Cargo And Decoy by Roberto Chabet

Cargo and Decoy installation view

I had never heard of cargo cults in the South Pacific islands before I came to view Cargo and Decoy, Roberto Chabet‘s ongoing show at MO Space.  What a fascinating notion, the idea of an actual religion that believes in obtaining blessings through creating crude facsimiles of objects or situations that they long for. Sounds like something you’d only read about from Tintin’s adventures.  You can’t help but agree with Mr. Chabet when he likens the artistic process to a cargo cult’s  ritual of constructing decoys based on real life. In the end, does the decoy become just as real as the original?    

As the exhibit notes so thoroughly explain, this exhibit is a recreation of a 1989 Chabet installation at the Pinaglabanan Galleries.  Cargo cults sprouted after World War II, when the end of hostilities led to a cessation of supplies to the island natives.  They had no choice but to appeal to the heavens via their homegrown replicas.

To paraphrase the notes provided by MO Space, Mr. Chabet simulates the ocean using store-bought plywood.   Each decoy wave has been hinged to form a V,  and painted bright aqua.  Sawhorses provide  support on each side, keeping each wave upright.  He scatters several of these sets to fill up the gallery’s expanse.

The sets of aqua Vs seemed like origami boats to me—until I read the available text. Which probably shows the limited scope of my imagination. What do I know?  However, as artist Agnes Arellano has assured me, sometimes how a piece is experienced is just as important as academic annotations. She herself felt that the work echoed blue skies, perhaps as a beacon by the natives to attract perfect days.

Cargo and Decoy runs from 13 March to 18 April 2010 at MO Space, 3F MO Design, Bonifacio High Street, Taguig.  Phone (632)856-2748 or visit


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