Protest art in the new millennium

Protest art in the new millennium

Witness SDA faculty defy the oppressive norm in their first all-digital exhibit “To Differ Digitally.”

In defiance of the rule of colonizers in the 19th century, Jose Rizal criticized the ills of society in his revolutionary novels “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo,” while Juan Luna painted an allegory of the injustices committed to Filipinos in his magnum opus, the “Spoliarium.” Such pioneers gave forms of dissent in the country a new vehicle for reaching the masses. As witnessed, there seemingly isn’t anything quite like the way protest art compels by being extensions of the human heart, mind, and soul.

As technology continues to implant itself in the inner machinations of society, we welcome wave after wave of emerging artists, each one armed with new media as outlets for voices that adamantly refuse to be silenced in any way, especially considering the recent tragedies and injustices reported almost daily on the local news.

Featuring the faculty-artists of the Photography, Digital Film, Animation, and Multimedia programs, the School of Design and Arts (SDA) launched its first digital art show and first faculty exhibit titled “To Differ Digitally: Calls for Change Through New Media” last November 23.

Among the entries was “The Divide” by former Photography program chairperson Leo Santos. It is an installation of close to a thousand photographs depicting the evident divide between social classes in the bustling city of Makati. Santos’ work welcomes visitors to the SDA gallery where a miscellany of digital artworks extend their messages of protest against the oppressive norm through LED screens, computers, and tablets.

Some of the exhibit’s scene-stealers even dabble with dimensions of reality, like “The Social Media Queen” by Volty Garcia of the MMA department, in which users of a virtual reality headset are transported into a realm that’s sadly not too different from the dark present. In this 3D virtual walkthrough, players come face to face with the Social Media Queen, a reference to Game of Thrones’ Queen Cersei whom most fans have a love-hate relationship with, and interact with the objects of their environment to express their love and/or hate for the queen. Garcia’s work is founded on the manipulation of the truth in a time when social media has become the largest arena for disseminating information.

At the heart of the gallery, spectators can witness the two-dimensional outline of a human figure on the ground. What seems like nothing extraordinary transforms the augmented reality piece “Pangarap” by Yolec Homecillo, a full-time faculty member of the Animation department and an MMA alumnus, once people bring their phones out. With the use of the mobile application “PangarapApp,” cardboard signs appear on top of the human figure, declaring the lost dreams and futures of those innocent lives taken in the government’s ongoing drug war. Patterned after the national flag, the 3D graphics are painted with vibrant hues of yellow, red, and blue.

Beyond being a platform for faculty-artists to share their views on societal issues through art, it also serves as the rare opportunity for students to see their professors’ works up close.

“[The exhibit is] a validation. It’s an opportunity. Our faculty are generally really known for their art, as experts in their fields. But most students actually don’t get to see our work,” Jag Garcia, a Digital Film professor, said in an interview with The Benildean.

Collaboration among artists was also encouraged, as some faculty members worked with each other or even with their students.

“It’s an honor na maging part nung team and the exhibit itself,” said Kurt Yuzon, one of the Film students Garcia chose to work on his entry “Sandali Lang.” Shown on three screens, the video installation depicts how protest occurs even in committed relationships, although not always voiced out.

“[It was] kinda overwhelming, kasi parang ‘yung trust na binigay as a student from your professor. […] iba ‘yung feeling na kinuha ka kasi tiwala siya sa’yo, na naniniwala siya sa’yo,” Yuzon added.

“To Differ Digitally” runs until January 20, 2018 on the 12th floor SDA gallery.

Photos by Mac Ypon and Patricia Oliveros


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