Symbolism, Culture, and Politics in Aesthetics

Manila Bulletin, February 13, 2011 | Go to article overview

Symbolism, Culture, and Politics in Aesthetics


Angelita Porteo: "Menstrual Period in Political History" is your most "controversial" mixed media artwork in 2005. What is the parallelism of "Politics" and "Menstrual Period" and how does it relate to Philippine politics and culture?Danny C. Sillada: "Menstrual Period in Political History" is a mixed media on metamorphic rock or slate, with painted and carved vaginal form at the center. The visual narrative of the artwork is not vociferous with bleak background in contrast to the vibrant colors of my typical paintings. However, I never expected that its inconspicuous presence along with the title would become controversial in 2005.The parallelism of "Politics" and "Menstrual Period" is, obviously, the cyclical political turmoil in our country, which is periodic since the Marcos time up to the Arroyo regime. Like a woman's menstrual period, Philippines politics has its own menstrual cycle in our country in the form of corruption, economic instability, violation of human rights, the involuntary disappearances of civilians, the century-old war in Mindanao, insurgency, poverty, and inadequacy of political leaders to address socio-economic and political problems in our society, to name a few. Every time we elect a new president, we thought that he or she would make a difference in our country. Only to find ourselves frustrated in the end, because they only serve themselves (puera delos buenos), i.e., their families, cohorts, businessmen who cuddled them, and their political parties. And as I said in an interview by a South African writer, web developer, and strategist: 'Social justice and compassion for humanity are alien to Filipino politicians, they are like 'vultures' that feast and take advantage on the credulity of the masses.'Even the present government that I thought would address poverty, human rights violation, and corruption in the country has an inclination to favor the elite and cohorts in politics rather than the Filipino people in general. The "Menstrual Period in Political History," as I saw it now, is imminent if the president won't exercise his strong political will. So far, I could not see any substantial changes yet; actually, I already stopped seeing anything because it would only give me or us a false hope.Our only hope is the next generation of politicians to see the concrete needs in our society, allowing us (the people) to define the true essence of democracy that is based on social justice, partnership in governance, and respect for human life and environment. It will take two to three more decades to pass for Filipino politicians to grow and become human (with compassionate and altruistic concern for Filipino people, particularly the poor). Angelita Porteo: Is symbolism indispensable in your art?Danny C. Sillada: Symbolism is the heart of my aesthetics; it magnifies my thoughts and feelings, and the messages that I wanted to convey to the viewers. Essentially, any form of art is a symbolic representation of culture and society. Symbolism, in aesthetics is a vehicle to reveal the Truth (good or bad) about the concrete condition of a historical society. From the moment a particular work of art is exhibited in public place, whatever the perception or interpretation of the viewers, the artist has no more control of it. Even if an artist did not intend to address, in a derisive manner, his or her work to any social or political issues, once a piece of art is disclosed to the society, it becomes a living symbol of social and cultural history.The "Menstrual Period in Political History," for instance, may just be a mere symbol of vaginal form; however, it possesses the power to provoke the consciousness of the viewers in the context of social and political realities of our society. As an artist, I never expected that such symbolic element would stir mass media attention and some supporters of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo more than half a decade ago.Symbolism, therefore, in the context of aesthetics, has the power on its own to affect, influence, or transform the human perception; it will either irritate or inspire the viewers. …

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