Yason Banal

Chop-Chopped First Lady + Chop-Chopped First Daughter (2005) andThe Apprentice 学徒 (2019)

Video installation
2 min
In the collection of the Ateneo Art Center

Image courtesy of the artist

Employing the logic of the splice, Yason Banal’s Chop-Chopped First Lady + Chop-Chopped First Daughter places footage of a failed assassination attempt on Imelda Marcos—from the live television broadcast of the 1972 award ceremony of the National Beautification and Cleanliness Contest—alongside a scene of scream queen Kris Aquino drenched in blood from the 1994 film Chop-Chop Lady: The Elsa Castillo story (The Truth)—a Philippine horror film based on a spate of killings known as the Chop-Chopped murders. Between 1965 and 1986, Imelda Marcos was the First Lady of the Philippines, her reign of power much documented and described as a conjugal dictatorship. Kris Aquino is the daughter of the slain senator Benigno Aquino Jr. whose assassination would help bring a people power revolution and his wife Corazon Aquino to the presidency, pushing Marcos from power, and turning Kris into the First Daughter of the Philippines from 1986 to 1992.

Blending fact and fiction with historical inflections through the splice, Chop-Chopped First Lady + Chop-Chopped First Daughter blends the cinematic space of the real and reel. First presented in 2005 as part of Banal’s first exhibition in the Philippines after completing his MFA in London, Chop-Chopped First Lady + Chop-Chopped First Daughter has had a number of lives over the last 13 years. It has been presented in different formats and distributed as a short experimental film at film festivals while also being presented as a film installation in contemporary art exhibitions. Its multivalent forms and mutability across the disciplines of art and cinema speak to its continued relevance. In spite of the digital evolution of media, Chop-Chopped First Lady + Chop-Chopped First Daughter continues to resonate in contemporary public discourse across a globalised media landscape that is seeing the rise of demagoguery and populism, wherein the distinct sphere of celebrity and presidency (or more generally, political power) have collapsed into each other.  Contestations over the media and the state to not only represent (even revise or invent) the ‘truth’ but also to sway the political temperature of a nation or region through the fabrication and perpetuation of constructed spectacles are crucibles of societal development; making works like Chop-Chopped First Lady + Chop-Chopped First Daughter ever more poignant in their historical illustrations of the relationship between the media and political power who instrumentalise the media for popular power and the industrial complex of the media that produces and ‘sells’ spectacles for popular entertainment. Banal’s work productively uses the filmic gesture of the splice to unravel, interrupt, and ‘chop off’ such machinations.

The Apprentice 学徒 (2019)
Video Installation

Developed to accompany Chop-Chopped First Lady + Chop-Chopped First Daughter, 2005, as part of the exhibition A Fear of Monsters, The Apprentice 学徒 continues Banal’s imagination of political power and media through the splice, this time by way of language. The Apprentice 学徒presents a video teleprompter of the transcription from the opening sequence of the first ever episode of the American TV reality show “The Apprentice”. “The Apprentice” is believed to have catapulted its then host Donald Trump into an international star, known for his successful business deals. This popular persona has been cited as one of the reasons why Donald Trump was able to win the US presidential election in 2017.

In Banal’s installation, the US reality show is first transcribed in English, and then translated to Mandarin by a Filipino expert, and finally spliced with an SOS, the International Morse code distress signal communicated through light and sound. One can read the teleprompter, the morse code (Trump/the world/the machine) albeit pleading for salvation. This tongue-in-cheek commentary on contemporary geopolitics, dark technology and the spectacles of populism and demagoguery ends with Trump’s tagline “it’s just business” – an allusion not just to the mechanics of creating political power through media machinery but also to foreign policies of world powers like the US and China who fight over global supremacy and dominate sovereign nations such as the Philippines. Yason Banal’s The Apprentice 学徒 is an apt companion piece to Chop-Chopped First Lady + Chop-Chopped First Daughter, extending national to global scale horror, humour and hubris of star-state-symbolic power.

Yason Banal’s practice takes form across installation, photography, video, performance, text, curating and pedagogy. His work employs conceptual and critical strategies in order to research, reconfigure and refract seemingly divergent systems. He obtained a BA in Film at the University of the Philippines, an MFA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths, University of London, residencies at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam, AIT in Tokyo, and Centre for Contemporary Art in Singapore, as well as visiting lectureships at London Metropolitan University and Tokyo National University of Fine Art and Music. He is assistant professor at the University of the Philippines Film Institute and director of its Film Center.

His works have been exhibited widely including the Tate, Frieze Art Fair, IFA Berlin, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Vargas Museum, Christie’s, Singapore Biennale and Shanghai Biennale among other museums, galleries, biennales, fairs and projects. His video works have been screened at Gertrude Contemporary, Sharjah Biennale, Green Papaya Projects, South London Gallery and Garage Museum of Contemporary Art among others. Recent exhibitions include Museum of Contemporary Art and Design, National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Daegu Art Factory, Arete Art Center and currently at the Venice Architecture Biennale.


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