When I was a little girl, I often dreamed of going to art galleries. And while I still have that dream, I now know that as in a lot of things, visiting an art gallery, or an amalgamation of it, isn’t as fantastic as you dream it up to be.
The truth is that if you’re going to an opening, particularly of the ManilArt Gallery, then you should probably come early. This gives you just enough time to view the different paintings, installation art, and sculptures before there’s a program to want to see at the same time. If you can, it would also be nice to view these things alone, because it gives you time to think about why you think the way you do about a piece of art. Of course, it’s nice to gush over or cringe at something with a friend, but it’s sometimes more gratifying to find out why you (dis)like something when you’re on your own.
Another truth is that your feet will hurt by the time you finish going around to see what’s on display. You will also probably be too afraid of the cold to take off your jacket, because the gallery is much too cold for comfort. And if you do decide to take your jacket off, it will be much later, when there are more people to huddle in the cold with and your body is busy keeping you warm because it’s digesting.
Speaking of food, it’s also something to keep in mind that you aren’t there to eat. Well, all right, you are, but expect that the pasta, in its little bowl and makeshift, two-pronged wooden fork will be a challenge to eat, the line for the cold cuts and the bread quite long, and the bubbly not as tempting as it is to think that you’re at a posh event drinking alcohol while looking at some art.
The irony that hangs over such an event is also very palpable. I guess it’s less than ideal to attend the opening of the ManilArt Gallery 2011 when the thought of Polyteismo is such an insistent whisper that it’s almost deafening. It’s also ironic in light of the fact that there’s a painting of a Christ-like figure lying down, white strings of web emanating from the white of its loincloth, like so many children waiting to be born. Or, as is pointed out to you, that there’s a set of installation art that reinterprets the Santo Nino, its body bulb-like bubbles with colorful things inside. So you begin to wonder if the CBCP should be marching in at any second–and if they don’t, you get the inevitable feeling that such selective attention to the arts is also a result of selective faith, and thus, isn’t really faith at all.
So what saves an event like this?
Let the cliches begin–it’s the people you’re with, who know better than to say something is nice or isn’t. It’s the knowledge that although there are cracks on the surface of a seemingly perfect event, some of those cracks are genius, and that what the hegemony doesn’t care to know is this–that there are threads that connect exhibits like Kulo to the much more “appreciated/accepted” gathering of art in the ManilArt Gallery; that when you include a collaborative work by Elmer Borlongan and Vim Nadera which is as much about technology and the past as much as it is about recreating the now-so-foreign-yet-accepted-as-norm alphabet we learn from birth, there’s no point in believing that a single work of art is clearly blasphemous and clearly should be banned while there are others that people can enjoy over at the NBC Tent because it is peppered with celebrities, gorgeous Filipinana attire, and the presence of F. Sionil Jose.
What saves an event like this can be as simple as the goosebumps I felt when I read the explanation to Ms. Plet Bolipata’s cello-shaped Sweet Daddy Sweet, the same accompanied with the words Sleep Daddy Sleep. In short, what makes something like this worth it is the possibility of finding something you feel strongly about, expressed in visuals you yourself could not have produced and in movements your body could not have otherwise followed but for the ability of your eyes to look and see:
If you want to know what all the fuss is about, here’s a video to help you out:
Here are just some of the other art pieces I enjoyed which I managed to take a picture of with my equally less-than-ideal camera phone:
So you see, it’s the knowing and discomfort that counts, too. It’s the same that takes away the glamour of girlish dreams, but it’s also the same that heightens your personal appreciation for the select pieces that you like, instead of taking an event as a whole and not seeing it in light of the bigger picture that’s a country where people can’t decide what to do with its art(ists).
Sometimes things become not more or less enjoyable, but enjoyable differently, because you see them with new eyes. It’s not as perfect as your girlhood dreams, but it’s probably more worth it. And even a fantasist like me can figure that out.