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  • Siobhan Bledsoe

(SPAM Cuts) '6:00 PM' by Rebeca Leal Singer

The shadow of a hand hovers near a chipped mug with a ceramic Dalmatian hanging off the side. The cup is on a pale blue formica table.

Siobhan Bledsoe picks at the strands of quotidian life in her analysis of Rebeca Leal Singer’s fleeting poem, ‘6:00 PM’, exhibited momentarily on Singer’s Instagram story before evaporating into coded air.

Rebeca Leal Singer's blunt block texts, originally written in her native language of Spanish but translated into English, are no longer than a couple hundred words each. Her musings –– beginning with a concrete anchoring of a material object –– blossom into larger philosophical ponderings, often directed at challenging and understanding herself, while acknowledging that her ‘self’ is not too important in the greater scheme of the world.

Singer was asked by Suave to publish one vignette/installation at 6pm every day for ten days. These pieces were on her Instagram highlights, and then disappeared, a meditation on the permanent and temporal. Although the exercise was writing about an object she found in her house, she isn’t literal or expected in her choices –– she gravitates to the conceptual, metaphysical, epistemological, literary referential and philosophical. In ‘6:00 PM’, her first short installation of ten poems, Singer writes:

This is the space where our rice cooker would be. It is a wooden shelf that actually does not exist either. It still needs to be placed on the wall.

Singer’s work offers generosity and wisdom, no less universal for its detail, and is both compassionate and recklessly optimistic in its outlook. ‘6:00 PM’ was published at 6pm on Tuesday, August 25th, 2020. She collaborated with Mexico City based graphic designer Carlo Cancun, who created sculptures/objects from her texts. Singer not only collaborated with a changing sense of Time in the pandemic, and the domestic objects of quotidian life, but also with her place in the world.

Singer continues: ‘Am I a vase or a decoration? / Am I a shelf or only a piece of wood?’. However, just when she risks becoming too abstract and potentially pretentious, she pulls us in another direction, citing the fallibility of her (and humanity's) nature, as well as subtle self-flagellation/masochism. She writes:

I will not know until I stop being propped against the wall (at the risk of falling on my back, over the smallest provocation or tremble, even if it is the lightest of all), and somebody screws me and hammers me, and nails me horizontally with all their strength.

A violent, yet not very violent, image. She finishes:

Then, I will be shelf. They will put a rice cooker on top of me. But I will still be myself, therefore, nothing will really change at all.

Zen Buddhist? Darkly funny? Utilitarian? Hopeful? Resigned? It is all of the above.

Singer was born in (and currently lives in) Mexico City. She is of Polish, Japanese and Jewish heritage. She speaks English, French and Spanish fluently, and was raised by Marxist professors. Even in a late capitalist paradigm, Singer manages to consciously extricate herself from the Ego, and her work rather connects to the bindings within us all — showing a humanitarian, diplomatic and international desire for equitable representation. This is an overarching theme through the series. Singer possesses a rare, flexible, empathetic and holistic scope. The ephemerality (as she describes it) of this project makes sense: a creative experience of the fleeting encounter, the significant and everyday; an experience most people can relate to.

Singer covers vast terrain, unexpected and expected, yet even in the quotidian –– cleaning her stove –– she subverts and challenges the initial trajectory her audience anticipates. Enter surrealism. On August 26th 2020, she describes this process of cleaning her stove (I wrote about this, too, during the pandemic) but is able to allude to Chantal Akerman films, and inhabits Akerman as she personifies the stove. She swerves and weaves, creating a non-linear and surprising final product. And on September 2nd at 6pm, she doesn’t choose an object to illuminate her philosophical queries, but the poet Ted Berrigan. Funnily enough, a book of his sonnets fell down from my bookshelf just today.

This cosmic cuddle also acts as a compass to me; especially now, when miring through these bizarre, almost glitchy moments. More importantly, Singer’s reference to Berrigan also reveals her range and the ambidextrous nature of her mind. Singer even integrates sentimentality into her pieces, accessing the full spectrum of pandemic emotions, heightened in a period of forced self-reflection and re-prioritisation; life at a slower pace. In ‘Sad Mugs’, she describes receiving mugs from her mom. Even if she broke one, she knew her mother would think it was still usable. She switches the perspective of the piece. This final installation, written on August 28th 2020, summarises these pieces wholly. Singer writes:

A little while ago today you accidentally dropped it and it chipped. I said “It's okay, you can still use it like that”, hoping that the day I break, I mean, I chip off, you will still find me important.


Text: Siobhan Bledsoe

Published: 25/5/21


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