Almost two years ago, I stumbled onto Take Care of Yourself by French artist Sophie Calle. A message from her boyfriend triggered the
development of this powerful piece. He broke up with her electronically, sent her an email that ended with the admonishment “take care of yourself”. Calle spent the next twenty four months showing his message to 107 women (including one parrot) and documenting their reactions in poetry and prose, photographs and video.
Nikki Luna’s Present Superstition brings Calle to mind. Both their pieces investigate the 21st century woman’s response to the end of a relationship, issues that women love to dissect and men just don’t seem to get (or perhaps, particularly care for). Nikki has filled one side of Blanc Peninsula with gifts of various sizes, all of them wrapped gaily and finished off with silver ribbons. Brass letters hanging from the ceiling spell out “I will never lose you” and “You lost me a long time ago”.
The hanging words clearly indicate the beginning of the end, at least on the part of one of the parties involved. Nikki calls each wrapped box Grief and Gift. Just as she has done with her previous work, Nikki again explores a paradox. Gifts are supposed to bring joy. However, cement blocks lie underneath the colorful wrappings. They defy any attempts to move them or carry them away. They cannot be kept and cherished. They have to stay where they are, definitely no harbingers of joy.
Most relationships begin with gifts– flowers, clothes, jewelry, dinners, propositions. The relationship is a gift itself. When things turn sour, it turns into a burden, as difficult to carry as these blocks of cement. For many women, the dilemma lies in whether to continue to put up with it—for the sake of convention, for the kids, out of sheer habit, for financial concerns, for all the gifts that had already been given.
Unopened, a life-sized sculpture of a gift box made from neon lights, dominates the other side of the gallery. Step inside and the ribbons resemble bars of a cage. They lose their festiveness.
The same goes for a bad relationship. Towards the end, it suffocates and restrains—because a partner who refuses to let go keeps it alive through a shower of gifts, or uses gifts as compensation for one’s flaws, or simply because the magic is gone and gifts just don’t work anymore.
Present Superstition runs from 18 January to 12 February 2011 at Blanc Peninsula Manila, Peninsula Manila Hotel Arcade, Makati Avenue, Makati. Phone (0920) 927-6436 or visit http:// www.blanc.ph