What does it mean to transcribe a work from one medium to another? Is the result a kind of translation, a form of documentation, a new piece of art, or all three? In a fascinating range of media—painting, video, found objects, weaving, and sound—Manila-based artist Gerardo Tan investigates these questions through three different projects presented in his solo exhibition Hablon Redux and Other Transcriptions at Random Parts.
The idea of Tan’s work as transcription is elucidated by art historian Lisa Ito in her essay “Rewriting Materiality” that accompanies the exhibition. Sadly, Ito’s solemn text fails to communicate the irresistible low-tech madcap charm that pervades the artist’s objects and ideas, such as his Turntable Paintings. To make them, Tan puts an LP record (from the labels, they are clearly thrift store finds) on a modest record player, setting its needle into the disc’s groove to play. A paintbrush attached to the playing arm lightly touches the black surface, dragging through the drips and narrow pools of liquid acrylic that the artist then squeezes onto the moving record, in various vivid hues. Astonishingly, as the needle passes through these gaudy wet circles of pink or blue, the music continues—though it is, as Tan admits, the last time that the record will be playable. The wall of paint-altered records displayed in the gallery suggests both a new version of their lost sounds and a MacGyver-esque reconfiguration of the ways that so-called spin art has been made intermittently since the 1960s.