Currently prevailing as a dominant climate in art, modernism and its postmodernist self-criticism, float in the sky of contemporary art-making as altered yet unified clouds of the same world haze. Whether condensed as an outstanding universal narrative or a sceptical precipitation of all grand artistic and philosophical principles, both pursue a breaking away from convention that of which clears the air for freshness and newness. Hence, experimentation becomes the core of innovation as a form of cyclic creation.
Immersed in these conditions are the dialogic works of Gino Bueza as seen in Over the Weather and Under the Radar. Following the narratives of Gerhard Ritcher and Michel Majerus, Bueza speaks in the same language of abstraction, expressionism, pop art and conceptualism but in an active involvement of his own experiential account. Instead of being “under the weather” because of the domineering storm of Western practices in modern art, he chooses to be over or above it by directly engaging what it means to be modern from his particular standpoint and viewpoint. As with this grounded gesture, he lands and reclaims a tradition of his own.
In “WHAT LOOKS GOOD TODAY” alongside “MAY NOT LOOK GOOD TOMORROW” (photo above), Bueza’s concept of mapping is manifested as a play with the atmosphere of what is modern and contemporary. By diagramming several works seen as parts of a whole, and then that whole as another part of a bigger whole, he converts into awareness the many layers of his own unfolding discourse on the meta. In the shadows, he uses actual objects as painting contents hidden in the surface of the visual dimension of the canvas as a form of reforming. We also see him juxtaposing these concealed and obscured pieces with works (photos below) that test familiar materials in printmaking, and further distorting them to unfamiliar images looking like charts of weather reports seen in four renditions. In this collection of works, Bueza triumphantly produces a clever composition and teasing of form under the radar of standards in painting.
If for Bueza to be over the weather is to go beyond present artistic conditions, while to remain under the radar is to be mindful of tradition (including the perverse), then it is in these works that he is deemed successful of forecasting patterns of modernism in Philippine art. #
Inhabit is a word of action that concerns the occupation of a space to claim it as a place. Something places itself in a space to form a location, a site, a position. Something embeds a habit, a routine, a pattern to break away from movement, transition and things in the state of the provisional. To in-habit is to settle, and to settle is to humanize a landscape.
When our ancestors veered away from the nomadic way of life to start cultivating lands and practice agriculture, multiple and different tribes of the earth claimed their own spaces and declared them as the places of their identity, the places of their origin. They gave birth to culture, language, ritual, customs, traditions and socio-political structure because of this path to settlement. Later on this settling paved way for property, security, hierarchy, trade and warfare which in return destroyed the very place of identity that they themselves built; only to incessantly reconstruct what has been destructed in a different form and under a newer order.
All these historical tendencies of cyclic spatial regeneration are made manifest in the works of 9 artists in collaboration for a reclamation. This retrieval, recuperation and renovation remakes space not as an abstract arena but a place of production and reproduction that is dynamic and relational. These artists enter this persistent space of recreation to restore and refresh our active sites of knowing.
Aznar and Dayrit for example, enters our common area of meaningfulness by making visible old objects and events that engage this very space we now hold to the wider historical space it is part of. In the same trajectory of reinvention and reconnection as junctures of political engagement between the viewer, the artist and the society, the works of De Loyola and the Abrigos are metaphors of specific social issues that tackle spatial occupation as an assertion of political power and will. This same metaphor is pushed forth in the mythologizing of Olcos’ works, and the funnier engagements of Cruz that crackles an inner laughter as it criticizes social ills. However, the personalization and celebration of privacy figure in the works of Cheese and Lubay as both recreate their own creative spaces to publicize the process by which a work is done, languaging the space in the narrative of the meta.
From the social sphere to the private self, Inhabit is a cooperative rebirth of space and place that creates a dialogue between mutability and fixity. As these works occupy the gallery space, an allowance for the place to take its own shape is also commenced. The very encapsulation of form initiates the sheer liberation of meaning.
If we create reality by way of perception, what is it that we perceive and who is the one perceiving the perceived? What is the distance between what is perceived and the eye that perceives the perception? What is this same space that holds them together? If you see them as one and the same, what is this process of mediation and boundary?
Francis Vejar tackles these necessary and quintessential questions in his collected works Creatures from the Ackk 2: The Crisologo Chronicles. As a continuation of a project that sprung from making sense of nonsense verbiage, acknowledging pattern and therefore the need for mythological creation or what he calls “fabricated truth”, Vejar now reverses the inquiry and plays with “laminated truth.” In the concept of fabrication that Vejar illustrated in Creatures from the Ackk back in 2013, he made several sculptures and installations that mythologized the self (individual) and nation (the collective) through found objects. By assembling things and making space for their visibility, he weaved a symbolic imagery, an emblematic narrative that passed through the many dimensions of the mind. For Vejar, fabricated truth is within the surface of our consciousness, so even if things are never exactly real as they are in reality, fabricated truth is strengthened by the procedures of belief and could eventually be taken as absolute truth.
“Never feed the Philippine National Bald Eagle”
In this show, Vejar cracks open these said procedures to unlock the solidified system of knowing. Here, we see him go against the absolute. Instead of reinforcing a fabricated truth to be perceived as reality, we see him now dismantling his own sense of reality as we witness him undo and repeal old mythical narratives he helped built: national symbolism.
“Philippine National Food: Pancit Canton”
“Philippine National Idol: Bulol”
In Creatures from the Ackk 2: The Crisologo Chronicles, Vejar does not only laminate or put into layers of systems, purposefully influencing, one single fabricated truth by way of object-making. The product of his creative process is not the sole core of interpreting truth, but also the very process with which these truths are bonded and examined. Bringing into light a new kind of visibility, still with the use of found objects and installation, Vejar works with objects that already have existing histories and obtained contexts – these objects have their own encoded myths; but in manipulating these objects, he also manipulates their existing narratives in creation of a new. In this sense, laminated truth is exercised from a concept to a way of making-real. And it is in this exercise, this creation of a new, that Vejar continues his exploration of the individual and collective realms of symbols, traversing the layers of a reversal process from myth to reality, for a more advanced perception of reality from myth. Vejar laminates the fabrication that was processed from the real, to further undress, unclothe and uncloak the real reality that it is and not is.
Ten days after the strongest typhoon to hit the planet in recorded history made landfall in the Philippines, I flew from Albany, New York to Hong Kong for a poetry festival. Months earlier, as I coordinated my trip with the organizers, who were all strangers to me, I thought it absurd that they would want to bring an obscure Filipino writer attending graduate school in the United States to Hong Kong to do a reading of her poetry. I was, however, happy to overlook the strangeness of their invitation in exchange for a free plane ticket to a country in the same time zone as the Philippines. Filipinos could enter Hong Kong without a visa, and it was close enough to Manila, where my partner was living, which meant he could afford to travel to the festival and we could spend…
(Kung may tinutulak ka, bakit? Kung may tinutulak ka, patungo saan? Okay gets, ang pagsasalin hindi na lamang bilang pagkakawil na siya mismo ay tinulak mula sa “pagtataksil,” kundi pagtataksil muli na tinulak muli mula sa pagkakawil.)
Ang reaksyon (mala-pagdepensa) ng sinaling awtor na si Mikael Co sa Kidapawan Massacre noong Abril 1 ang isa sa mga pinanggalingan ng proyekto nila Janine at Tilde
Sa “Apat na Tulak,” kinalasan at pinag-aklasan nila Janine at Tilde ang apat na tula ni Mikael de Lara Co, dating manunulat para sa nalusaw, lumutang na rehimeng Aquino. Kumalas sila sa mapagtalimang uri ng pagsasalin; sinalin nila hindi lang ang tula ng may-akda kung hindi ang buong panlipunang milieu na kinabibilangan at tinutulungang paganahin nito. Akala ko ang tinutulak ng proyektong ito ay mga tula ni Co o si Co mismo, ngunit naalala kong ang kritisismo ay ‘di dapat nagsasayang ng laway sa vanity, sa…
The comic below is a collaborative work by Josel, Janine and Macoy. It is a reaction, a form of protest against the approval of Pres. Duterte and the decision of the Supreme Court to allow burying the remains of the late dictator, Ferdinand Marcos Sr. in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Sa paglalaro ng chess, alam nating mas mahusay na manlalaro ang siyang hindi kinakailangang pumatay ng maraming kawal, obispo, kabalyero at kabayo sapagkat sapat nang makain ang hari sa ilang galaw lamang. Hindi kailangang magpasabog ng teritoryo o magsaboy ng dugo sa lupa dahil husto nang diretsuhin ang kailangan lamang asintahin.
Para sa mga batang manlalaro, kasiya-siya pang makitang isa-isang namamatay ang mga pyesa ng kaaway, kung paano naghihingalo hanggang matupok ang kabilang palasyo. Makalat itong uri ng labanan, madamdamin, maraming hindi kinakailangan. Ngunit para sa mga sugong mandirigma ng dignidad at paggalang, silang mayroon nang pinagkatandaan, sapat nang matapos ang digmaang malinis din ang kampo ng kalaban. Mga susing tao lamang ang patay at walang inosenteng nadamay. Pagpapakita ito ng pakundangan at pagpipitagan, na hindi kayang ibigay ng mga manlalarong segunda-klase at ungas.
Published in 2014 by Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) and National Center for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) as part of Aklat ng Bayan Series, Dandaniw Ilokano edited by Junley L. Lazaga involves a wide range of Ilokano poetic styles and traditions that cover poems written from 1621 to 2014.
The book clarifies and solidifies by way of anthologizing, the literary history of the Samtoy tradition starting from the year of publication of Bellarmine’s Doctrina Christiana’s Ilokano translation. Included in the benchmark of Ilokano writing during the 17th-19th centuries are renowned authors such as Francisco Lopez, Jacinto Kawili, and Leonila Florentino among others, who presented religious subjects and themes of romantic divinity, mobilized in the sanctuary of literature as spiritual.
In the early 20th century, authors such as Isabelo Delos Reyes and Mariano Gaerlan pursued the same subjects and themes of holy love and Fate, while authors such as Buenaventura Bello and Leon Pichay talked of the Ilokano’s fearless struggles against colonialism and the sprouting of nationalist sentiments in Filipino literature. This type of poesies was trailed by Brenda Subido and Delfin Dumayas in the later part of the century. However, a deviation from the above-mentioned forms was present in the concrete poetry and the early avant-garde experimentation of Daniel Nisperos, albeit the same religious content of his work. These authors and their contemporaries carried new voices in Ilokano poetry by highlighting local sensibility in the construction of a modernist tradition.
The 21st century authors broke away from the old tradition of grandiose narratives of love, spirituality and revolution by providing poetic moments in smaller subjects and the minuscule objects of the everyday. For example, Roy Aragon talks of rags and Robert Ma. Pacnis speaks of chilli, while Joven Costales muses on ants. Henry Tangalin offers his sound thoughts on mushrooms as Onofrencia Ibarra reasons her dilemmas with the imagery of flowers and gardening. The anti-colonialist tradition was further developed, shadowed in the works on Aurelio Agcaoili and Peter Julian, among others. The presence of poetry about poetry or the more reflexive, ‘meta’ and self-aware subject were also evident in the works of experimenting poets of the 21st century. Clearly, Ilokano poetry being produced in this period veered away from the old themes and subjects by providing more nuanced insights and more distinct lyrical visions of the Ilokano life, as well as intellectualizing and the pushing of boundaries of the poetic form.
The anthology also provides certain changes in platforms where Ilokano poetry is presented. The 17th-19th century, given its smaller body of work, proves the marginalization and the ephemeral character of poetry from the regions. Nevertheless, the number of published works ballooned in the 20th-21st century as newer modes of production emerges such as electronic publishing and the like.
Covering almost five centuries of poetic tradition, this anthology is by far one of the most compact and important work of translation of the early 21st century. Junley L. Lazaga’s Dandaniw Ilokano undeniably carries the weight of our times.