Ranelle Dial’s Mindmapped

I’m posting this a week too late. It’ll be up until the 2nd of May so you still have time to see it.

Ranelle Dial
8 April – 2 May 2010
Video room, Finale
Art File
Warehouse 17, La
Fuerza Compound, Makati

In Ranelle Dial’s recent exhibit Mind-Mapped opening at the Videoroom of Finale Art File this April, she takes off from a long abandoned science of behavioral and personality study that was used in the 18th century. Developed by Franz Joseph Gall, Phrenology was used to gauge a person’s temperament, personality, and ultimately his destiny solely based on the shape of his skull, with bumps suppositioned to be indicative of certain brain functions and/or mental capacities.

Approximating such quaint system of character gauging, Dial embarks on a process of having her subjects, writers such as Erwin Romulo, Yason Banal, Yvette Tan (fictionist), Lena Cobangbang, Raymond Lee (screenwriter), Gou De Jesus, and Butch Dalisay, sit and write their thoughts on a saran-wrapped
mannequin head, then have their mug shots taken wearing a rubber skull cap.

The resulting paintings have their Photoshopped bald scalps grafittoed with their most intimate subconscious ruminations, some screaming of expletives and Freudian slips, and macabre murderous thoughts, raw as it comes unmediated yet by proper grammar and refined syntax as how these writers would have want these reined in such wanton thought spurts on a published printed page.

Yet curiously, do such scribblings truly reveal or represent what their minds contain or do the very randomness of the process lead instead to a more obstinate and devious opaqueness of Dial’s subjects thinking process? It’s all a grey indeterminacy which relegates phrenology to a cultish quack science, together with palmistry and physiognomywhich formed the basis for criminal profiling in the 19th century founded solely on facial features and geo-anatomical make-up. However these methods were long held to provide a systematic record of information with which decisions and policies for the past two centuries hence has been made.

But these are examples of how cognition is processed – by organizing information into systems, systems being divided and classified by types and particularities to come up with
generalizations of certain things.

Dial’s painting projects follows the same patterning as she embarks on each painting series as taxonomy exercises in psycho-social behavior – setting up puzzle cubes, dolls, and this time random scribbling mapped out on one’s scalp on her subjects – as though these would palpably embody the otherwise ineffable core of being human, as innately possessed of its own internal logic and bestowed with an uncanny capability to reason and to conjure and make sense of the abstract.

-article by Lena Cobangbang

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Yvette Natalie U. Tan is a multi-awarded author of horror fiction and the Agriculture section editor of Manila Bulletin.

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