Amy Lien & Enzo Camacho | Looking into “The Angry Christ”, the mural in the Philippines created by Alfonso Ossorio in 1950

Amy Lien & Enzo Camacho | Looking into “The Angry Christ”, the mural in the Philippines created by Alfonso Ossorio in 1950

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“I think it’s a response to a problem that I’m sure a lot of us here are familiar with, which is that people who are not speaking from what has been designated as the universal subject position, too often are denied legibility when you try to access any kind of transcendental or humanistic or worldly thinking, as though we’re not capable of that.” — Amy Lien & Enzo Camacho

Amy Lien & Enzo Camacho, The Plot, 2021 | Image courtesy of the artists, 47 Canal, and Sunpride Foundation

Amy Lien (b. 1987, US) and Enzo Camacho (b. 1985, Philippines) are artists and writers who work collaboratively on project. Their shared practice is oriented around intensive first-hand research into the impact of globalism, capital, and development on specific small-scale communities. Moving from the Philippines outwards, their body of work addresses localised iterations of labour and capital from the perspective of post-colonial damage.

Amy Lien & Enzo Camacho, Cafe by the Ruins Tour, 2011, Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA | Image courtesy of the artists and 47 Canal

Lien and Camacho have been collaborating for more than 12 years since 2009. In 2014, they both received MFAs from the Hochschule für bildende Künste, Hamburg, and both graduated magna cum laude, from Harvard University, Cambridge (Camacho in 2007, Lien in 2009). Their projects often involve an immersive period of research or living within a locale, during which they try to identify particular points of tension that speak to the manipulation of life in the service of profit and development. The artworks that emerge out of their experiential research are formed through playful experiments with modest materials such as light, paper, strings, and sticks, which foreground an aesthetics of sustainable learning.

Amy Lien & Enzo Camacho, The Angry Christ (Plot and Plantation) , 2021, Commissioned for The 10th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art | Image courtesy the artists, N Harth and The Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art

They have had solo exhibitions at the Kunstverein Freiburg, Germany; 47 Canal, New York, USA; and Green Papaya Art Projects, Quezon City, Philippines. Lien and Camacho have been included in group exhibitions including the Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts, Taipei, Taiwan; the Brunei Gallery at SOAS University of London, UK; and the Lab at NTU Center for Contemporary Art, Singapore. In 2020, they presented their work in the 13th edition of Manifesta in Marseille, France. They have also performed at MoMA, New York, and published in Texte zur Kunst and Flash Art.


Anger, the common ground for collective liberation

Since 2018, Lien and Camacho have made a number of works based on the sugar plantations on the island of Negros in the Philippines, an ongoing research-based project which revolves around the relationship between the religious mural known as “The Angry Christ” by the queer Filipino-American modernist Alfonso Ossorio and sugar production on the island of Negros in the Phillippines. From the mural, they explore the implications of the global plantation system, and its roots in a dehumanised market economy that has given rise to many forms of contemporary violence and accelerated environmental threat.

The Church of Saint Joseph the Worker, Victorias City, Negros Occidental | Image courtesy of Arnold Almacen

“The Angry Christ sits behind the altar of a modernist church founded, like the Philippine nation that is its setting, in the aftermath of war.” For Lien and Camacho, Ossorio’s mural resonates with much of the latent violence and oppression of the plantation system through its radical reworking of Catholic sentiment. Ossorio’s father is the founder of Victorias Milling Company, one of the best-known sugar manufacturers on Negros. In 1950, Ossorio created a mural “The Angry Christ” in a chapel servicing the workers of the sugar mill. During the creation period, Ossorio’s old wounds from childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood were opened, including racial discrimination, conflict about his sexuality, and his devoutly Catholic upbringing.

Amy Lien & Enzo Camacho, Martyrs, 2021 | Image courtesy of the artists, 47 Canal and Sunpride Foundation

Negros is an island known as the “sugar bowl of the Philippines”, producing over half of the country’s sugar output. Lien and Camacho traced back to the past colonial history, the plantations rooted in colonization and slavery, not only particular to the plantations of Negros but also laid the foundations for the whole world order we have inherited. They traced its legacy also in our urban slums and our gated communities, in our war zones and our stock markets, in our prisons and our art museums.


The transformation of the anger

What Lien and Camacho sense in the mural “is the creation of a space of frictional coexistence, one which conjures that infantile state of polymorphous perversity prior to the inscriptions of heteronormativity, but also an indigenous state of lush biodiversity prior to the hegemony of the monocrop. To look at the mural in this way is to read into it a demand to reassert and reactivate these queer states of being in both our bodies and our lands”.

Amy Lien & Enzo Camacho, The Angry Christ, 2022, installation view of Myth Makers—Spectrosynthesis III, Tai Kwun Contemporary, 2022 | Image courtesy of the artists, Tai Kwun and Sunpride Foundation

For Lien and Camacho, The Angry Christ is supposed to be a depiction of the Last Judgment but “there is also something kinky happening here, some indulgent pleasure in the way iconography as codified communication can be read, misread, or simply received”. The wounds on Christ’s palms and feet, the unmistakable markers of divine suffering, became one of the symbols in their work, made by handmade papers that are made with sugarcane fibres from Negros, combined with a range of other materials including wax, watercolour or gouache, coconut and rice hulls, seaweed, wood ash, abaca, corn husk, banana peel, scallions and onion skins.

Amy Lien & Enzo Camacho, The Plot, 2021, installation view of Myth Makers—Spectrosynthesis III, Tai Kwun Contemporary, 2022 | Image courtesy of the artists, Tai Kwun and Sunpride Foundation

Lien and Camacho are also inspired by theorist Sylvia Wynter and her discussion of the garden plots planted by African slaves in the Caribbean as the sites of eventual “cultural guerilla resistance”. The plot and bungkalan (land cultivation) became Lien and Camacho’s frame to re-think about The Angry Christ, uncovering a hidden use value if the mural’s queer “anger” might be radically reprogrammed towards other ends.

Works by Alfonso Ossorio, and Amy Lien & Enzo Camacho, installation view of Myth Makers—Spectrosynthesis III, Tai Kwun Contemporary, 2022 | Image courtesy of the artists, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, 47 Canal, Tai Kwun and Sunpride Foundation

“The way we understand it, bungkalan is an experimental attempt to use food cultivation as a way to reprogram the land and to retrain bodies and minds. There is a poetic intelligence in this that somehow brings us back to Ossorio’s Angry Christ and what we see as its inherent potential to generate new lines of flight in the present. The further we have embedded ourselves in this research, the more we have felt that The Angry Christ is demanding something from us, demanding that we actively partake in its anger.”