OBJECTS and materials used in daily life are transformed into art at an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila.
Supported by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Office of Congresswoman and Deputy Speaker of the lone district of Antique Loren Legarda, the exhibition, Cue from Life Itself: Filipino Artists Transform the Everyday, features works by eight contemporary Filipino artists.
“It is not solely depicting poverty but also refers to the movement of anti elitist artists who wanted to break away from the status quo of the mainstream art works to the use of humble everyday material,” Ms. Legarda said in a speech during the exhibit launch on Feb. 7.
“Materials in the art that we see here today in the exhibition reflect the vibrant ways by which Filipinos negotiate and interact with reality, always moving forward, meandering through one even narrow alleyways, and congested streets to find choice in surviving another day — always with perennial hope that tomorrow will be better,” she said.
The exhibition takes notes from Aesthetics of Poverty, a monograph by artist and educator Brenda Fajardo where she expresses the responsiveness of an artist to a transformable world. In the exhibition text, Ms. Fajardo asks, “How can an artist claim to be socially responsible when he mounts high-cost productions during times of deprivation?”
“Many of the artists try to understand the logic in everyday life,” exhibition curator and professor Patrick D. Flores said during a walk through the exhibit on Feb. 7, adding that people make technologies that are shaped depending on what people go through. The monograph (copies of which can be found in the exhibition) focuses on the establishment of Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) in the 1960s as a “people’s theater.” Ms. Fajardo’s work features production design sketches of PETA’s early productions.
“They wanted to develop any kind of theater aesthetics that was responsive to the milieu and production values,” Mr. Flores said.
Alma Quinto’s House of Comfort Project is a compilation by art workshop participants from disaster affected communities. The drawings are stitched together in a large quilt forming a collage depicting hope and strength.
Poklong Anading’s Fallen Maps and Bandilang Basahan was inspired by an area under construction near his house. In his piece, Mr. Ananding used rubble from sewage and road works and scattered these around a tent made of recovered rags.
Based on his experience with the flooding triggered by typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) in 2009, intermedia artist Mark Salvatus’ C_rafts uses found objects and scraps to create rafts and beds. “People have cultivated some kind of instinct to cope with disasters,” Mr. Flores said. The objects suggest ideas of survival, transportation, and the effects of climate change.
Meanwhile, visual and sound artist Lirio Salvador uses stainless steel pipes, bicycle gears, and utensils to create musical instrument assemblages that make complex sounds when touched.
Part of a series titled Paraisado, Jose Tence Ruiz’s wooden cathedral tower in a kariton or wooden pushcart juxtaposes the gaps between structures.
Textiles from ukay-ukay (second-hand) shops were gathered to create Kristoffer Ardeña’s Ghost Painting: Toldo Category. Mr. Flores described the work riffing off the “popular visual culture” of street signages and tarpaulins in urban and rural areas.”
In contrast to the concepts presented by other artists, filmmaker Yason Banal’s video and photography installation, titled With Pleasure/No Tears (A Knife and a Slice of Plutocratic Life), examines images of elite power with archived photographs of the Marcoses and images of contemporary materialism at the expense of the poverty of others.
At the end of the gallery is one of mixed-media artist Santiago Bose’s last works — the unfinished mural titled 9-11, Return of the Comeback. It is a collage of photographs of Filipinos and Americans in the 1960s and 1970s set against Guernica, Picasso’s famed anti-war painting. Mr. Bose considers the attack’s aftermath a “rehash of the American occupation” due to the return of American military presence.
“I tried to create some kind of intergenerational dialogue from the 1970s to the present,” Mr. Flores said on his selection of featured artists.
“We have to emphasize that the works here [are] not an imitation or some kind of provincial articulation of movement that is seen as superior or the norm. Each form of expression has equivalent integrities and comes from specific ecologies produced by very specific artist biographies,” he said.
Cue from Life Itself: Filipino Artists Transform the Everyday is on view at the Galeriya Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas of the Metropolitan Museum of Manila until May 7. The museum is open from Monday to Saturday except on holidays. Admission is free on Tuesdays. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman