grunt gallery presents A study in restraint, nanlaban, curated by Glenn Alteen.
Anton Cu Unjieng’s intricately taped, fired, and stacked ceramics are a response to recent political actions in his homeland in the Philippines. The Duterte regime’s mass killings have been officially classified as nanlaban, Filipino for ‘fought back.’ The stack arrangements in Cu Unjieng’s work are not only a monument to the regime’s precarious strength, but also to the possibility of fighting back.
Cu Unjieng’s concerns are also formal: “The decorative is a way of thinking about objects as relational, so that a decorative effect is a kind of ecology resulting from the total relations established between objects.” These totemic forms speak to “a metaphorical similarity between arrangement – a key aspect of any decorative logic – and the mechanics of power exercised by the Philippine state over the form of the social.”
Anton Cu Unjieng is a Filipino ceramist who trained with pioneering contemporary ceramists Tessy and Jon Pettyjohn at their workshop in Laguna, Philippines. Cu Unjieng is currently a PhD candidate in Art History at the University of British Columbia and is particularly interested in exploring the resonances between the language he uses to think about pottery and the way he understands the political realities currently developing in the Philippines.