Stagnant Energies • Romina Diaz

Feb 4 to Feb 27, 2016 • Tall Gallery

Stagnant Energies: The Photography of Romina Diaz

Miguel Syjuco

Contradiction, to some, conveys chaos. In the eyes and hands of those who know better, it becomes harmony: Past, present. Grand, decrepit. Inhabited, abandoned. Sane or insane. Black and white. Romina Diaz’s photographs limn the magnetic tension between two poles, as well as an exploration by a young artist deep into, what she calls, the “remnants of a history that is closest to my time … a place I could understand of a history not so far away.” (There is nothing cryptic in that, if you think about it.)

Into abandoned asylums in Tuscany went this Filipina-Italian, a Manila native who has called Florence home for nearly half her life. The dualities and dichotomies there, to her, exist without division or bifurcation. Indeed, they become as singular as a third possibility. (You can almost imagine Hegel standing to shout, Yes! Yes!) In these forgotten places Diaz sees it; in these photographs we all see it: the stagnant energy — life that does not now move but did once and promises to again. The circle closes, finally, and the line continues, curving away to form something unexpected and beautiful.

Diaz’s photographs hum exactly with such memory and possibility. They capture, in these disintegrating asylums, the frustrations of wayward psyches, now long dead, yet resonating still like screams in unstill halls; or answers to life’s large questions spat into fastened corners; or the clinical scratch of a society writing off the rantings of seekers in awe of their very own faith and wisdom. “Between these walls,” Diaz writes, “were maybe forward thinkers with open minds, all crazy in their own way.”

Yes, threaded through these photographs is empathy for the abandoned, metaphors for things poised just beyond the tips of our tongues: There are impassable steps. Branches without leaves. Corridors with open doors leading to different rooms that serve now the same purpose: nothing (at least on first glance). There are ceilings of open sky. Ajar shutters thatguiltily face their dereliction of duty, having failed to protect panes long-ago-smashed. There are juliet balconies overlooking lovelessly bricked-up windows. Or unworded letters and unsummed numbers slathered on walls, the painted palimpsest crackled and peeling like a mind shocked by its errant convictions. And there is a chair facing, unflinchingly, its own shadow.

In these images exist a stillness that is nearly foreign to we Manileños — foreign but not forgotten. We, overpopulated and besieged by landscapes of growth, recognize it in these unpeopled photographs of unnamed locations. In Italy, Diaz explains, “there is such a heightened sensibility towards protecting history that places like these asylums are reminders of origins and stories. So my fascination with discovering my roots becomes evident mostly because my other culture, Filipino, has so little of it — as soon as there is anything abandoned, development becomes involved and we make way for new things.” This results, she says, in our “losing our understanding of the chain of events that brought us to our here and now.”

Indeed, these black-and-whites are dots on a page begging to be connected. There is a bathtub with a stain that could be dirt, or paint, or blood. At the bottom of a staircase, a radiator absorbs cold, giving off only irony. An unplayed upright piano, keys unlocked and stolen, sits beneath a grand fresco, itself unobserved and as forgotten as its artist. Graffiti, naive in its artistry, childish in its hand, depicts trees and flowers and people among axes, saws, rifles and other instruments of cleaving, hunting, or killing. And on a bedframe sans mattress, a hole where a body would lie, rests a pillow; beside it, a chair for a visitor who perhaps never came and now certainly never will. In all of these, there is the emptiness not of something waiting to be filled — it is the emptiness of many things that overflowed.


We Build With Abandon

Tosha Albor

At first instance the images are arresting, pulling me into a dialectic of dichotomies: between darkness and light; texture and smoothness; nature and humanity; creation and destruction; narrative and abstraction—all interwoven in a journey that takes you through different chambers or environments that can either be seen as empty spaces—hollow, discarded brick and mortar—or spaces filled with all kinds of content—both material and immaterial. There is a strong narrative of abandonment in this series, depicted by its usual tropes: sealed windows and doors, furniture arranged in such a way that leaves traces of a daily routine, and decay. But the viewer is not left with abandonment as the sole reading of the series as a whole.
The objects in each image represent personal histories, the details of which will forever remain cloaked in mystery. We are left with nothing but vestiges of a past life to interpret in whatever way we like. For me, personally, I was left with an array of emotions that were both foreboding and illuminating at the same time. There is a beauty portrayed which allows you to ruminate on the human condition in both a negative and positive way.
Sealed doors, stripped walls, broken tiles—all speak to a damaged state of disrepair and defection, of a point of no return. And yet, there is an absence of conflict in the way Diaz captures this state—leaving it less defined; of a more liminal quality. The aesthetic is one of balance and harmony—of divine proportions. You’re not left with an unsettling feeling. There is no tension. The call to action is not aggressive and invites the gaze to be less questioning and more contemplative. These images are like prayers, mini alters, rather than polemical assertions of a world order—of fear, oppression, and destruction. I see a world of fluid change where these images are moments of stillness captured as an ode to the liminal state we all find ourselves in: the state of being in constant flux. A process rather than a fixed state of being. The act of abandoning becomes inextricably linked to the act of reclamation and vice-versa. We leave things behind in order to discover new things, or we discover new things in the process of leaving things behind. These images capture this delicate balance for me. I am not left emotionally bereft. Rather, I’m left with the overwhelming sense that life carries on beyond the walls we build around us. The walls may crumble and fall, but our stories continue to flow.

Stagnant Energies 1

Stagnant Energies 1, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, 40×24 in (portrait or landscape)

Stagnant Energies 2

Stagnant Energies 2, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, 40×24 in (portrait or landscape)

Stagnant Energies 3

Stagnant Energies 3, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, 40×24 in (portrait or landscape)

Stagnant Energies 4

Stagnant Energies 4, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, 40×24 in (portrait or landscape)

Stagnant Energies 5

Stagnant Energies 5, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, 40×24 in (portrait or landscape)

Stagnant Energies 6

Stagnant Energies 6, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, 40×24 in (portrait or landscape)

Stagnant Energies 7

Stagnant Energies 7, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, 40×24 in (portrait or landscape)

Stagnant Energies 8

Stagnant Energies 8, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, 40×24 in (portrait or landscape)

Stagnant Energies 9

Stagnant Energies 9, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, 40×24 in (portrait or landscape)

Stagnant Energies 10

Stagnant Energies 10, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, 40×24 in (portrait or landscape)

Stagnant Energies 11

Stagnant Energies 11, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, 40×24 in (portrait or landscape)

Stagnant Energies 12

Stagnant Energies 12, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, 40×24 in (portrait or landscape)

Stagnant Energies 13

Stagnant Energies 13, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, 40×24 in (portrait or landscape)

Stagnant Energies 14

Stagnant Energies 14, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, 40×24 in (portrait or landscape)

Stagnant Energies 15

Stagnant Energies 15, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, 40×24 in (portrait or landscape)

Stagnant Energies 16

Stagnant Energies 16, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, 40×24 in (portrait or landscape)

Stagnant Energies 17

Stagnant Energies 17, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, 40×24 in (portrait or landscape)

Stagnant Energies 18

Stagnant Energies 18, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, 40×24 in (portrait or landscape)

Stagnant Energies 19

Stagnant Energies 19, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, 40×24 in (portrait or landscape)

Stagnant Energies 20

Stagnant Energies 20, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, 40×24 in (portrait or landscape)

Stagnant Energies 21

Stagnant Energies 21, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, 40×24 in (portrait or landscape)

Stagnant Energies 22

Stagnant Energies 22, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, 40×24 in (portrait or landscape)

Stagnant Energies 23

Stagnant Energies 23, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, 40×24 in (portrait or landscape)

Stagnant Energies 24

Stagnant Energies 24, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, 40×24 in (portrait or landscape)

Stagnant Energies 25

Stagnant Energies 25, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, 40×24 in (portrait or landscape)

Stagnant Energies 26

Stagnant Energies 26, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, 40×24 in (portrait or landscape)

Stagnant Energies 27

Stagnant Energies 27, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, 40×24 in (portrait or landscape)

Stagnant Energies 39

Stagnant Energies 39, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, size variable

Stagnant Energies 36

Stagnant Energies 36, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, size variable

Stagnant Energies 33

Stagnant Energies 33, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, 40×24 in (portrait or landscape)

Stagnant Energies 30

Stagnant Energies 30, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, 40×24 in (portrait or landscape)

Stagnant Energies 38

Stagnant Energies 38, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, size variable

Stagnant Energies 35

Stagnant Energies 35, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, size variable

Stagnant Energies 32

Stagnant Energies 32, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, 40×24 in (portrait or landscape)

Stagnant Energies 29

Stagnant Energies 29, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, 40×24 in (portrait or landscape)

Stagnant Energies 37

Stagnant Energies 37, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, size variable

Stagnant Energies 34

Stagnant Energies 34, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, 40×24 in (portrait or landscape)

Stagnant Energies 31

Stagnant Energies 31, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, 40×24 in (portrait or landscape)

Stagnant Energies 28

Stagnant Energies 28, Romina Diaz, 2016, Photograph on metallic paper, 40×24 in (portrait or landscape)