala Na" (God willing/Leave it to God).
Such is my creative process that is a combination of spontaneity and intuition that can result in endless discoveries and possibilities. This combined with my exposure to indigenous folklore and culture serves to enhance my art.
Through my art pieces and performances, I express my feelings, realizations and awareness.
This in turn, I hope, will enlighten others as well as it does me.
Ged Merino’s “Santos” are more than identifying the potentialities the scraps have met. Rather, the gestures that make them is an exercise of having found them weaned from a world of their original functions to another world created also through our own subjectivities. They are distorted and have taken up classical saint-statue poses – it is as if they have taken the very form of what we are called to learn to separate from in the first place. These sculptures are spectral as they form into figures and things that are ultimately abandoned – like religious sculptures deteriorated by historic time still considered by devouts to be radiant with its original promises. (excerpt from Sidd Perez's "Transitional Objects" 2016)
Aze Ong collaborative perfromance of her interpretation of Ged Merino's "Transitional Objects" at The Drawing Room Contemporary Art July 16, 2016
"Sound in Her Head" In memory of My mother Virgina who during her later years suffered from Tinnitus. Ironically the few weeks before she passed the "ugong" stopped )
A Collaborative project by Ged Merino and Aze Ong
The Drawing Room Spare Room Project
July 16, 2016
Photo courtesy Liz Fuentes
Our first collaborative work. Because of the distance and time zone, Aze and I started discussing projects on facetime. I sent the first piece thru a friend who was going home to Manila.