It’s a familiar imagery that one reads or hears about nearly every day. Only this time, it consists of an installation of sculptures of dead corpses laid down in the safe confines of a university.
In one of the halls of Far Eastern University in Manila, viewers will be haunted by the image of fake human corpses piled on the linoleum-covered floor and tightly wrapped in black garbage bags. The linoleum is smeared with red color appearing as if drenched with blood; just a few inches away are red foot prints walking away from the scene.
Delotavo’s multi-media installaion, Bakas ng Salarin, is part of a traveling exhibition entitled, Hudyat. The group show, which opened on March 9, is composed of Filipino artists who are making a stand for human dignity. FEU is just one of four campuses in and out of Metro Manila where the art presentation will be touring.
One of the figures in Delotavo’s work bears a cardboard that reads, “Ako’y taong tahimik, hindi pusher o adik. Huwag akong tularan, ako’y hindi nanlaban (I’m a quiet person, not a (drug) pusher or a (drug) addict. Don’t imitate me, I didn’t fight back).”
About his installation, Delotavo shares, “They (human figures) are strewn amidst a simulation of a piece of blood-stained linoleum, reminiscent of the floors in lower income households where many were killed in the current drug war.”
Besides Delotavo, other participants in the show are: National Artist BenCab and fellow visual artists Jose Tence Ruiz, Pandy Aviado, Carlo Gabuco, Toym Imao, Jullie Lluch, Mark Valenzuela, and Nikki Luna; photographers Rick Rocamora, Veejay Villafranca, Raffy Lerma, Melvyn Calderon, and Xyza Bacani; journalists Sheila Coronel and Patricia Evangelista; literary artists William Elvin Manzano, Marne Kilates, and Jose F. Lacaba; and dance choreographer Ea Torrado.
Ricky Francisco, curator of the exhibition shared, “This exhibition is about human dignity. Society is built on human dignity and respect for human dignity. It is beyond politics, it is beyond issues, because it is universal. We have artists giving voice to people who have lost their voices, we have artists who are giving voices to women and children, we have photographers who are speaking eloquently for the 7, 000 whom we have lost. This event is about making a stand.”
With FEU as the first venue of the exhibition, the organizers of the event hope to tap the interest of the youth, start some conversation, and encourage critical thinking.
One of the organizers and human rights activist Edna Aquino told InterAksyon, “Basically the objective is to reach out to the students, the young people primarily so that they can go beyond what social media is doing right now, which is so fast-paced.
“We thought that for 24 days, they can look at the artworks, and ask themselves questions, and maybe it would trigger critical thinking, and really reflect about EJK (extrajudicial killings). Basically, we’re bringing the stories of the victims and survivors of EJK to the campus so that they can see it for themselves.”"Known artists are very concerned so you (youth) should, too, because this generation will be taking over the country.”
For Martin Lopez,director of FEU’s President’s Committee on Culture, issues on human rights should be discussed inside the campus.
Lopez told InterAksyon, “The students have to think about these very important issues. And then from there, they can make their own decisions. Millennials are said to be sometimes apathetic but an exhibit like this will help them think about things differently or at least take these issues seriously, whatever side of the fence they may be.”
“We need to be concerned about human rights and human dignity, and that also takes into consideration respect for women, respect for people who are different, respect for others, respect for the environment. Art is such a perfect medium to wake you up, to mirror what is happening in reality, and to reach out to you when you tend to be manhid or calloused in all that is happening around you,” Lopez added.
After March 25, the last day of the two-week exhibition in FEU, organizers hope to bring the exhibit to other universities like Ateneo De Manila and De La Salle.
Desaparecidos, war, and brutality
Imao’s mixed media work, Desaparecidos: Memorializing Absence, which was presented at the People Power Exhibition in 2015, is also part of the Hudyat exhibition. Imao’s work highlights the importance of history in confronting contemporary issues.
“I think we should have a sense of history in order to better understand what is happening to us right now. The main message why I wanted to connect the desaparacidos with those that are being killed (today) is that these are all victims of state-sponsored killings. And it is being encouraged by the state na patayin ang mga citizens niya,” Imao told InterAksyon.
“It’s important to connect what happened 45 years ago to things that are happening right now so that the present generation will fully understand the cliché that history repeats itself and will confront all these issued based on history,” he added.
In her work entitled War, feminist artist Luna presented her view on the drug war as a “violent expression of the misogyny which pervades our society.”
She shared, “My work stems from my recent solo exhibit at Finale Art File where I cast 45-caliber bullets, which is the commonly used weapon in the killings that has been happening. I cast it in ceramic, and I made 6,000 (pieces) of it, and you’ll see a part of it now, which spells ‘w-a-r.’ In the light of what is happening, we should never forget the blatant misogyny that we just allow and that our current administration reinforces on us.”
On the other hand, Lluch, in a message delivered by her daughter Kiri Dalena during the exhibit said, “One man killed is a precious life to many..We are not against the campaign against drugs, but we’re fighting against the systematic execution, impunity, inhumanity, or violation of human rights.
“I believe we are going through a very dark period in history—our people are divided, confused, and perishing. We need to restore and uphold our dearly held values as a people. Basic things like respect, love, courtesy, honesty, honor, fear of God. We must guard our freedom and not be afraid. Speak up for the weak and helpless, and give strength and hope when we can.”
“Art thrives best at the most desperate of times. The artists have spoken out today, and I say, let us all speak out with them,” she added.
Her inter-media installation entitled Beauty for Brutality, a video and wax sculpture of a screaming woman who resembles Lluch, is a collaborative work with Alyx Carumpac, Kiri, Paulo Villaluna, and Sunshine Matutina.
She noted in her work, “If the wax sculpture can talk, it is screaming, ‘In the name of God, stop the killing!”
Meanwhile, Ruiz’ ‘Langue, Lounge,’ brings his Art Fair Philippines 2017 presentation to the Hudyat exhibition.
Art and social issues
Art plays an important role in tackling social issues, Imao said, “Art has always been one of the most potent weapons in the entire history of the world in somehow imaging the era, the collective experiences of the people, and their sufferings. It has always been a powerful medium to transmit messages.”
He added that art captures the attention of a viewer, allows them to momentarily pause, and eventually look for more information about the topic.
Hudyat runs until March 25, and is open for free to the public. Different artworks are installed throughout the FEU campus, thus, it is advisable to book a tour by calling the Office the President’s committee on culture at (+632) 736-4897. A guide will assist viewers throughout the tour. For more information, visit Hudyat’s Facebook page.
The exhibit is at the main campus of Far Eastern University, Manila at Nicanor Reyes Street, Sampaloc, Manila.