Old Rags, Debris, and a Rusty Roof Take Center Stage in This Eye-Opening Exhibit

These works show how we make do of what we have.

(SPOT.ph) In the recent art fairs, it is evident that traditional materials and expressions in art production no longer dominate the scene—Filipino artists constantly challenge both their personal practice and processes; they tend to explore and try new things out, apart from the usual paintings and sculptures that we see. These range from found objects and unlikely materials like rocks and soil, rugs, ukay-ukay clothes, to one’s semen, and the list goes on. In Cue from Life Itself: Artists Transform the Everyday, artists transform everyday objects to works of art that make a commentary on poverty and resilience. This exhibit is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila until May 7.

In "C_rafts" (2011), Mark Salvatus reflects on his experience during typhoon Ondoy in 2009. Through these rafts made from everyday objects, he hopes to encourage viewers to think about their ideas about fear and doubt in times of disaster and survival.
PHOTO BY AZ Camiling
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Curated by art historian and scholar Dr. Patrick D. Flores, the exhibition showcases works that focus on transforming everyday objects into insightful masterpieces responding to poverty and resilience. The exhibition title stems from Brenda Fajardo’s monograph, Aesthetics of Poverty: A Rationale in Designing for Philippine People's Theater 1973-1986, which was written for the Philippine Educational Theater Association. It poses the question: “How can an artist claim to be socially responsible when he mounts high-cost productions during times of deprivation?"

Poklong Anading’s "As above, so below (No.2)" (2009 to 2017) makes use of debris from sewage and rags from factories. He explores the ongoing crisis in urban settlement.
PHOTO BY AZ Camiling
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Lirio Salvador's "Untitled" (2011), "Triangulo" (2011), and "Sandata ni Lirio 3" (2010) make use of old pipes, utensils, and gears. It's also reflective of the artist's involvement in an ethno-industrial band called Elemento.
PHOTO BY AZ Camiling

In Cue from Life Itself, the curator answers this question by letting the participating artists dig deep into their experiences as an individual in a low-cost exhibition. Flores quotes Fajardo: The artist is “a creative agent of broad sympathies’’ and that the so-called “aesthetics of poverty” begins from how the creator responds to the changing world. Through this technique, “a new art”—according to him—emerges. These materials aid in expressing or exploring the lifeworld such as “economic deprivation, cultural pollution, and senseless violence."

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The exhibit takes off from the point where people go through the problem of material deprivation. With the intention to transform the mundane or the familiar into something eccentric yet insightful, the exhibit gives a peek on how Filipinos respond to circumstances—we make do of what we have to rise above the constraints; or to simply put, survive.

Cue from Life Itself runs until May 7 at the Mertropolitan Museum of Manila, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Complex, Roxas Boulevard, Manila City. For more information, visit Metropolitan Museum of Manila's website.

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