Shell • Broke

Jun 10 to Jun 30, 2014 • Upstairs Gallery

Broke/Shell is the reconstruction of the old Finale Art Gallery in Mandaluyong City using a 1:1 scale. The gallery, which ran for two decades until 2008 on the fourth floor of SM Megamall, has housed hundreds of artists and has catered to thousands of viewers who went to see the shows.

Galleries impose one of the more unusual experiences of space that we can have, especially galleries located inside an arcade or a mall. Like a shop’s window display, the contents change over a period of time, but unlike it, the viewers are not limited to looking and are meant to occupy the same space.

One’s memory of a gallery can be as unique as each show. Thus, a gallery can generate a multitude of memories about its space as it functions to present different occupants or transfiguring agents: curators, artists, designers, or different groups of art patrons. Everything is transformed in each show’s passing that a gallery’s own identity as a piece of architecture is almost non-existent when void of artworks.

It differs from our memory of a room, a house, or an office where we have full grasp of the nuances of the space, of each corner, or each furniture as we navigate through it, as we thrive and function through its familiarity. In our experience of the gallery, the works overshadow any concrete memory that we have of the space.

In the case of artists and curators, plotting and mounting the artworks inside the gallery, the experience is different as well. The gallery stretches out like a blank canvas, as part of their art, as a necessary tool. For them, the gallery space is unfixed, more fluid, it should follow the shape of the vessel which is the constellation of artworks.

It is the enigma of the gallery experience, both by artist and audience, which the firm Broke tries to address through design. By constructing a life-size replica of the gallery, formed using the exact measurements, Gary Pastrana re-aligns our experience to his and to the methods of producing functional pieces—further bridging the gaps between art, architecture, space, and audience.

As the structure stands inside the new Finale Art File’s Upstairs Gallery in Makati, we are drawn to perceive a kind of self-reflexivity—a gallery within a gallery; or for some, nostalgia—past histories against the present, old memories against the new. But this gallery within a gallery, this space within a space is propped up with its own objects and artworks for exhibition. And what Pastrana uses to approximate a gallery’s condition are objects made from the gallery’s own image. Constructed in smaller scales, the several replicas of the gallery are used as building blocks for functional pieces and fixtures like lamps and shelves, brass and metal sculpture, and even fabric and cloth.

As Broke utilizes this self-reflexive pattern for designing objects, we are forced to look at the space and architecture through a different perspective. We see it as a component for production, not merely as a passive ground to lay furniture. We see it as a tool for design under this premise. Memories of space, movement in space, the poetry of space and the materials of space all collapse under a set of unifying experiences—the act of experiencing the gallery anew, and the act of experiencing objects anew.

—Cocoy Lumbao