With the crowds surging around me, it felt like Megamall a day before Christmas rather than the middle of July at the bastion of Philippine culture. Thirteen artists stood onstage, each one clutching what looked like mega-sized, brightly-colored, multi-layered snow cones. The ceremony marked the formal recognition of the triennial Thirteen Artists Awards, given to progressive artists below the age of 40, successors to the original Thirteen Moderns who had challenged the accepted notions of Philippine art seventy years ago.
In keeping with tradition, the ceremony also marked the opening of an exhibit of new works by this year’s recipients. I tried to squeeze my way around the crush to view each one’s installation properly, but gave up. I returned three days later, savoring the quiet that allowed me to enjoy each piece at leisure.
“Transformation is the only option”, states exhibit curator, Wire Tuazon. However, when you look around, you note that save for Winner Jumalon, all the awardees pretty much stuck to what they do. I don’t mean that in a bad way. In this exhibit, we get the best of
these artists, staying true to the styles they have developed and made their own.
On opening night, we experienced the full impact of Kawayan de
Guia’s installation, Comutiny: The Baguio Jeepney Jukebox Project, with music blaring, lights flashing, all the bells and whistles. I loved it! It captured the spirit of bohemian Baguio so characteristic of Kawayan’s art. From a mishmash of found objects and assembled pieces, he fashioned a working jukebox, a wall-bound collage, and sculpture that you can use to sit back and enjoy his visual and auditory treat. He embellished the jukebox in the over-the-top way of a typical Pinoy jeepney. Two of his seats resemble high-backed thrones, the third, a
man on his knees with his head bowed. So galing!
On my second visit, I found that the jukebox had conked out, perhaps from the repeated poundings on that first night. Too bad, as without the lights and music, the installation falls a bit flat.
Everybody was talking about The House. And with good reason. You approach Winner Jumalon’s
A Visit Home from behind, a structure the size of a small abode, complete with its own roof. The real surprise greets you when you
make your way around, to its front. Winner has not only built a small house, but furnished it with completely painted
details! All nooks and crannies, even the ceiling, is piled on with images. What a way for Winner to show us that he has so much more to offer than paintings for auctions and art fairs. Please Winner, work with a curator to plan a show in any of the newly-built spaces around Manila. Or better yet, embark on a residency and beguile us on your return. Show us what you’ve got. You’re too young to keep to yourself!
Who does not love Pam Yan Santos? She consistently delivers excellently-made, well-thought-out, beautiful pieces. And this one, Making A Living Room, makes us
love her even more. She works using her signature layers of serigraphs and painted images, applying it on a quadriptych that illustrates her working space. She installs this painted room in a simulated living room, across an actual sofa upholstered in her serigraphs, a lamp, and a coffee table atop which she places a jigsaw puzzle miniature of her quadriptych. For the flooring, she painted a carpet of green grass. I hope Pam keeps the installation together, sofa, carpets, table and all. What a pity to have to break this work up.
Don Salubayba works with his paintings and shadow play in Abysmal Abound. When viewing the piece, don’t forget to turn on the projector on the floor to get the full effect. Iggy Rodriguez stays true
to form as an artist and social activist, using his effigies to express his political beliefs. He worked on his piece, Symphony of Destruction, with help from the Ugat Lahi Artists Collective.
You can’t miss Buen Calubayan’s piece. Its the one with all the plastic rats spilling out of it. On Spectacle and (Other) Awkward Rules on Killing by
Means of Natural Selection , Buen uses an actual albino sewer rat kept in a cage to illustrate that we base the decisions we make on our religious
and moral beliefs. We can either feed the rat with pellets, or administer poison. He installs a barong barong from
which we peep into. Inside, we see a cross on the floor made up of more black plastic toy rats and clay pieces shaped like little brains below an image of Pope Benedict XVI.
Patty Eustaquio uses dark colors, black and gray and brown in Sha Naoba Muru (He Who Saw the Deep). Using lacquer, she ossifies fabric into a sculpture of a beached canoe, a nod to the CCP’s location on a piece of land reclaimed from the sea. Christina Dy envelopes us in her charcoal drawings of a cloudy night sky. When you view it, you feel like Harry Potter flying through on
your broomstick. Behind this, installed on a long shelf on the gallery’s wall, MM Yu ‘s installation is an expanded version of her
recent show at Mag:net
Katipunan. She puts together photos and small objects, mementoes and knick knacks, all from fellow artists.
You wonder what the pile of laundry signifies until you come closer and view Racquel de Loyola’s performance on video, Blemish. You’ll see her exaggerated undulations and realize its a dramatic recreation of doing the laundry without the benefit of a washing machine. Jaypee Samson and Don Djerassi Dalmacio line the third floor hallways with their paintings.
Eileen Legaspi-Ramirez, one of the jurors who selected this year’s awardees, says that this award looks to the future, to what these artists can become. Like her, we eagerly look forward to what lies ahead.
The Thirteen Artists awardees are Buen Calubayan, Christina Dy, Don Djerassi Dalmacio, Patricia Eustaquio, Racquel de Loyola, Winner Jumalon, Kawayan de Guia, Iggy Rodriguez, Don Salubayba, Jaypee Samson, Raya Martin, MM Yu, and Pamela Yan Santos. The exhibit runs from 9 July to 16 August 2009 at the 3rd Floor, Cultural Center of the Philippines.