Mason Kimber: Slanted Mansions

Installation view | Mason Kimber: Slanted Mansions, Sep 2018

Mason Kimber: Slanted Mansions
21 September-13 October, 2018
COMA, Sydney

Exhibition Essay
by Mariam Arcilla

In Slanted Mansions, Mason Kimber presents a new inventory of sculptural tablets, floating fragments, and compositional sketches that preserve the decaying chapters of places and memories in The Philippines.

The story starts in June 2018: Kimber and I visited my hometown of Quezon City, in the ripe howls of monsoon season. Mummified into raincoats, we explored my childhood home, former school, and my uncle’s marble factory—poignant sites that shaped my family’s lives. Today, these places continue to decline from the decades-old sway of time, weather, and neglect. Kimber listened to my stories of growing up in this vivacious megacity, which exists within a climate cocktail of earthquakes, super-typhoons, landslides, and volcanic eruptions.

These natural disasters left neighbourhoods in a hotchpotch of slanted homes, tangled gardens, and rubbled walkways. My family reset ourselves many times: we replace soaked beds, repair roofs, salvage floating debris, and wash out lava ash from our clothes. Eventually, we learnt to become limber to the dance moves of this ever-shaking metropolis. Our homes were painted in cornflower blue and peppermint—colours that behaved as pulsating way-finders during acid rain and electrical brownouts. We erected steel gates to keep floods out. Perimeter walls were lined with smashed soft-drink bottles; they kept wind-hurled structures and looters away. It was here that I developed a pre-mourning gratitude for possessions, knowing there was a chance they’d break or float out the door in the next wet season.

In Tagalog, the phrase ‘sumaging lagi sa alaala’ has dual meaning: ‘to haunt a memory’ and to ‘keep a memory.’ It’s similar to this mixed feeling of letting go of an object in your mind mentally, while still being able to touch it physically; a reverse phantom-limb of sorts. The jumbling of memory is a main propeller for Kimber. Before he was a full-time artist, he collected vinyl and hosted radio shows as a music producer in Perth. He spent days hunting down rare, yesteryear records and chopping them up to reconfigure into new sounds.

Today, as a visual artist, he remains faithful to this method, splicing memories and weaving them into new compositions—often while listening to those same songs in the studio.  Esteemed music producer Mark Ronson summed it up elegantly: ‘Sampling isn’t about hijacking nostalgia wholesale. It’s about inserting yourself into the narrative of a song while also pushing that story forward.’ In Slanted Mansions, Kimber records his personal observations and shared experiences of Manila, and remixes them into a new authorship that pays ode to the legacy of catching that memory.

Husk/Draft (2018) acrylic, synthetic polymer, gypsum, extruded polystyrene, polyurethane foam, resin. 61 x 45 x 5.5 cm.

While in Manila, Kimber spent time entombing public surfaces with sticky coats of amethyst-purple silicon molds: structural shapes like gates, roofs, windows, and balcony walls, and portable items, such as plants, carved furniture, and heirlooms. Once hardened to rubber, these molds were peeled off like escape pods detached from their source, to unearth replicas of fissures and mounds. New shapes were then remastered with gypsum and resin to form odd-edged slab pillows. They emanate off walls, their clusters lash around like steep glaciers or bulbous stalagmites; one reminds me of a chocolate bar broken up to share.

These works are by no means intricate copies. Rather, they triumph the intuitive and abstract marks of a studio process, with their sunken edges, rasped patterns, and goosebump imprints—in the same way that memory fogs and fades through time. ‘My intention is not to recreate the physical exactness of a space or object,’ Kimber says, ‘it’s about capturing their memories and tangible qualities, and turning them into monuments to stories that are worth preserving.’
View ‘Slanted Mansions’ on the COMA website
Project supported by Art Incubator