|Marika Constantino and her works|
Vim Nadera: What is the rationale behind ReCollection 1081: Clear and Present Danger (Visual Dissent on Martial Rule) at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Main Gallery and Guillermo Tolentino Hallway?
Marika Constantino: ReCollection 1081 was the brainchild of CANVAS’ Executive Director Gigo Alampay. September 2012 marks the 40th anniversary of the declaration of martial law and he thought of mounting a show. According to him this was to be able to “generate some long overdue discussion on what those times were really all about.”
He further shared that “As a teacher (part-time) in UP, as well as a father to three children, I am sometimes bothered that the memory of martial law is not being passed to the next generation. Or worse, that some of the young actually are beginning to believe an alternative version of history that says that that we might have been better off with Marcos, and that what we may need now is a return to some form of “benevolent dictatorship.” Essentially, this project is about remembering; not solely or merely to denounce or be critical of the Marcos years, but to recall what those moments were in the eyes of the artists during that time.
VN: What was the first thing that you did as its curator? And then?
MC: I read and re-read a number of books and articles to refresh my memory on certain things. Most useful was my interview with Randy and Karina David. They gave me a personal account of how it was like then. They contextualized the events and how certain personalities did what they did. They gave me a vivid picture of the political, social and economic milieu of the country during that time. The content of that three hour discussion was very significant for me. In addition, Ruel Caasi, co-curator of the exhibit, and I conducted some studio visits. It was a chance for us to talk to the artists and get their views about the show, the times and their practice. We also included excerpts from our email interviews with some of the other participating artists. This also helped in humanizing the whole project and making the situation back then more understandable for the younger generation. Their inputs were very valuable and are part and parcel of the concept of ReCollection 1081, which is to trigger reminiscences.
VN: How did you succeed in collecting all those iconic artworks from the 70s? Please tell us your most memorable experiences, say, in locating the artists.
MC: CANVAS was instrumental in organizing a number of tasks and logistical requirements. Credit also goes to our partners in the project, namely, Norma Liongoren of Liongoren Gallery and Boots Herrera of the Cultural center of the Philippines (CCP) in helping us borrow the art pieces. We are also thankful to Alice Guillermo; her books served as frameworks in selecting the art pieces. Various institutions (Ateneo Art Gallery, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Bantayog ng mga Bayani, The Museum of the De La Salle University, National Museum of the Philippines and the University of the Philippines, Main Library), galleries (Galleria Duemila, Inc. and Tin-Aw Gallery) and private collectors believed in what we wanted to accomplish and readily lent us the works we requested from their respective collections for the exhibit. We are also immensely grateful to the artists who shared their works, time, experiences and inputs.
Their participation and support were vital to the outcome of ReCollection 1081.
Regarding the second question, what comes to mind are three specific experiences.
First, would probably be my face to face encounters with the actual works like: Antipas Delotavo’s Itak sa Puso ni Mang Juan, Al Manrique’s Bunong Balikat and Jaime De Guzman’s Sabbath of the Witches. I have only seen these as tiny black and white reproductions in Alice Guillermo’s book. Seeing these up close created a very strong impact. Both the imagery and content have a lingering effect. Second, would be when
we visited Jose Tence Ruiz’ studio. We selected some editorial cartoons to be part of the show. Interestingly, the pieces we selected reflect the very same issues that continue to hound us today: mis-education, nuclear power, cronyism, coco-levy fund, etc. Sadly, after forty years we have not resolved anything. Through Ruiz’ personal collection, we were also able to see how things were published before; when computers were non-existent. Marks and notations with regard to the instructions, pasting and magnification can still be seen at the sides or at the back. Lastly, my meeting with Edicio dela Torre was also quite memorable. He explained to me how it was like creating art when he was incarcerated. He relayed his art process, context and experiences.
VN: During the mounting of such major exhibition, what were the problems that you encountered? How did you solve them?
MC: In hindsight, the main problem could have been the time frame. We really did not have enough time to locate and secure more works. But as I wrote in our curatorial notes, “The collection is by no means a complete or thorough representation of the times. But it is a both an inception and a challenge to bring forth a more exhaustive effort of remembrance. We owe this not only to ourselves or to those who sacrificed but also for the discernment of future Filipinos.” We do hope that something more concrete and permanent would result from this effort.
VN: What are your plans with ReCollection 1081 now that it ended yesterday? Will you make a book out of it?
MC: Definitely CANVAS and its co-organizers Liongoren Gallery and CCP will be coming out with a catalogue of ReCollection 1081: Clear and Present Danger (Visual Dissent on Martial Rule). I am hopeful that other endeavors will arise from this.