Wednesday, November 28, 2012

MARIKA CONSTANTINO: MORE THAN JUST A MARTIAL LAW BABY (First of two parts) (September 24, 2012)

Last 21 September was 40th of Martial Law in the country.

But, as early as 14 July, we were already being reminded of our past mistakes. The Center for Art, New Ventures, and Sustainable Development (CANVAS) and

Liongoren Gallery did it via visual arts. Called Recollection 1081: Clear and Present Danger (Visual Dissent on Martial Rule), this grand exhibit of artworks from the Martial Law days opened, ironically, at one of the proofs of former First Lady Imelda Marcos’ edifice complex -- Cultural Center of the Philippines!

Its curator – Marika -- happens to be a Constantino. Her lolo, Renato, was in the arrest order list when the Presidential Decree1081 was declared. However, her father RC was picked up by the military because they had the same name, being a junior. Fondly she recalled: “When the officials realized their mistake, they remedied it by releasing my father days after and by putting my grandfather in house arrest for a number of years. This was an anecdote that was narrated by my mother and grandmother to us. From another perspective, the exhibit was also a way to gain a better understanding of what transpired, to find a connection with that era through the artworks and the artists and more importantly, to somehow pay tribute to those who unselfishly fought for liberation and espoused nationalism.”

As always, she views her curatorial projects are additional avenues for learning: “To be quite candid, my familiarity with the topic is culled from second-hand information. These were from the books and articles I have read and the stories, atrocities, violations, circumstances and situations that were relayed to me by family, friends, friend of friends, etc.”

And, we can sum up the whole point of ReCollection 1081 in one word: review. Or re-view?

As her curatorial notes put it: “We must recall with clarity so that it will not happen again. We must reminisce with pride from being part of something bigger than ourselves. We must retain the lessons from our history in order to learn from it.”

Fortunately, you still have until Sunday, 30 September, to catch it.

Vim Nadera: What is Martial Law to you – being a Constantino -- personally and professionally?
Marika Constantino: As a Filipino, it is imperative that I value our history. Its lessons should be part of our critical understanding of our present which should then be of use in laying the groundwork for our nation’s future. This should be carried on in our personal and professional lives, with no distinction or disconnect. 

VN: You finished architecture from the University of the Philippines. Why did you take up Fine Arts afterwards?
MC: I was inspired by previous trips where I got exposed to various works of art. When I came back I wanted to learn more about it. My initial goal was to become a teacher that was why I pursued a second degree in UPCFA majoring in Art History. I felt that my architectural studies will not go to waste if I grounded myself in that field. Interestingly, despite the course being part of the Theory Department, the first two years was mostly studio work. Here, I was exposed to different materials, processes and techniques. This eventually led me to my artistic practice.

VN: Could you share your thoughts about your recent exhibits here like reFLEXions, too at the Galerie Astra in Makati and abroad like Balancing Paradoxes and Paradigms at Roma Arts in Bandung?
MC: In general, the central premise of my art is based on self-referential themes. It is reflective of the feminist notion that “the personal is political.” It revolves around the consciousness or awareness with regard to roles and relationships. As such, by laying it out in the open, it tries to provoke dialogues. Hopefully, these could prompt realizations that would lead to a source of empowerment. Hence, my works commonly deal with our maze of experiences. Each part, though unstructured and unidentifiable by itself, is a perfect fit to the other pieces of instances or coincidences that shape one’s life. At any given moment, the conglomeration of the puzzle is the sum of who we are at that definitive moment. In my most recent solo exhibit Drawn Entanglements at the Art Informal, group shows like Curved House at the Blanc Compound and reFLEXions, too at the Galerie Astra and Balancing Paradoxes and Paradigms with Roma Arts in Bandung, Indonesia… I have tried to further explore and examine these patterns. For me, these also serve as metaphors for occurrences and circumstances, actions and non-actions, dreams and challenges. I make use of various textures and materials to represent contemplation, lamentation or jubilation. 

VN: What is keeping you busy these days?
MC: There are a number of things that take up my time. I am primarily a visual artist. However, I also write. I teach at Kalayaan College. I’m a member of TutoK and Filipino Visual Arts and Design Rights Organization (FILVADRO) and currently involved with other curatorial projects. I am also part of 98B Art COLLABORATORY, an artist-run alternative art space located at the Mezzanine Floor of the First United Building in Escolta. It seeks to establish a convergence with artists, designers, curators, writers, musicians, film makers, activists, educators, researchers, cultural workers, performers, architects and students together with the general public. It was established in January 2012 as a response to the need for alternative venues in Manila. Deemed as a site for creative sharing, discussion and collaboration, 98B is a community + network + kitchen + shop. The idea is to have a setting where artists and creative individuals from other disciplines can interact and work together while presenting art in different ways; be it a talk, a bazaar, a publication, a meal or a simple gathering.

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