“Man is the measure of all things.” As early as two-and-a-half thousand years ago, our anthropomorphic bias—that we, as humans, are the final arbiters of the value of our surroundings—appeared in the words of Protogoras, the first of the Greek sophists. That idea remains central as well in post-modernism which, as one modern philosopher John Gray has noted, holds that there is no such thing as nature, only the floating world of our own constructions. In short, we decide what is real and what is not.
In Ranelle Dial’s exhibition, ‘Guesstimate,’ the artworks depicts and examines hand gestures that express an approximation of values as commonly used in conversation, especially among Filipinos. Without exactly holding or relying from a planned or fixed system of measurement, it is a widely used and accepted form of communication in face-to-face discussion. The term, “tantsahan,” is used to connote this approximation, a colloquial system that is less ideographic and ironically less abstract in thought than written language.
Much like classical Chinese script (which has been described by A.C. Graham as a “combination of graphic wealth with phonetic poverty”), it denotes no Form as bodiless as Plato’s the Good, the Bad and the True—terms that designated spiritual or intellectual entities. (Much of the wars and genocides throughout history were fought in the service of these abstractions.) Unlike that, the use of hand gestures is decidedly nominalist i.e. the recognition that these are only labels, names for the diversity of things in the world. It is this kind of understanding that illuminates Chinese philosophy, wherein their thinkers have rarely mistaken ideas for facts.
‘Guesstimate’ is not abstract, though it does not represent values as seemingly accurate as phonetic language. It places a premium in a form of communication that still recalled and engaged the realm of the senses; illuminating our proper place, not at the center of our world, but as a member of its audience to which we only have the barest hint of the narrative’s script. (Erwin Romulo)
Guesstimates: Ranelle Dial
West Gallery, West Ave. Q.C.
26 February to 26 March 2009