MANILA, Philippines?When one thinks of Filipiniana art, visions of nipa huts, fishing villages and unusually happyfarm animals flood one?s mind. Socialist art critics in 19th century Britain claimed that English pastoral scenes wererepresented as idyllic to keep the poor from recognizing their social condition.The same socialist thinkers may think that the bright colors in our Filipiniana art may well be concealing our ownunhappy circumstances, except we Filipinos are not as polite as our British counterparts. When Filipinos paint abouttheir social condition we do so with colors, icons and caricatures everywhere. Themes of revolution, abuse, poverty,power and exploitation shout from the canvases.Many political statements have been made through art, especially in the wake of many recent political scandals. Frompapier maché floats that look like political figures, to caricatures and vulgar slogans voicing out our frustrations, is itany wonder that we ?re not being taken seriously?Some themes are dark and heavy and downright depressing, but the recent
show at the Ateneo ArtGallery proves that political statements and revolution are not always depicted with Katipunan red or Cory yellow.Curator Jose Tence Ruiz wanted to show that since the Colonial period, real artists have been reacting to the politicalsituation of the country in well thought out forms of art, not just graffiti on the side of a building. Artists have done thiseither through their social realist themed paintings, or as cartoons for newspaper editorials.The Tutok group chose from the Ateneo?s collection to create a visual discourse with artists like Arturo Luz, VicenteManansala, J. Elizalde Navarro, Roberto Chabet, Antonio Austria, Brenda Fajardo and Lazaro Soriano. Participantsfrom the Tutok group are Edgar Talusan Fernandez, Manny Garibay, Alfredo Esquillo, Noel Soler Quizon, Karen O.Flores, Jose Tence Ruiz, Boy Dominguez, Mideo Cruz, Mark Salvatus, Buen Calubayan, Jay Pacena, Lav Diaz, JimLibiran, Don Salubayba and Kirby Roxas.
Mark Salvatus?s multimedia installation called ?Xpo? is paired in reaction to Antonio Austria?s 1965 work, ?SariSari.? I find it a commentary on the idolatrous nature of Filipino culture and the very Filipino tendency to mix unlikethings together for convenience. For a country that claims to be the ?only Christian Nation in Asia? we certainlyworship more than one deity. This is probably the only place in the world where one finds a statue of the Sto. Niñoalongside a Chinese good-luck laughing Buddha or a lucky frog with a coin in its mouth.Other figures in?Xpo? are children?s toys ? influence from American culture ingrained in every Filipino, no mattertheir social background. ?Xpo? also comments on the commodification of labor and mass production that the Westbrought on the Philippines. It also nods at the fact that our sense of nationhood is watered down by strong outsideinfluences that we chose to idolize.Buen Calubayan?s ?My Mama? looks like a waterlogged icon of the Virgin Mary wearing her iconic Medievalultramarine blue. This work comes from a larger installation called ?Pinoy Idol.? If there is one idol that could sum upour belief system, it would be the Virgin Mother?s icon. Her power over this country is definitely unmatched anywhereelse in the world. ?My Mama? brings our matriarchal culture to the forefront, with the Lord?s Mother somehow turnedinto our mother as well. This work is paired with three Virgin Mary statues all made by the little known art brute artist