About Mirage of Presence by Isabel Manalo
Yayo Tavolara’s site specific installation “Mirage of Presence” endeavors to frame the participant in a place that directly questions the actions of these more than life size photographs of ‘walking and talking’ people seamlessly adhered to the walls of aquabitArt gallery. Photographed around Berlin in voyeuristic fashion, Yayo presents these unassuming subjects within the presence of a critical observer. All the subjects are engrossed in their smart phones or ‘handy’ (mobile phone), whether they are sending a text, playing a game, reading an email, paying a bill or listening to music. Tavolara’s intention is clear in this installation. The collective ‘we’ are not living in the present much less the moment, and on the contrary, we exist in a virtual reality – a mirage of being where people pass each other constantly without interacting or acknowledging the physical presence around them. And she directly connects the culprit as Technology – with a capital ‘T’. Yayo does not hold back when it comes to making a statement through her art. Her expressions of these observations are akin to an anthropologist tracking human behavior and arriving at some insightful conclusion. However, Yayo’s installation is wider in breadth and where there is a bit of discomfort directing the viewer what to see, there is also a level of self-reflected humor.
In addition to the large cut out photographs of people on the wall, Yayo includes a video she made of herself walking around Berlin and filming only the ground. It is a dizzying perspective as you feel her hand moving the camera up and down purposely around the area where her feet are walking. As the viewer, you desperately want the camera to turn upwards to what is in front, but it never does. There is a mocking nature in our discomfort and nausea -- in a way that is stating a silent smirk “this is what happens when you don’t look up!”. Throughout the video, a loop of light and peppy music is playing. The tune is an energetic counter part to the more serious implications of the imposing larger than life handy-clad people.
On the opposite side of the small staircase is a shallow reflecting pool. Appropriating this found object, Yayo associates the shape of this former ceiling light to the shape of a common mobile phone. Placed on the floor and transformed into a reflective pool, the mirror reflects the photographs on the wall. Moreover, as you bend over to see what is there, you of course see yourself. The idea that all of us are living in an illusion is made crystal clear in this literal and playful sculpture.
Yayo’s multi-media installation “Mirage of Presence” elegantly transforms the small space of Aquabit gallery into an experience that is contemplative, but also firmly resonates a tone that raises doubts about the use of technology in our daily lives and the negative consequences associated with this kind of mindless absorption. While it has become a valuable platform for communication, the ways in which we addictively use it is also the demising source for a disconnected society. With this warning, “Mirage of Presence” is another relevant and bold installation by Yayo Tavolara whose work consistently generates questions that persistently address public and private issues of human connectedness – or in this case, disconnectedness.
Isabel Manalo Artist/Curator/Writer, Berlin, 2014