"Worker Crossing: Tekla Tamoria's Between Bad and Ok"
Text by Marz Aglipay
The Philippines is known to have one of the longest quarantines in the world according to a Time magazine article published in March of 2021. Now on its third Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) or its strictest form of sheltering-in-place, anyone in any industry who works to make ends meet is affected. The dread this brings hits differently, like the blurring of work hours with personal time or having no means to make a living at all.
As this happens, an invisible enemy is on the rise. This enemy could be lingering anxiety or burnout from not having time to rest or grieve, not to mention the disease that threatens our capacity to work. These pressing troubles grow and compound over time spent in quarantine, an experience our nation has yet to overcome.
Artist Tekla Tamoria presents a 22-minute-long video art piece titled "Between Bad and Ok", that offers a vignette of a worker's psyche. This is the central piece of her solo show in Vinyl on Vinyl that shares the same title.
"Between Bad and Ok" features Soft Ledge, an avatar that the artist subjects to motions that bring rise to poignant sentiments. This is borne out of the artist's meticulous weaving process seen on rugs made from discarded fabric. The wearable piece covers the artist's entire body, transforming Tekla into a completely separate being by way of crafted skin.
By wearing this skin, the artist is subject to limitations dictated by Soft Ledge's unique personality which Tekla assigned to it, just like all of her wearable works. She negotiates limited movements given the structure of her wearable art in consideration of the avatar's frame of mind such as feeling free inside a private space and restricted while moving outdoors. Throughout these processes, Tekla bears the weight of the work throughout the duration of the video.
In addition, the video was shot entirely on a mobile phone in areas accessible to the artist due to quarantine restrictions. This is in line with the artist's ethos of using readily available materials and tools.
Tekla's video work explores the mental and emotional skirmish that workers are currently experiencing. The luxury of time to adjust is absent as workers try to adapt to the changing versions of the quarantine. In effect, they subject their well-being to the ups and downs dictated by these restrictions. Following this reasoning, the artist fleshes out an experience of a worker cycling through their moments of dwindling grit and pockets of calm spent in their faith to keep them going.
This exhibition earmarks a period when in spite of an ongoing health crisis, another day of work or missing an opportunity awaits, such as a moment where one crosses the intersection between bad and ok. It leaves one with less of a will to thrive but rather to simply survive.
This text was published and displayed during the exhibition run.
Exhibition notes for Tekla Tamoria's "Between Bad and Ok" at Vinyl on Vinyl. September, 2021