Split Second • Muchi Lao

Feb 15 to Mar 8, 2019 • Upstairs Gallery

Muchi Lao’s talent of impulse, reaction to instinct, and chance voyeur precede his lens. His cameras mainly serve as accomplices to stake out, observe and eventually catch theperfect prey of an interesting-enough subject matter.

He appreciates stillness but with the condition of purpose. Often he locks in a target that offers either the finest intrigue, or an inimitable movement pattern: the mercurial moment as his subject is seized in the fluidity of time – even in its most organically ephemeral cycle of composition and decomposition.

It is in the same transitory state of affairs found in his daily ‘discovery trails’ along with its incidentals that affords Lao huge traction over his everyday capture.

For Split Second, the inspiration is more deeply rooted in past events and experiencesfrom which personal sketches have emerged: “To some perspective, I’ve learned that nothing seems to stick anymore, or lasts long enough to establish connections and authenticities. One can easily be dismissedbefore really understanding, or proving anything at all. There is a load of reality on taking years to build something and yet only have seconds to waste everything.”

Lao’s indistinct imagery depicted in this recent series of photographs particularly with Speed In Slow Motion, On The Clock and Before These Crowded Streets portrayhints and vestiges of hurried everyday life, almost revealing and perhaps insinuating, both shortage of stillness and copious cacophony with humanity dissolving into ambiguity. “Every second counts for many of us living and unintentionally disappearing within city congestion, in the same manner, we also miss moments of joy and pleasure as well as the big picture. We simply survive everyday madness just to meet demands, keep up with social media, toil tirelessly until we slowly dissipate into sad clichésand lose time for many things that are more meaningful. Everything just seems to fade in a blur,” Lao illuminates further.

Though one thing remains clear, Lao’sstreak of artistry from his painting days at the University of the Philippines in Diliman has carried over to his photographs – showing visible threads of chiaroscuro as though monochromatic brush strokes, evidently exhibited by his haunting loners: Ghost, Last Seen and Day Off. Meanwhile, If I’ll Ever See You Again proves his preference for black and white contrasts over color charisma: “One does notnormally see in two tones, but through the facets of light and shadow I witness real emotions expressed without the distraction of kaleidoscopic pigment. I get a more straightforward sense of drama and a real narrative, which allow me a more explorative arena,” he describes.
Split Second is one story with a set of side tales – of jaded and nearly lost souls; of seemingly endless predictability; of seeking redemption from routine, or liberation from life’s perfunctory labor; of missed opportunities; of unfinished business; of the need to pause. In Lao’s eyes, these time-lapsed occasions, mere instances, and short-lived affairs are enough for a split-second snap, to paint a real picture of an incredibly accelerated pace some call life.

Asha Macam