By Amanda Juico Dela Cruz
ALT Philippines is not an art fair, but an art show. For one, there are no booths. Nilo Ilarde curated the works of art from nine galleries—Artinformal, Blanc, Finale Art File that served as the venue from December 4 to 8, Galleria Duemila, MO_Space, The Drawing Room, Underground, Vinyl on Vinyl, and West Gallery—together in such a way that the works create a discourse, not a competition to sell out. Built from its recognition of its social responsibility, it teams up with ABC Foundation to grant twenty deserving students with full four-year scholarships and online learning tablets.
Yason Banal, “(G)DDM(M)BBS(A)”, 2021 (The Drawing Room)
Frances Haugen and Sophie Zhang, Facebook’s former data scientists; Christopher Wylie and Brittany Kaiser, both resigned from Cambridge Analytica; and Maria Ressa whose Nobel Prize is a huge blow to Facebook. These names are surfacing on the Internet as they expose how people’s data are used by social media to manipulate, changing global politics for one. Surveillance remains to be a pressing subject in moral philosophy, prompting Yason Banal to create a chilling work on how surveillance is altering the information ecosystem. Using social media can feel as if a drone hovers over with its watchful lens breaching one’s privacy.
Raffy Napay, “Fragile Feelings”, 2021 (West Gallery)
Fragility. Feelings. White. Rose. Thread. To juxtapose these words with the physique of Raffy Napay—male, masculine, manly—is to subvert gender roles. These words are traditionally in the realm of femininity—a tradition that the artist strongly challenges in his work. From the feminist point-of-view, his work can be a proof of his allyship with gender equality advocates. To honor his seamstress mother, he expanded his medium from paint to thread without completely abandoning the former. He learned to sew by hand and by machine to create painfully intricate details as seen closely on the petals of the rose.
Cian Dayrit, “Monuments for a Silent Night”, 2017-2021 (Artinformal)
Concrete molded into tree trunks reminiscent of the fate of the Giving Tree in Shel Silverstein’s children’s fiction, except Cian Dayrit’s work confronts the question: “Are the trees really happy?” Love is not the foundation of the Philippines’ economic plan. Otherwise, deforestation would not be at its most destructive rate. The artist, however, proves how nature will always find a way to survive. For three years, moss had naturally grown on the concrete. The work can be seen too as humans surrendering to their oneness with nature by just letting nature thrive on a human creation and rewrite its narrative.
Alvin Zafra, “Swabbing Station, The Long Eve”, 2021 (Artinformal)
Grinding a piece of stone on sandpaper destroys the nonmetallic mineral. It can be for the purpose of re-shaping the stone, which ruins its natural form. When grinded too much, it can disappear and only its dust remains. Alvin Zafra deliberately uses this destructive technique to render the effects brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the first place, deforestation caused the wildlife-to-human transmission of the virus, which then caused global paralysis. The physical and mental health of hospital workers—from the frontliners, to the sanitation personnel, and to the security staff—deteriorated, with long nights attending to patients’ needs.
Ella Mendoza, “Dog Days as a Lab Rat”, 2021 (Artinformal)
Created during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ella Mendoza uses a laboratory experiment set-up, alongside quotidian items and parts of the body, as metaphor for the kind of life lived during the period of inactivity. With the people in seat enforcing contradicting mandates, each citizen becomes a mere subject in a grand-scale experiment: “Will this hypothesis work? Or will it not? Let us see and challenge the existing studies.” The number of days is etched on an apparatus exactly how a person in prison counts each day their freedom is withheld—one, two, three, four, cross-out, that’s five days of imprisonment, repeat.
Mervy Pueblo, “Kalasag”, 2021 (Galleria Duemila)
Using tin foil wraps from imported goods often shipped through a balikbayan box, Mervy Pueblo asserts that modern-day heroes need a shield too. More than being hailed as “mga bagong bayani,” overseas Filipino workers need more bilateral labor agreements and stronger enforcement of the existing ones. Embassies and consulates must offer better legal support. Their heroism is not something the government should use as a diversion from its failure to equip the country with jobs and for its systematic exportation of laborers. Only products should be exported, not humans. Labor migration should not be a necessity, but only a choice.