An old Zen proverb goes, “After Enlightenment, the laundry.” In one sense, it implies that even after great achievement, one inescapably returns to the chore of human fragility. In another sense, the laundry itself is enlightenment, and one finds the ordinary extraordinary.
In the advent of the new decade, individuals and communities sought to envision a future by setting personal and collective goals in the face of things largely beyond our control. Direction setting finds precedence in poet Nicko Caluya’s professional context as a scientist constantly away from home, and recording his quotidian life in these places (now Nara, Japan). In one way, his formal tendency towards Filipino poetic forms such as the tanaga, and dalit, and the Japanese haiku for example, seem an acknowledgement to the established capability these modes have in capturing the sublime in the ordinary. In another, conscious attention and control over each mode's syllable count, rhyme, and literary structure act as rationalizations against tensions where the familiar and foreign, actual and imagined, and natural and mechanical, can collapse into chaos.
Caluya eases these compressed micro-aggressions in a number of ways. For one, by way of mindful translation where no meaning or turn of idea is lost in each line. Another by circulating his musings to the internet public, where a moment easily translates into images, texts (and emojis) from one device to another. There is deliberate framing in capturing specific posts with a hashtag and the erasure of others in Prussian blue --a color which recalls artificiality and the blue screen of death-- connoting not only the chaotic power of technology, but also the curation of a life in order. What is real and what is constructed in an online sphere? How do we make sense of the internet cloud that carries with it concrete instances? With nothing to hold on to but a sense of direction, a hint of choice, and a trust in the attention of the Instagram follower, "nothing" becomes the holder of possibilities—it is not just nothing, it is all.
# NO VISION 2020 is a selection of 150 (and counting) keypad poems and phone photographs from Caluya’s personal online account confronting the current state of worry and anxiety of the ambition of a 2020 vision, by capturing smallness in all its sacredness so that in archiving instances in poetic forms from history and the programming of contemporary devices, @nickocaluya might withstand the unknown mortal future, and see the moment as it is.
John Alexis Balaguer
(old pond / a frog leaps to / sound of water)
lawang kay tanda...
The Old Pond
Matsuo Bashō (1644 - 1694)
Translation: Nicko Caluya (top: 2013, bottom: 2020)
Images: Nicko Caluya
Photo-manipulation: John Alexis Balaguer
"Whenever humanity seems condemned to heaviness, I think I should fly like Perseus into a different space. I don’t mean escaping into dreams or into the irrational. I mean that I have to change my approach, look at the world from a different perspective, with a different logic and with fresh methods of cognition and verification. The images of lightness that I seek should not fade away like dreams dissolved by the realities of present and future..."
Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millennium (Lightness), 1985
Extracted from Nicko Caluya's "Exhibition Notes"
About the Exhibitor
Nicko R. Caluya was a doctoral student at the Nara Institute of Science and Technology, Japan, where he graduated with a Master of Engineering degree in 2018. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in 2013 from Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines, where he was also awarded the Loyola Schools Awards for the Arts in Poetry. His chapbook "Nasa Loob Ang Kulo" a collection of haikai from 2013-2019, was published in 2020.
Changelog (Autumn 2022): He has finished his PhD last March, and is now an Assistant Professor at Ritsumeikan University, under the Visual Information Engineering Laboratory.