Uploaded September 23, 2017
As a Shield Response
Mideo Cruz, Statistics, 2017, acrylic, epoxy resin, found objects on canvas, 70" x 32"
TWO days from now, a modest-but-potent voice coming out of a tiny group exhibition organized by painter and sculptor Cian Dayrit, showing at Kaida art gallery since September 10, shall go quiet when the show closes. The pieces at the show may either find new, private hosts to stay with or remain at the gallery’s storage rooms for at least six months, but God knows when and where else the group’s artists will continue to grumble next in this our time of need for defenses.
Art curator (not of this show) and critic Antares Gomez Bartolome wrote about the potency of this group show’s voice on the wall of the exhibition venue thus: “Taking the kalasag (shield) as its device, the exhibition evokes the different modalities of shields. Its segments present an array of responses to the pressures of our times even as the responses themselves demarcate positions of aggression and resistance. Taken collectively, the works simultaneously buttress a broadening opposition and fortify entrenched solidarities.
“At the same time, one finds here a cluster offering sanctuary—a huddle for a breath to confer with like minds and assess positions. Alternately, here is a formation that harbors the possibility of a phalanx: a marshaling of strength drawing for a push.”
THIS is, of course, a show of paintings and sculptures for sale at a gallery in a quiet upscale neighborhood in South Triangle, not a meeting of raw proposals for an armed revolt in a dilapidated but well-defended urban hideout. But the point of the artwork as shield (a defense tool that can also be used as either a weapon or partner to a harbored weapon), that is to say, as a materialized mental defense against mental and physical aggressions in one’s surround and then as a materialized product of the mind for strategizing offense, is quite digestible, helped further perhaps by Bartolome’s validating articulation of its thrust. And how the artists at the exhibition made use of their “shield”, and how viewers and buyers welcomed these uses (“to confer with like minds”), could only prop the show concept’s sense.
So, let us scan some of the works:
Here's Melvin Pollero’s Kasaysayan ng Paglimot, which clearly takes offense at historical revisionisms (most likely referencing a recent one of a fascist Ilocano kind, if that bulul is a hint). As the artist demonstrates, this revisionist aggression can be negotiated by defending the subjects of the offense (history and history appreciator) through counter-offense, via a push against the propagators and followers of the aggression with the use of an artistic shield and hitting it solid on the spine with this same shield’s hard edge, in this work's case the unforgiving statement that says the followers are a bunch of monkeys led by a bunch of barong-clad leader-monkeys on a banana-boat ride to monkey-level brain forgetfulness, so good luck to them in this sub-nation of dim-witted monkeys. Offense, indeed, is the best defense.
Melvin Pollero, Kasaysayan ng Paglimot, 2016, ballpoint pen on paper, 12" x 17"
Pollero would also choose to strike his enemy at the root in Panibagong Kabulukan, where he comments on the updated art of deception, presumably the deception of half-truths in global trade. It seems to focus solely though on Western sources of this deception, but who else is better at this art of glamorization than the West?
Melvin Pollero, Panibagong Kabulukan, 2016, ballpoint pen on paper, 14" x 19"
As if those two calcitrations were not enough, Pollero comes up with an almost-literal shield, which he had the right sense to restrain himself from making literal since Para sa Pasistang Estado is already such a strong rectangular counter-shield. The painting directly slaps the common-among-Philippine-National-Police-personnel word of the present season, “nanlaban” (fought back), which is also the now-PNP-jargon-word acting as the organization’s chronic rationale for what many have broadcast as the organization's increasing summary executions spurred by the President. The word, first used this season by Rodrigo Duterte himself in some of his first speeches egging on the police to shoot criminals who fight back, is twisted in Pollero's painting to its future tense to create the antitoxin “manlaban” (fight back). By this twisting, the context of the armed figure that Pollero painted atop the painted word "MANLABAN" ceases to be that of a feared personnel of the PNP suspected of being a perpetrator of EJKs; it has become that of a personnel of a future anti-Duterte resistance. . . .
Melvin Pollero, Sa Pasistang Estado, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 24" x 32"
Echoing Pollero's seeming offense-is-the-best-defense approach, Mideo Cruz’s Democracy goes deeper into history with a tiny bricolage of sought objects. With the use of an epoxy, he exposes a deep truth back in time by attaching a symbol of democracy (the United States, represented by its national flag and its national cartoon character’s head) to a costume symbol of Philippine national pride (the terno) to comment on the resultant plutocracy (nee lumpenbourgeoisie) in our country that now dons such costumes like a global whore. The piece qua meaning construct may look a bit loose as a statement if you’re looking for significance in relation to the Duterte times, but it is a piece that definitely creates an all-covering allegory of the true cultural pedigree of our political elite (and allegories should be welcome if you have the stomach for them, the allegory being that weapon that only monkeys would hate to use).
Mideo Cruz, Democracy, 2017, found objects, epoxy, industrial paint, 7" x 7" x 12"
Speaking of allegories, Cian Dayrit’s Civilized Society is a 4 x 5 foot oil work that does exactly that, allegorize on our definition of a civilized society by showing us its mental skeleton and the fact of the presence of a resistance within this skeleton. In a modernist rendition of an approach that harks back to Ambrogio Lorenzetti and his Allegory of Bad Government, Dayrit paints his illustration with Latinized quotes mocking a pompous and pretentious Western tradition and makes a cartoon world of this worldly oligarchy that we’ve been celebrating as either our ideal or our only available option, in the name of an unexamined "civilization".
Cian Dayrit, Civilized Society, 2017, oil on canvas, 4' x 5'
I don’t know that Dayrit’s fine installation of batikuling (elaeocarpus calomala?) carvings of elements of the proletariat fits into the show’s shield theme, though, unless one reads it as images of a communist counter-threat coursed via the sensibility of good ol’ socialist realism.
Cian Dayrit, Pillars of Society, 2017, batikuling wood carving, size variable
The same allegorical juice in the meat of Dayrit's Civilized Society may be sucked from Neil Doloricon’s woodcut print Nang Binaboy ng mga Baboy ang Bayan, which comments on a typical Filipino community “chairmanship” or leadership, here through a leader of a landlord-cum-warlord that Doloricon aggressively exposes as a fat sitter on his comfort chair, a chair Doloricon seems to imply as having been made luxuriant by the state’s policies that uphold wage slavery. Boy Dominguez’s version of the same problematic is shown on his acrylic work Relasyon, where a lumpenbourgeois landlord serving an importer’s and/or exporter’s need for goods kowtow to the need for a wage slave, a wage slave in turn perpetuated in his misery by the Christian teachings of peace, patience/piousness, pleasure in simplicity, and praise in gratitude.
Neil Doloricon, Nang Binaboy ng mga Baboy ang Bayan, 2013, linocut print, 18" x 36"
Boy Dominguez, Relasyon, 2003, acrylic on canvas, 36" x 48"
So, there you go.
And two days from now, the modest-but-potent voices that dared to call a spade a spade in this tiny group exhibition organized by Dayrit shall have to go silent when the show closes. But don’t count on it. The time is ripe na manlaban against hegemonic aesthetics with whatever shield one can access out there, and we can only expect more—perhaps bigger—shows like this to crop up in our cities, with or without these same names. And, yes, even in galleries in the upscale neighborhoods.
INCIDENTALLY, Mideo Cruz brought to the launch party of the show the limited copies of the three or so postcards he has recently been peddling on Facebook, not as a part of the show but apparently because diskurso.com’s publisher asked Cruz to bring the latter a copy each of two specific versions of the cards.
These are satire cards, of course, quoting or appropriating what may or may not be creative commons-licensed photographs for the creation of composite images, all done with the help of the Adobe Photoshop software, other manual interventions, and the free speech civil right as it may apply to the use of images in the public arena. In short, aside from having produced easy-to-read political satire, by allowing us to re-photograph these photomontage cards and publish the same within the page of a show review we told him we'd write, Cruz (and, consequently, diskurso.com) would be testing the waters of tolerance, and interpretations of the free speech laws in the Philippines, as they relate to copyrighted images taken for fair use (quoting, etc.) in the creation of sardonic political art. Talk about adding another layer to the virtues of aggression and resistance.
So, enjoy the two photos of the cards below, in the interim of all this marshaling for strength drawing for a multi-front push we don’t know yet how will end. [d]
Text (c) copyright 2017 diskurso.com
Photos by diskurso.com
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