Art Criticism: Boon or Bane? (Part IV)

Manila Bulletin, January 23, 2012 | Go to article overview

Art Criticism: Boon or Bane? (Part IV)


MANILA, Philippines - Sixth, ideological. Politics, meaning "factional scheming for power" is the dominant content of this paradigm.

The First Quarter Storm that shook and almost shattered the foundation of Philippine society at the onset of the 1970s, produced paintings, sculptures and what have you, all burning with incendiary slogans. "Makibaka, huwag matakot!" "Marcos Hitler!" without any punctuation mark in-between. "Marcos, tuta ng imperyalistang kano!" Clenched fists struggling to bolt free from massive metal chains, left or right arm brandishing a menacing armalite, infuriated faces replete with burning/bulging eyes and wide-open mouths spewing out muted curses - these became the visual foci of paintings. Two kinds of art emerged: peryodikit and protest art.

Only in the Philippines was peryodikit seen. The day's newspapers were plastered on public and private walls, fences, doors, lampposts, pavements, wherever screaming slogans were painted with red enamel paint. There was no more delineation among peryodikit, painting, poster, billboard and streamer. The message of Makibaka was all over the place. But there was no alternative position presented. Just "makibaka, huwag matakot."

Some artists, more naughty than anything, tickled and taunted the then powers-that-be. They formed themselves into some kind of a cadre, and called themselves NPA. This had nothing to do with the dreaded NPA. For the NPA of the artists was the acronym for Nagkakaisang Progresibong Artista. The members were armed with paint brushes, spatula, chisels, hammers and other carving tools. The artists came face to face with reality that made them speechless: amid the turbulent times when they were taunting/fighting the Establishment, their creative freedom was not curtailed.

When martial law was declared, some artists took the first available plane out. Others wanted to go underground. Not a few nervously waited for the "invitation" from the military that never came.

Fast forward. In came the so-called 1986 February Revolution. Many artists whom I interviewed said it was a "picnic." They must have expected a bloodbath. What they did not know, as neither of us Filipinos knew, was that the "picnic" was shaping a new lexicon in world revolution: People Power.

Apropos to this revolution should have been the revolution of the mind. A revolution of aesthetics. And of course, an ideological revolution finally freed from outside models and immersed on what is autochthonous. We had our brief world exposure of fame and glory. After that, back to landscapes, still-lifes, etc.

Seventh, feminism. This paradigm may have marked its tenth period in 1979 when a certain Judy Chicago did a multi-media installation titled 'The Dinner Party.' This kind of attitude reached the Philippines in no time at all. …

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