Artstrology: Gemini 2021, Confronting Absurdity
By Pamela Wong
In our daily confrontations with absurdity, whether it's the new normal of the pandemic or the latest cynical statement by a political figure, some lighthearted Gemini spirit can help us get through the nonsense. Although Gemini is not typically known as a “tough” sign, they can survive the worst scenarios with their quick wit, humor, and self-mockery. When the world is burning down, they will make a meme about it. This is why it’s easy to tell when a Gemini is nervous or anxious: making fun of themselves or becoming even more talkative than usual is their tactic for stress-relief.
For Gemini, the best way to tackle absurdity is absurdity itself: to mock or exaggerate a situation until it seems silly rather than scary. This is embedded in the paintings of the late Japanese artist Tetsuya Ishida. Born in 1973, Ishida witnessed the golden age of the Japan’s economic development in the ’80s, followed by the crash in the ’90s and the downfall of national pride. Many of Ishida’s paintings are critical of the conformist, inhumane work culture of Japan, expressed in exaggerated and pessimistic depictions of salarymen: they sit in a row waiting to be fed gasoline (Refuel Meal, 1996); they are tied up with string like bundles of goods to be transported by train (Cargo, 1997); or their body parts are deconstructed, boxed up, and returned to the factory (Recalled, 1998). Through these uncanny depictions, Ishida illustrates how the spirit of the individual is gradually consumed by the capitalist machine.
If you’re attentive enough, you will taste the bitterness leaking out from Gemini’s self-mockery and wry humor. Despite their talent for socializing and creating, they don’t tend to think very highly of themselves. There’s a sense of unworthiness and abandonment ingrained in their expression. Gemini writer Raymond Carver demonstrates this well in his 1981 short story collection, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. In “Why Don’t You Dance?” for example, Carver portrays a middle-aged man who is holding a yard sale in the midst of his divorce. A young couple walks past and are tempted to buy his second-hand furniture. The teenage girl, on being rejected by her drunk boyfriend, starts dancing with the older man and they share a brief moment of intimacy. In her later retellings of this encounter, she attempts to convince her listeners to validate the love in their short dance, but this is in vain; Carver ends the story with, “After a time, she quit trying.”
In Hong Kong, Gemini season was kickstarted by the long-awaited live edition of Art Basel. The second Mercury retrograde of 2021 will also take place during the month, on May 29, which requires our careful handling of the logistics (especially after the fair). Longer trips around the world are still largely restricted, but Gemini, a symbol of short travels and local mobility, will help us adjust to changing circumstances.
This article is written for entertainment purposes only.
Pamela Wong is ArtAsiaPacific’s assistant editor.
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