Transforming the Ordinary: Into Grit and More Grit

The detritus of human existence takes on a creative twist in an exhibit entitled Cue from Life Itself: Filipino Artists Transform the Everyday. It runs until May 7, 2020 at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila.

Nine visual artists — Poklong Anading, Kristoffer Ardeña, Yason Banal, Santiago Bose, Brenda Fajardo, Alma Quinto, Jose Tence Ruiz, Lirio Salvador, and Mark Salvatus — transform everyday objects into art works and imbue them with sparkle and imagination that speak of memories, experiences, and survival.

The exhibition title is taken from Brenda V. Fajardo's monograph, Aesthetics of Poverty: A Rationale in Designing for Philippine People's Theater 1973-1986, written for PETA (Philippine Educational Theater Association) in the early 1980s. A key question is posed: "How can an artist claim to be socially responsible when he mounts high-cost productions during times of deprivation?"

It is curated by Patrick D. Flores, art historian and a professor of art studies in University of the Philippines, Diliman as well as the artistic director of Singapore Biennale 2019.

Some selected works:

Kristoffer Ardeña (b. 1976) presents two works of collaged tarpaulins. In Ghost Painting Toldo Category (2015), he collected used clothes from textile stores and ukay-ukay shops that sell clothes donated by charities from all over the world. He painted the fabrics and sewed them together to create large tarpaulins, a widely used material in the urban landscape, and attached signage from local schools.

Kristoffer Ardena, Bandilang Basahan, 2016-2017

Kristoffer Ardeña, Ghost Painting Toldo Category, 2015

With a fine arts degree from the Academy of Art in San Francisco, California, Ardeña has exhibited in Mexico, Indonesia, Spain, and the Philippines. He has also participated in a number of group projects including the Bucharest Biennale, Romania, the Guangzhou Triennale, China, and the Konstholl C, Sweden, among others.

Jose Tence Ruiz (b. 1956), in collaboration with Danilo Ilag-Ilag, presents Paraisado/Metro Magenta (2006), a mixed media construction of scrap wood that blends lofty cathedral spires in pastel orange in contrast with the dirty brown patina of the lowly kariton, a pushcart used by the urban poor to collect scrap paper, plastics, and bottles to earn a meager living for the day.

Jose Tence Ruiz, Paraisado

Jose Tence Ruiz, Paraisado/Metro Magenta, 2006

A multimedia artist involved in painting, print, sculpture, installation, and performance, Ruiz is a fine arts graduate of the University of Santo Tomas and one of the artists who represented the Philippine Pavilion, 56th Venice Biennale in 2015 after 51 years of absence. His numerous awards include gold medals for sculpture in 1980 and 1997 from the Art Association of the Philippines and the Thirteen Artists Award, Cultural Center of the Philippines in 1988.

Lirio Salvador (b. 1968), a visual and sound artist, presents nine sculptural assemblages that are also working instruments known as Sandata (weapon), made from stainless steel objects such as spoons, mixing bowls, pipes, door handles, gears, sprockets, and bicycle parts.

Lirio Salvador, Sandata ni Lirio 3


Lirio Salvador, Sound Assemblage

With a degree in fine arts from the Technological University of the Philippines, Salvador founded Elemento, an ethno-industrial band that specializes in experimental music, using the artist's sound instruments and homemade synthesizers. He has not yet fully recovered from a hit-and-run accident in 2011, resulting in serious injuries.

The cycle of urban waste in our midst is expressed in two installation works by Poklong Anading (b. 1975): Fallen Maps (2013) is made of concrete chunks from road works and Bandilang Basahan (2016-2017) consists of a single channel video and used circular rags, sold by ubiquitous vendors, and bought mostly by jeepney drivers for cleaning. How does one survive and thrive in chaotic Manila?

Poklong Anading, Bandilang Basahan, 2016-2017

Poklong Anading, Bandilang Basahan, 2016-2017

Known for his installation and video work inspired by objects and experiences from everyday life, Anading is a graduate of fine arts, UP Diliman in 1999. His awards include the 12th Gawad Cultural Center of the Philippines citation of Experimental Video in 2000, the CCP Thirteen Artists Award in 2006, and the Ateneo Art Award in 2006 and 2008.

In seven drawings on brown paper, Brenda V. Fajardo (b.1940) practices her aesthetic principles in using common and inexpensive materials such as second-hand lumber, old and used G.I. sheets and plywood, cardboard, bamboo, coconut palm leaves, and katsa or muslin cloth in the set design of PETA plays.

Brenda Fajardo, Set Design for Juan Tamban, 1979

A painter and art educator, Fajardo is known for her tarot card series (Baraha ng Buhay Pilipino), a critical commentary on Philippine society. She had worked for PETA productions and workshops since its early days, as a set and costume designer, actor, and director. She was awarded the CCP Thirteen Artists Awards in 1992, the CCP Centennial Honor for the Arts in 1999, and the Gawad CCP para sa Sining for visual arts in 2012.

In defying the ordinary, the exhibit explores the inner resilience of Filipinos to go on and forge their own paths. By doing so, ordinariness becomes truly subversive.

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