Alwin Reamillo: On the Aesthetics of Flight

Article excerpt

Oftentimes the label "aesthetics" implies artistic matter of great conceptual magnitude. It is the genius of art presented, verbalized in a form equivalent in caliber, but never quite lending itself to the hands of the general public. It glorifies the masterpieces, those that remain preserved timelessly in galleries and museums, those that remain perpetually unknown and impractical to the people living and breathing in their shabby havens far from art. Oftentimes the label "aesthetics" does not concern itself with matters of society, of politics, of history.

But this is not such time, at least not for the case of Alwin Reamillo. His idea of aesthetics elevates the label to widen its artistic scope, so that it not only covers the technicalities of art, but also its social, political and historical dimensions. This is Alwin Reamillo's aesthetics of flight: It is the philosophy of art-making which seeks to create "social sculptures" (as quoted from Joseph Beuys) instead of visual icons, and which aims to provide an artistic space, an open space meant for creation, artistic collaborations and elevations both in spirit and in society.

The formation of these grandiose ideas of community art began when Reamillo was still a child, being exposed to the piano-making workshop of his family's business. "I was never really interested in pianos," Reamillo confesses, "because I grew up with them. To me, they're just ordinary." His father, Decimo Reamillo, was the piano-maker of the family, and witnessing how his father worked made a great impact in the way he perceived art. "Though my father made the pianos, he was always behind the shadows," he recalls. Reamillo shares how his father would take pleasure in seeing happy customers but would never take credit for a job well done, and how he managed a team of artists in the workshop, where a person's craft does not overpower another because, in the end, they all meld into a single unit. This was something Reamillo carried with him in his travels and in his art.

The mix-up of media and matter in Reamillo's works-whether in the form of helicopters or pianos-metaphorizes the history with which he grew up. It is especially evident in his piano works since it is, after all, his father's legacy to him. His pianos display a certain digression from the typical make-up of the instrument, what with the different details he adds. In the bottom panel of one of his upright pianos, for instance, he incorporates an image from Mutya ng Pasig in reference to Nicanor Abelardo's kundiman. Although the piano is Western in origin, Reamillo's piano works contain the necessary whims and fancies that soften the severity of the piano's appearance. In effect, they easily accommodate the Filipino pianist's musical creations and compositions without stressing about doing justice to the strict technicalities of piano-playing. It invites the pianist to forget the rigid rules and let his/her music take off and fly on its own, landing only whenever it pleases. In creating his art piece, then, Reamillo creates room for another creation to take place.

Setting this project up, however, is far from easy. Returning in 2004 with nothing but the mere memory of piano-making, Reamillo struggled to find the old piano-makers and re-create the construction of two pianos. "We built these pianos without any resource," he says. "We had no templates, no patterns, no devices. …