August 11, 2010

Art as activism

Kiri Dalena, here being photographed by Cocoy Sarmenta, is a visual artist and film director.

artist Kiri Dalena being photographed by Cocoy Sarmenta


Her installation Watch History Repeat Itself is on display in the Ateneo Art Gallery until August 16.

Watch History Repeat Itself art installation by Kiri Dalena at the Ateneo Art Gallery


This is not art which is meant to decorate a room to make it pretty. It is art that wants to say something. And in Dalena's case, that something is Philippine political commentary, executed ironically in blinking, commercial neon. Below is an excerpt from the essay "History in Translation" written by film maker and writer Adjani Arumpac, and a video tour of the complete exhibit taken by Manila Art Blogger.
    A blinking white neon sign screaming Liar! Liar! Liar! randomly illuminates a black room, recalling reactions to statements issued by the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government—from the infamous Hello Garci controversy to over 1,000 alleged extra-judicial killings throughout its nine-year reign. A red neon sign that floods red light in a white vacant area reads Dear activist, write a slogan for me tenderly invites one to contemplate past and ongoing brutalities denounced by various sectors in countless angry statements against the government. 
    That neon signs, ubiquitous visual polluters and commercial vendors of the modern world, give light to such provoking statements reveals what the artist sees as a paradox—commercial and political interests of the ruling elite are protected by the state through various mechanisms such as brute armed strength. 
    Dalena's aesthetics banks on a pervading sense of terror in real-time, continuing. But this sense of immediacy and urgency, an energy usually taken out in the streets, is forcefully brought to a standstill by the artist. She chooses to show tragedy as history, as clearly advertised by a blinking neon light that spells History. In the same vein, transferred in the Yellow Book of Slogans are rally calls culled from photo-documentation of rallies waged against the nine-year Arroyo regime. Likewise, inscribed in a single funerary slab are the haunting words: Watch History Repeat Itself, an abridged text displayed during Cory Aquino's funeral march. 
    Dalena wrests these texts out of the streets and entombs them in forms and mediums that significantly depart from traditional protest art, wherein prime is given to fast production, accessibility and portability, whose end is to provide visual support for street mobilizations. She doubly gives weight to her cause, literally, by trading permanence for transience through writing ephemeral protest call in black and white and in stone.

17 comments:

Sharon said...

Such a thought provoking piece!

Living In Williamsburg Virginia said...

Very interesting!

Darryl and Ruth : )

Photo Cache said...

only one image loaded, so i'll check this post at home.

Halcyon said...

Really cool piece of work here. I definitely like the idea behind it!

Lachezar said...

I'd say this is Daily photo at its best.
Allowing us a close up with another culture, art and reality.
Thank you for that!

Vernz said...

wow, interesting ... have to read more about her .... have a nice day.

Anything Davao

T. Becque said...

I love your picture of her being photographed!

Olivier said...

deux superbes photos, avec une préférence pour la composition de la deuxième

VP said...

If someone need to say something it's much better if he writes a book...

dong ho said...

the video says it all.

Eki said...

I like art that is meant to say something and make us reflect on our existence, our life.

Francisca said...

It's a good thing there are artists like her to remind everyone not all is perfect in paradise. Awareness is the first step towards Action.

Cezar and Léia said...

Dear Hilda,
Such impressive exposition!Thanks so much for your video,I like your idea, in this way I could feel that I was there with your as well. :)
That second "room"with white almost blue light, with the word Lier, is so dramatic!
Léia

Louis la Vache said...

Very fascinating...
;-D

George said...

Thanks for a very interesting post.

JM said...

The name of the installation is, by itself, already a great message! The top shot is very cool, Hilda!

AB said...

The photo of the photo shootinglooks really good in the glowing red colours