Disco Bombs, Suspended Leaps, and Shadowplay Explode At UP Vargas Museum

The UP Vargas Museum seems to have become a pretty exciting space this past year.  While it had always housed an important

By Jose Tence Ruiz

collection of paintings and memorabilia, it has transformed into a significant venue for contemporary art. In the past few months, we have seen a series of  exhibits by artists represented by Manila’s leading commercial art galleries.  Consequently, university students have gained access to works by artists critical to the current art scene.  Credit must go to curator Patrick Flores. And this latest trio of shows that he put together, all three that opened simultaneously this week,  definitely underscores this  development .

In the main lobby, we find Bound, with Jose Tence Ruiz, Roberto Feleo, and Gaston Damag.  The show works with the idea of straddling two realities.  To quote the exhibit notes, “this project explores the feeling of being suspended, or the state of transition between past and future, or the thin line that divides the normal and the berserk, the gods and the erring.”

Roberto Feleo, "Agtayabun"

Gaston remounts a piece from Synthetic Reliquiaries,  his SLab show of earlier this year.  His resin bululs, arranged on a steel scaffolding, speak of his taking the traditional and indigenous into the industrial.  Bob Feleo brings out two creatures from Filipino mythology, part of his Tau Tao series of a few years ago.  The Agtayabun, the hawk-man or the winged god that either maintains peace and order or becomes the source of chaos, hangs beside a Bakunawa, the sea serpent-god of the underworld who has the power to cause eclipses.  I had only ever seen photographs of his Tau Tao pieces, so seeing two in the flesh?  What a treat!  His version of

"Agtayabun", detail

Agtayabun is super, both fascinating and menacing, full of multi-layered details. Please bring out more of them!

Above the gallery’s stairway landing hangs a bright orange sculpture, another incarnation of Bogie Tence Ruiz’s adventurous Christ.  This one uses his cross as a surfboard,  with arms outstretched like UP’s Oblation, sporting a Unicorn’s horn.  This absurd amalgam somehow works, a beacon that compels you to come closer.

Kawayan de Guia Bomba installation

Look up and beyond Bogie’s surfer Christ hovers a glittering display that beckons you up the stairs.  Ascend to the museum’s third level and Kawayan de Guia transports you from the world of folk beliefs into his glitzy exhibit, Bomba.  An array of torpedo-shaped disco mirrors hang from the ceiling, at the center of which a chrome bomb houses speakers that blare out psychedelic music.  What a hip, fun, fantastic installation!  Ever wondered how Kawayan would top his jukeboxes?   Well, here we have the answer!  How does he dream of these things?  He creates a video that plays along with the flashing lights, an absorbing film that I actually viewed from start to finish.  To use Bogie’s description, Kawayan…”beautifully edits a combination of porno and violence without being gratuitous.”  He also assembles another jukebox, this time made to look futuristic, without the folk embellishments he used before.  This show alone makes the trek to

Kawayan de Guia's futuristic jukebox

Diliman worth the cost of gasoline.

Back on the ground floor, at the gallery adjacent to the main lobby, Anino Shadowplay and invited guest artists mount Yari.  Taking off from shadow puppets, the accoutrements of their craft, they developed pieces that viewers can interact with and manipulate.  You have kaleidoscopes and laser guns sharing space with clocks, a mix-and-match installation, and a huge crane reprised from UP’s Lantern Parade.  Patrick Flores challenged the artists to make use of the gallery’s glass windows instead of the white walls to display their pieces.  I thought this gave the show a different feel.  Don Salubayba, one of the founding members of Anino Shadowplay, shares that the exhibit comes even more alive when dusk falls and the light allows the pieces to cast their silhouettes on the floor.

Anino Shadowplay, "Anino Bodega"

Someone had commented that while the pieces in these shows worked individually, they didn’t seem to blend when put together.  Perhaps.  It didn’t feel that way to me.  Maybe I enjoy an affinity with the works of these artists.  Maybe because I do not work as an art professional, I simply let my instincts and gut lead the way.  Maybe the students and artists milling around gave Vargas a buzz of positive energy that I enjoyed.  Whatever it is, I certainly didn’t regret crawling through EDSA’s rush hour traffic to catch this set of shows.  I bet you won’t either.

Jose Tence Ruiz for Yari, "Diablo Ex-Machina"

Bound, Bomba, and Yari run from 19 June to18 October 2010 at the University of the Philippines Jorge B. Vargas Museum, Roxas Avenue, UP Diliman, Quezon City.  Phone (632) 928-1927 or (632) 981-8500 local 4024.

By Marc Cosico for Yari

By Robert Alejandro for Yari, "Tatang"

By Brendale Tadeo for Yari, "Makinarya"

Beth Parrocha for Yari, "Puppet Show"

For Yari

For Yari

For Yari

For Yari

Bernadette Wolf, "Yari ng Diyos"

By Anino Shadowplay for Yari, "Theocracy"


7 Responses to Disco Bombs, Suspended Leaps, and Shadowplay Explode At UP Vargas Museum

  1. lukinda skye says:

    kawayan’s work would have worked best in an actual disco or in a hangar. the structure of the vargas museum made the whole thing look and taste like eating spaghetti with paksiw – totally incongruous.
    although it proves one thing that all that glitters is just eyesore and you were blinded by it.

    • manilaartblogger says:

      Hahaha! What a very succint way to put it! Perhaps you are right. But c’mon, the piece IS fun, the film is fab, and offers something different for the students to enjoy. I still love it nevertheless. Would also be great to see it remounted somewhere else, as you suggested. =)

      • lukdit says:

        agree with LSD, kawayan’s pieces should be remounted elsewhere. Personally I disfavor pieces that are like school projects.

  2. Dawn Atienza says:

    Galing naman nito! Will check it out sa Vargas. Thanks for the update Trickie.

  3. thanks for the wonderful post! I love the works! I am so grateful that you are posting these. Without your posts, I would not have seen them!

  4. igorot hardcore says:

    ganda ng site na ito,napakalaking tulong para sa amin malayo sa manila. salamat

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