Is art purely aesthetics? Beauty in the form of a medium that is a distillation of an artist’s idea expressed on canvass, wood or stone or photograph? But what if it’s in the form of reflecting mirrors on an easel or bottle crowns and multicolored strings? Or a caterpillar like succession of boxes from a defunct gallery? Is it still art? Can the life of an employee even be compiled and neatly displayed in a museum space enough to consider it as artistic?
Life. The daily commute. The mundane.
Buen Calubayan wants to question our traditional notion of art. His piece, Employee 55 is a simulated office setting but instead of a series of Post It notes of tasks and reminders, personal mementos of travels and family as well as stacks of assignment papers that needed to be finished, we are presented with his life as an employee in thick binders, in folders of used bond papers stained with sweat, of map points and traces of his daily commute, times and road kills… and compilations of lists of his sold and unsold art, among many others.
It’s a catalog of a part of his life as a struggling artist forced to find non artistic work. Instead of a series of visually appealing pieces expected of Buen who is a painter himself (one of the Cultural Center of the Philippines 13 Young Arists, 2009), one is lured instead into his space and is presented with facets of his being an employee at the National Museum as exhibits. Collectively, it’s a glimpse of a time of the artist’s life as he was looking for answers to his question: sino ako as an artist (who am I as an artist) and the inherent struggles of being one in the Philippine setting.
Employee 55 is just one of the exhibits that challenges our idea of art at the Lopez Museum and Library. Entitled Articles of Disagreements, it
…focuses on art languages that will unearth the different forms of art writing and anecdotes of criticism in Philippine art history.
It was based from the museum and library’s specific pool of articles and associations towards critical inquiry in the local context. It’s an interesting exhibition that will also show the myriad forms and diverse practices of contemporary Filipino artists that can trigger a multitude of reactions and discourse.
What I do like about this exhibit is that there’s a good mix of traditional and non traditional forms of art, of which, Calubayan’s Employee 55 intrigued me the most. There are paintings by the masters (Juan Luna and Hidalgo), conceptual art and installation. Artists like Fernando Zobel, Napoleon Abueva, Nilo Ilarde, writings of Pete Lacaba framed and contextualized with photos, Purita Kalaw-Ledesma and many more. You just have to appreciate, enjoy and keep an open mind on what these different pieces say and evoke.
When you’re done with viewing? Don’t forget to drop by the cafe and see the whole as another art piece and an opportunity for critical discourse. Enjoy.
Articles of Disagreements
19 September – 20 December 2014
Lopez Museum and Library
G/F Benpres Building
Exchange Road cor Meralco Avenue
Ortigas Center, Pasig City
02 631 2417