Text by Marz Aglipay; Photos courtesy of Yavuz Gallery.
Sydney, Australia – As early as June 1st museums and galleries have been allowed to open to the public. “Arrivals and Departures,” a sculptural exhibition revisits some of the works of Isabel and Alfredo Aquilizan created from 2009, opened on the 19th of June and runs until the 11th of July. While in Manila, we continue to imagine how museums and galleries prepare for tactile exhibitions and art-practices that involve collaboration and community participation, much like the works in “Arrivals and Departures.”
This tactile exhibition includes the Aquilizan’s “Commonwealth: Project Another Country,” a work that consists of crowns made from cooking oil tin cans. It is a participatory piece that invites people to put on a crown and take a mirror selfie with the hashtag #everybodywantsacrown. According to Yavuz Gallery in Sydney, the current climate has not noticeably affected the way visitors interact with this particular work. “People do ask if they are allowed to put the crown on and photograph themselves wearing it, but it appears to be more of a gallery courtesy or museum etiquette than a direct response to the Covid-19 pandemic,” shares Caryn Quek, a gallery executive of Yavuz.
Like most galleries that are open to the public in Metro Manila, Yavuz Gallery also has measures in place aligned with their government’s regulations such as offering hand-sanitizer at the front desk and observing social distancing.
The Aquilizans who are currently in the Philippines tells Art+ about their latest exhibition and how the pandemic has affected them personally and their art-making process. “Our art practice explores the ideas of shared narratives, memory, and history so our works aim to instigate community congregations and creating alternative spaces for coming together. In those spaces are the opportunities for story-telling and exchange. So our work demands constant traveling most of the time working on multiple projects simultaneously, our work also entails community engagement and actual build as we do large scale installation and create work in situ so definitely the pandemic compelled us to reform our strategies and processes.
Before the pandemic happened we were preparing for our upcoming exhibitions overseas for the first quarter and also planning our projects for the rest of the year and the year ahead. These necessitate us to travel locally, as currently, we do work with piña farmers and weavers in one of the islands and the blacksmiths in the south among others. Which made it more difficult for us to carry on as everything came into a halt. The pandemic also affected us personally, we can say in a good way as it gave a moment to stop and slow down, it gave us a considerable time to rethink, reflect and contemplate on a lot of things in both our life and art in general.”
One of the key pieces in this exhibition is “Last Flight” (2011). This particular piece is made from about a hundred used slippers collected from the shoreline of a small fishing village in Bagasbas, Camarines Norte. “One of the early community art projects we did is on this little fishing village, working with the fisherman and their families looking into alternative ways and a solution to resolve the problem and this is when the idea of creating an installation work using specifically this particular object which is the unpaired rubber slippers,” say the Aquilizans.
In closing, we ask the couple how they feel about seeing their works being exhibited again during this time “Certainly, we have been pondering on our art practice for a period of time, reflecting on the core of what is vital to the course of where we want to go, during the lockdown, it presented an avenue to weigh up our leanings and for us to draw that is to look back. With our show “Looking Back, Looking Forward” at The Drawing Room Gallery early this year before the pandemic, is some kind of an indication of a trajectory where our inclinations would be and “Arrivals and Departures” exhibition in Yavuz Gallery, Sydney affirms that.”