At the time when the sentimental is manifested in a physical manner, one can easily find photo albums inside every Filipino house’s side table, drawer or cabinets. Unlike their digital counterparts, they do not come in multiples of shot or thousands of files, rather in small batches of photos stacked and collected for long duration of time. They became tools in preserving the happiest moments with loved ones; commemorating one’s societal heritage; and a means in passing on familial genealogy. In a way, the physical photo album fossilises memories for future excavation that allows a viewer to see what is special in those trivial moments taken in a snapshot.
Johanna Helmuth’s Everything Enthralling is a fresh leap from her quintessential tableaux of images depicting the underlying violence and societal issues that plagues our society. Helmuth’s visual diary-like images from her previous shows suggest an impending or a recurring physical and psychological violence towards her characters, that often includes torturous elements and acts. In these recent works, the insidious grins and silent yells of pain and agony have been replaced with smiles and wonderment – the cyclical has morphed into the momentous.
With her sister’s relocation from the provinces to the Metro and her parents’ decision to move in with her, Helmuth finds a new vantage point in looking at life and at her art practice. This reunion has vastly influenced Helmuth’s current works as it allowed her to see the beauty of the present, the mundane and everyday life spent with her family. In Everything Enthralling, Helmuth tries to capture the seemingly insignificant scenes, like her mother meeting up with her best friend or a friend taking delight under the rays of the sun. These minute scenes gave her a chance to gaze at the passing seconds as if suspended for eternity but at the same time bound in specific place and time. Just like in old photo albums, Helmuth finds the irreplaceable value of living the moment with no previews and no retakes; for in reality, suffering, violence, anxiety and other vile human experiences are effortless to spot for they are the constants of the world. The rarest moments are those mundane, minutiae of life where you find yourself in a state where your cheeks blossom, your lips spread out and upwards and a smile is formed.
– Lec Cruz