In New Refuge, Czar Kristoff unhesitatingly receives the audience with empty walls, and spurs them into treading their way around the space on cardboard boxes laid out flat almost swallowing the floor in its entirety. This is Land, an installation inspired by the photographs taken and collected by the artist through the years of motorcycles in the streets covered with karton. This gesture of covering with the intention to shelter and safeguard one’s belonging is derived from one’s own experience of shelter and safety - having a roof over the head, having a house, having a home.
In Land, Czar Kristoff reinterprets the idea of repurposing familiar and easily available utilitarian materials such as the karton to build makeshift shelters. Instead of mimicking the standard structure of a house, Kristoff plots a space that would allow one to move freely, depicting a place of refuge as more of a state of unrestricted movement and comfort in just being.
A space that enables one to just genuinely be allows definition and re-examination of one’s identity. This space can be anything from a physical to a representational entity that offers one reassurance to exercise selfhood. In New Refuge, a single edition publication, Kristoff archives testing papers he has gathered from a local school and office supply store. The papers contain scribbles, names of people; it holds traces of identity, imprints of people’s existences left hastily. Kristoff initiates a conversation with these imprints by continuously enlarging them, zooming in and focusing on the minute details for a more intimate view of a trace of self one has left behind.
By making a single edition publication, Kristoff limits the number of audience that could view the work at a given time, providing the audience an experience of an intimate interaction, simulating an introduction between two people - a private correspondence of sorts.
This exhibition is predominantly participatory. The artist creates an environment where the audience’s acknowledgement of a situation reinforces the idea being relayed. In Land, by being the ones sheltered, the work achieves its essence of being a shelter; In New Refuge, through contact with and being an eyewitness to one’s evidence of identity, that identity is recognized.
The participation of the audience in completing the true nature of a work is further utilized in Untitled, a five-minute looped track of elevator sounds superimposed with the live noise and chatter of the audience in the exhibition space. In this work, the past and the present coincide.
One of themes that have been recurring in Czar Kristoff’s works is impermanence. In this exhibition, the artist fully accepts this state and humbly submits to the limitations of the self, of being unable to control the past, and consequently takes refuge in the fact that there are innumerable things that can be done about the present.
New Refuge, although initially conceived as a prologue to the artist’s further delving into a personal and sociological exploration of the relationship between memory, identity, and space, have become in itself a very personal account of understanding one’s history, positively reacting to it by gravitating towards empathy, and rediscovering and relearning the personal meaning of shelter, of safety, of refuge, a meaning once obscured by the anxieties brought by being surrounded with ephemerality.
- Marionne Contreras
About the Artist
Czar Kristoff (b.1989) is an artist who works across photography, video, site-specific installation and independent publishing. His current practice is derived from his inquiries on function and memory.
His work has been exhibited locally at Vargas Museum, Ateneo Gallery, Underground Gallery, MO Space, Altro Mondo, Post Gallery, Blanc, West Gallery and Drawing Room Gallery, and internationally at Art Dubai, Danselhallerne Copenhagen, Geffen Contemporary Los Angeles, Riga Photomonth Festival Latvia, The Museum of Photography Seoul, Krakow Photomonth Festival Poland, Atelier de Koekoek Vienna and Fotobok Gothenburg. His series Configurations was a finalist at Riga Dummy Book Award Latvia in 2016 and was shortlisted in Ateneo Art Awards for Visual Art in 2017.
He lives and works in Laguna, Philippines.