(Note: All credits are placed below.)

Probably owing to my current state, Lesley-Anne Cao’s The hand, the secretary, a landscape struck me as an exhibit that pertains to the solitude or isolation that arises from creative labor. Much of what becomes of and comes from the practice and process happens in the mind, even though the artist and their work passes through reception, review, and archiving.

In this review, I will talk about the art object in relation to the Golem: the artwork as an entity in-between sentient and incomplete, and the spatial and temporal boundaries of the “inner life” in making art.


Golem, as image and text, connotes some unflattering qualities such as dumbness and clumsiness, a servant who take their tasks literally, a body with half a mind. I tend towards thinking of the Golem in its Biblical definition: as the perfect servant, an incomplete being still partly dependent upon its maker, an entity in its interim state, a body of pure potential and becoming.

Cao’s works exist within their own boundaries, possess their own properties and appearances but constitutes a whole. They undergo their own distinct processes, they are the process and are also the outcomes of this process.

These are works about work, a hand that documents and archives as it is made, a landscape that draws itself as it is perceived.


The works are also a challenge to art’s object-ness. A blanket of bells are placed in a box, too far for any hand to reach. Yet one does not need to touch the bell to hear it. Its mere presence is the signification of its origin, purpose and fate.


A video projection is a testament to the duration of creative work. A loop appears to be static, yet it is a work that continuously works on itself, generating and regenerating, where to repeat is to return is to restore.

The hand, the secretary, a landscape is a work of reassurance to its visitors, perhaps for the artist herself. There is no need to fear the rumble of gravel in your ear as you ramble about your work, no need to fear the seeming sameness, only an openness to approach an unfolding landscape.


All photos by Miguel Lorenzo Uy.

See a survey of Lesley-Anne Cao’s works here.

The hand, the secretary, a landscape  is on show until 22 July 2018 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Bulwagang Fernando Amorsolo (Small Gallery) and 4th floor Atrium (Manila side).

Exhibition text by Michelle Esquivias.