If you pass by the University of the Philippines, Diliman you’ll notice an ongoing construction in front of its iconic Oblation statue.
The installation, entitled Barikada, is a massive assemblage by U.P. Professor Toym Imao. The structure is made with “Repurposed materials such as condemned UPD furniture, bamboo from last year’s lighting and items from [an] installation [back] in February 2019”.
Barikada is part of the two-part public installation called enKWENTrO: Mga Kwento ng Enkwentro together with Muebles.
The assembly will be completed by 01 February 2021, and will be a part of UP Diliman Arts and Culture Festival 2021 and the celebration of National Arts Month. Both events coincide with (and will commemorate) two important events in the Philippine History: the Diliman Commune in 1971, and the Battle of Mactan in 1521.
Photos courtesy of UPD-OICA and Toym Imao. Click image to enlarge.
The artist, Toym Imao, describes his works:
Barikada is made of bamboo, repurposed condemned/old campus furniture, and components from past installations; particularly from Nagbabadyang Unos (Gathering Storm) in 2020. Assembled and painted red, they form two towering barricades in the Oblation Plaza, near the actual barricades set up by students in 1971.
Muebles (meaning: furniture or apparatus) is made up of around 50 upcycled class tables, student’s desks, and chairs. Sculptural relief and the round components are embedded on the chairs which represent narratives from events leading to the Diliman Commune of 1971.
Barikada is the ‘descended’ form of Nagbabadyang Unos, a suspended artwork that represents the protests and mobilizations that started on the historic steps of Palma Hall in 1970 during the First Quarter Storm and culminated in the siege of the university in 1971 during the Diliman Commune with the barricades that were set up by students and the UP community along the main portals of the campus. Barikada, with its bamboo components and hanging messages and stories embedded in the installation, is also a homage to the artist Jose Luis Yee or Junyee’s art installation Balag made of the same materials, and constructed during the year of the First Quarter Storm. That important work is technically the first art installation done in UP Diliman 50 years ago by an artist who is acknowledge as the pioneer of installation art in the Philippines.
Muebles‘ sculptural elements were inspired from actual documented accounts and events during the early years of the Marcos dictatorship. The concept of this collection of specially designed furniture is to represent the classroom as not only a sacred space of learning, but also a venue for one’s awakening into the painful histories and realities of a nation. For a period of three days before February 1 (the first day of the Diliman Commune) these muebles will travel to three separate points in the campus – the centers of mobilizations of students, The Palma and Melchor Hall steps, and the Vinzons Hall plaza (where a small monument of Andres Bonifacio is located). These “travelling” muebles will be documented with photographs and caption stories along the empty roads, street corners, steps, and buildings of the campus. It will culminates with a final placement within the Barikada installation at the Oblation plaza.
When we did Nagbabadyang Unos in 2020, it was a work that was supposed to represent the gathering ferment and dissent in 1970 that eventually led to the Diliman Commune of 1971 and the declaration of Martial Law in 1972. Little did we know that it was in a way “prophetic” because on the next day, when we took down the installation, a sudden pandemic lockdown was declared. We didn’t even have the time to collect some of the components of the dismantled work since we were shut out from the campus. These leftover materials we were only able to retrieve months after and were used during the 2020 UPD Pailaw program and for Barikada this year.
The Unos became the pandemic, and amidst a nationwide lockdown, Malacañang was able to flex its authoritarian policies under the guise of managing an outbreak.
Barikada was planned since the start of the 1st quarter of 2020 before the pandemic and continued in the late 3rd quarter when lockdown restrictions were eased. We started with the actual installation preparations and mobilizing for the artwork last January 18 by securing the site and staking locations the following day. We were informed on the evening of our first day of preparations with the news that the UP-DND Accord was unilaterally abrogated by the state.
Now, Barikada not only represents a commemoration of the Diliman Commune, but has become an essential visual response to current developments concerning the university and state forces. Just overnight, it is transformed from an artwork that was meant to remind us of the past but has morphed into a protest art installation for the present, a pièce de résistance that accompanies the call to #DefendUP and academic freedom by the UP community of alumni, faculty, students and staff.
EnKWENTrO is the 2nd phase of a proposed three year commemoration that started with Nagbabadyang Unos in 2020 and Batas Militar in 2022 for the 50th anniversary of the declaration of Proclamation 1081 placing the entire Philippines under Martial Law in 1972.