Home Arts & Leisure ‘Artivism’ amid gentrification

‘Artivism’ amid gentrification

IN CELEBRATION of National Arts Month, Filipino artists called on today’s generation of creatives to continue the dialogue in public spaces and pursue creative forms of activism — or “artivism” — in the new normal.

“Public art can create connections and be a catalyst for change, for creating places for people to evolve,” said AG Saño, a landscape architect turned street artist and environmental activist, at a Feb. 18 webinar organized by the National Committee on Architecture and the Allied Arts.

He added that though public art includes big monuments, its most common form in the Philippines is street art due to the ease of access to spaces and materials.

Some well-known locations that have murals are Bonifacio Global City, the outside of Camp Aguinaldo, and the Balara Freedom Wall along Katipunan Avenue.

“The Tawi-Tawi murals stand out because of the beauty of seeing Muslim kids and Christian soldiers paint together for peace and nature,” he added of the Camp Aguinaldo piece, when asked about the most significant wall art he had encountered in his career.

One of his latest projects was a collaboration with Greenpeace Philippines about climate justice, wherein youth and environmental groups painted on various public walls in Albay, Bacolod, Bataan, Bohol, Iriga, Marikina, and Tacloban in Nov. 2021.

Meanwhile, Angely Chi, a film worker and artist from Davao City, documented the use of stickers as a form of graffiti art in public spaces.

“In this movement of communing through a simple object like a sticker, you get to know people and you get to take their works elsewhere,” she said.

However, public spaces are now shrinking due to the gentrification of many areas in the country, making public art a way to claim space for communication amid their decline.

“Our public activities are becoming activities that are performed in commercial spaces owned by big corporations and business tycoons. Sometimes that becomes the death of the public market and plaza that are really important to our identity,” said Ms. Chi.

She called on today’s generation of artists to stop playing it safe and to take risks when it comes to public art.

Mr. Saño, who gained widespread recognition over the last decade for painting a dolphin on a public wall for every dolphin captured or trafficked from the wild, said that an advocacy can be formed just by putting a message on a wall using paint.

In 2020, during the first few months of the pandemic, one of his works was a mural of the Filipino comic book character Captain Barbell wearing a mask, which was a tribute to frontliners and a call for mass testing painted on the exterior of Sterten Place in Quezon City. — Bronte H. Lacsamana