In Conversation: Keeyan Suazo
Keeyan Suazo’s “Bamboo Flowers” used a smooth gradient of found objects to represent the colour transitions observed throughout the life cycle of a bamboo plant. Beginning with a verdant green, it moved to muted yellows, and concluded with various hues of tawny brown, much like bamboo soon after flowering. Through its objects, the installation also became a physical representation of the artist’s daily life and mental landscape—an organized accumulation of clutter referencing monumental events, everyday rituals, past works and future projects.
Read on to learn more about Suazo’s process and inspiration for his installation.
Bamboo Flowers displays a collection of various objects, many of which appear to be personal to you—including clothing, food waste, and even personal notes. Could you share with me some of the memories associated with these items? Do they hold sentimental value?KS
All of the items hold sentimentality at certain levels. Some of the things do hold more value than others as the memories associated with those items were shared with other people. When my father visited the Philippines recently, he brought back some saba bananas, a banana variety from South East Asia. I decided to include some of those banana peels with my installation. I also included wrappers of some Filipino snacks that he also brought back as well. Some ‘purely’ personal objects that I attached to the walls were some of the ceramic pieces that I have worked on in my ceramic classes at Emily Carr. I made a droopy vase during an introductory ceramic class with Parvin Peivandi and a low-polygon version of a broken clam shell with Brendan Tang in his ceramic sculpture class. Clay is quite an interesting material, especially with the idea of change, as it is a malleable and ever-changing material in its greenware state and even after firing.
For your installation, you have gathered and used objects in colours ranging from green to yellow. Tell me about your process of collecting and installing these items? Did anything surprise you about the process?KS
The process of collecting these items was the hardest portion of this project. I started collecting items six months before the installation. Being constantly exposed to these items that hold varying sentimentality throughout those six months was extremely overwhelming. Different stories were uncovered as I looked at these items in my studio. I would remember portions of the stories, that all of the items encapsulate, every time I had a glimpse of the pile of ‘my life’s artifacts’ and with them came the emotions I felt with those memories attached to those objects. Our memories shift on their own with time or we force them to change, to be remembered differently. With my heavy reliance on these objects to help me remember, I felt the pressure to collect and showcase every artifact, which explains my hoarding impulse.
Your objects are used to demonstrate the colour change in the life cycle of a bamboo plant, but the project is also about your own life. Do you feel emotionally connected to bamboo? How does the plant represent you?KS
Bamboo is one of those raw materials I have been exposed to growing up. From fences and barbecue sticks to an actual bahay kubo (a type of Indigenous Filipino architecture my family had growing up), bamboo is something that is reliable, versatile and easily accessible. Even though it was an integral part of the installation that literally showcased the material aspect of my life, I feel like I emotionally connect myself more to the change the objects underwent rather than the actual objects themselves. I always create works but have never had the courage to exhibit them. But when I saw Karl Hipol’s installation in the BAF Garage, titled Tagpi-tagpi, seeing a work by an emerging Filipino artist, it inspired me to showcase what I can do. During the installation of this piece, I turned twenty—no longer a teen. I feel I pressure myself to figure things out as fast as possible. Bamboo has the ability to grow 30 to 100 cm per day. We may not grow as fast as them but we are constantly growing, ever-changing, minds ever expanding.
Like Bamboo Flowers, Consumed (2020) is another of your works that reinvents or disguises everyday discards. In this work, disposable plastic items are made to look like sushi. Is it important for you to use recycled materials in your practice?KS
My exploration of these wide arrays of items, some considered by others as discards, has to do with my exposure to these materials. The objects that I am comfortable working with are materials that are present everywhere and are easily accessible. With their availability, I get to experiment with them more often, exploring their possibilities and their limitations. With Consumed (2020), I combined and presented those plastic materials shaped as something else. With the malleable nature of plastic, it takes on a form that we associate with certain brands, narratives and functionality. Due to the prevalent existence of plastics, we are used to seeing plastic forms that, once deconstructed, lose the associations we assign to them in their original states. With Bamboo Flowers (2023), the objects are presented as they are, suggesting my own personal narratives while being aware that different people have different connotations with these different materials. Both of those projects are assemblages of different scales. We perceive the different objects in both of these projects with the visual culture that we have built, associated with each item and collectively, thinking about the different systems these objects are a part of and the systems within each object— the intricate network of dialectical materialism.
What is next for you? Are there elements of Bamboo Flowers that you plan to explore further in your practice?KS
I am planning on showcasing Excerpts from Bamboo Flowers, exhibiting some of the items from my installation and giving an opportunity for the audience to get closer to the things and get lost in the minutiae of each of my beloved objects without any barrier. Change is a narrative that captivates artists. Some artists combat change with different methods of conservation and preparation to lengthen the longevity of their pieces, while others create works that completely disregard these ideas of preservation. With Bamboo Flowers (2023), it made me realize my fascination with the idea of false permanence and the temporal nature of any material which supports what seems to be the pessimistic nature of nihilism. Change is inevitable, it’s no secret. But what fascinates me more than change itself are intangible phenomena that catalyze change. Looks like I will be diving into physics and arithmetics for art.
Keeyan Suazo’s installation, titled “Bamboo Flowers,” was on view at BAF from January 12 to March 11, 2023.