Daniel dela Cruz’s solo exhibition, Within, would have been impressive enough if it stopped at simply being frightening. The five-room showcase is a study on dreams, which means it’s just as much a study on nightmares, too—with humanoid figures made of mixed metal suspended in blocks of resin, video projections of silhouettes walking slowly along the walls, and lots and lots of heads lying around. But once you get past the fear that one of these statuettes might move while you’re not looking, you’re guaranteed to notice your fear transform into curiosity, then into wonder.
Within is divided into a series of collections and installations: the suspended bodies of Dreams List; the video projection-heavy Dissolution; Dream Catchers’ glass cases; Mementos, Tears, and Memory Blocks, which are all groups of baubles that can be picked up and moved around; the sleeping babies of Miracles; and a playful take on board games re-titled Mind Games. Everything here has a degree of interactivity and three-dimensionality that demands you stay and carefully investigate the pieces with your own hands. There’s just so much to see and do at Within that you can expect your visit to run longer than usual (especially if you don’t mind using human heads to play tic-tac-toe).
But dela Cruz’s exhibit is, of course, far more than just a bunch of toys to play with. There is an unexpected familiarity to his work; as eerie as his figures are, they begin to express, through look and feel alone, the impossible quality of dreams and that indescribable sensation of being in a dream state. Mementos and Memory Blocks seem to represent individual thoughts and ideas. Dreams List communicates the frustration of trying to break out of a deep sleep. And Dissolution captures both our spookiest night terrors and our most relaxed trances. There is a strange comfort in knowing that an artist has managed to portray the impossible.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Within is how it uses the space of the Artinformal gallery itself to encourage your imagination to run wild. Moving around and sifting through Memory Blocks can make you feel like the Sandman in his dream factory, looking for good dreams to bestow on dreamers. For science fiction fans, the rooms in which Miracles and Dreams List are found will instantly make you think of cryogenic sleep chambers. And even if you’re not as big a geek as this writer has revealed himself to be, the experience of seeing your own silhouette splash against the walls of Dissolution should be remarkable for anyone.
And yet the most remarkable part about viewing Within comes at the end, when you discover that any initial fears and preconceived notions you may have had about dela Cruz’s work are completely gone. The exhibit you leave behind isn’t the same as the one you entered. Within might make you excited to fall asleep or it might keep you up all night, but either way it offers food for thought worth chewing on.
WITHIN IS ON DISPLAY AT ARTINFORMAL, MANDALUYONG UNTIL JULY 8.