Arts and Culture

‘Sining Saysay’: Retelling historical facts through art and augmented reality

Relive history through art and technology at "Sining Saysay: Philippine History in Art" exhibition at Gateway Gallery in Quezon City. Photo by Bernard Testa, InterAksyon.

Relive history through art and technology at “Sining Saysay: Philippine History in Art” exhibition at Gateway Gallery in Quezon City. Photo by Bernard Testa, InterAksyon.

In this digital age where false news are widespread and “alternative facts” are offered, it is time for artists, historians, and those in academe to “claim their space” and present history truthfully.

This is according to Grace Javier Alfonso, artist, professor, and curator of the ongoing exhibition entitled, Sining Saysay: Philippine History in Art at Gateway Gallery in Quezon City.

“The fact that everybody says there’s so much trash in the internet, too much alternative facts, that you cannot tell anymore (which are true), what is important is for the those in the academe, the artists, and historians to claim our space in these digital times whether physically in this gallery, and eventually put it somewhere that is accessible to everyone. I think that is our responsibility,” Alfonso shared to InterAksyon in an interview during the exhibit’s recent media event.

Grace Javier Alfonso, artist, professor, and curator of the exhibit also participated in the exhibit. Her mural is about women empowerment. Photo by Bernard Testa, InterAksyon.

Grace Javier Alfonso, artist, professor, and curator of the exhibit also participated in the exhibit. Her mural is about women empowerment. Photo by Bernard Testa, InterAksyon.

“So much research has gone to each and every mural, and they’ve (artists and historians) done their share. Now, it’s up to our audience to be armed (with knowledge), and for them to know how to process, and make sure that they wind up with critical thinking. I think this is part of that move for claiming our space so there is less and less space for trash,” she added.

Upgrading the exhibit two years after its opening, 10 of the 30 large mural paintings depicting Philippine history from prehistoric times up to the presidency of Benigno Aquino III, now have an augmented reality (AR) feature.

Sining Saysay was a concept telling Philippine history. ‘Sining‘ for art and ‘saysay‘ because there is relevance in telling the story,” Alfonso said.

“By applying the AR feature, It puts the exhibit on the digital level. It puts it on the language of the younger people. It makes this exhibit more participatory, and it also brings the audience or the gallery clients into a multimedia type of experience,” she added.

Social realist artist Pablo Baens Santos with his mural ‘Martial Law in the Philippines,' which is one of the works at the exhibit with the AR feature. Photo by Bernard Testa, InterAksyon.

Social realist artist Pablo Baens Santos with his mural ‘Martial Law in the Philippines,’ which is one of the works at the exhibit with the AR feature. Photo by Bernard Testa, InterAksyon.

A partnership between Araneta Center and University of the Philippines, the exhibit, which is free of admission fees, also aims to make arts an culture accessible to the public, especially the younger generation.

Rowell Recinto, one of the executive members of Gateway Gallery said, “Consistent with our objective to foster accessibility to arts, culture, and history, we decided to marry art and technology so that we can reach out to an increasingly digital-savvy generation.”

“One thing we’re very careful of when we are doing the story for each of these artworks is that we stay true to history. No alternative facts, no revisionists. We made sure that we had historians. They really reviewed the script; they reviewed the execution. What you are going to see is a statement of fact rather than statement of interpretation,” he added.

To experience the 30-minute long tour of the exhibit, one has to download the free Layar app on a mobile phone. Once finished, open the mobile app, and scan a painting. A video with audio and English subtitles telling the story behind the painting will then play on your device.

Artist Toym Imao with the work of his father Abdulmari Asia Imao. Photo by Bernard Testa, InterAksyon.

Artist Toym Imao with the work of his father Abdulmari Asia Imao. Photo by Bernard Testa, InterAksyon.

Remembering history
Besides highlighting the importance of presenting historical facts truthfully, the organizers of the exhibition also underscored the significance of remembering the past.

“History teaches you a lot of lessons, and they are lessons viewed on hindsight,” Recinto shared.

For Alfonso, the exhibit helps the viewers to better know their identity as Filipinos, and at the same time, foster a “spirit of nationhood.”

“When you go through this, you find your identity, you find your Filipinoness, and we have to have that. It is very important for us to know who we really are, what our history is, and what we are fighting for. I think that’s more important.

Gateway Gallery is open Mondays to Sundays at 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

From left, Miss Grand international first runner up Nicole Cordoves, Miss International Kylie Verzosa, BPCI chairperson Stella Marquez Araneta, Artist Betsy Westendorp, Artist Jonah Salvosa,  Bb. Pilipinas-Intercontinental Jennifer Hammond, and Miss Globe third runner up Nichole Manalo during the launch of Sining Lakbay: Philippine History in Augmented Reality in Gateway Gallery. Photo by Bernard Testa, InterAksyon.

From left, Miss Grand international first runner up Nicole Cordoves, Miss International Kylie Verzosa, BPCI chairperson Stella Marquez Araneta, Artist Betsy Westendorp, Artist Jonah Salvosa, Bb. Pilipinas-Intercontinental Jennifer Hammond, and Miss Globe third runner up Nichole Manalo during the launch of Sining Lakbay: Philippine History in Augmented Reality in Gateway Gallery. Photo by Bernard Testa, InterAksyon.

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