Pin Calacal continues her exploration of the body and cacti as forms that manifest underlying tensions within a person’s emotional state and fraught relations with others. In “Prickling Under the Skin”, the body figures as a dual site, an index for an intimacy that may be regarded as two-faced. The tactile sense of skin reproduced in cacti forms invite one’s touch, as much as the thorns and hair repel this touch away. Calacal remains fascinated with the notion of eliciting both aversion and desire, of finding oneself “trapped or embraced, grabbed or lured.” It is this very dynamic, stemming from everyday, human interactions, that feeds into her art.
Growing cacti is an activity that the artist herself enjoys, as the daily tasks of tending to a garden serve to create a personal refuge. Thus, its representation points to a conscious psychic detachment from external forces, a withdrawal into the inner world. Yet, even one’s inner sanctum can be characterized by unease, by an anxious distance that allows longing but never fulfillment. Cacti encroach both foreground and background, threatening to take up the remaining space as if they had been left unattended and had grown wild. There is a closeness that teethers on suffocation, but no tenderness in contact.
And yet again, the cacti themselves, though representative of pain and discomfort, reveal facets of sensitivity. Their spines, after all, are less aggressive affronts against others than ways to survive harsh, external conditions. Their exteriors conceal fragilities. Do we not ourselves do the same? It seems fitting then that in some works, as disjointed arms and limbs extend beyond layers of cacti, they seem to grow spines and thorns themselves. In reaching out, they also seemingly repel. Indeed, it may appear that our desires are rooted in such– the unease of a distanced tenderness, the longing that keeps everything at bay.