Sunday, March 25, 2012

Baguio Art (Part1)

Highland Art and Lowbrow


There was one time when the artists ruled Panagbenga. This was when Kidlat Tahimik was at the helm and everybody was afraid to leave town because of the meningococcemia scare. The first thing Kidlat did was take us out of the telcom war (meaning Smart and Globe advertisement) and let artistry win out.
For all the flak he got, KT actually proved his point that artists can teach Baguio how to celebrate.
As for the flak, it was about the mosaic that the artists did on the pavement of Session Road. They did mosaic (using broken pots, plates, tiles and anything broken) of dragons, mandala, feet and whatever you can think of. One old woman slipped and the city council found the crack they wanted.
They put Kidlat and the rest under council investigation and then had them take out the mosaic. As it turned out, one councilor was in cahoots over the construction of pavements using the interlocking tiles which as it turned out is being used everywhere.
This came into mind because while walking along Session during the downpour, I saw three people slip and fell on the pavement. No council investigations. Money has passed on to bigger pockets.
So where were the artists anyway during the Session Road in Bloom. There used to be a booth for the Baguio Arts Guild at the side of the Post Office pavement and this was used for sketching and caricature sessions in the past. This year, the airbrush graffiti artists took over the booth, doing brisk business on personalized T-shirts.
Kidlat made his presence felt, doing an instant installation at the side of the rotunda. He used the resin mold made by son Kawayan de Guia of the trunk of the huge eucalyptus tree beside the Baguio Cathedral which fell during one of the typhoons last year. He also set up the lifesize rattan people made by a blind weaver in Cagayan as sentries of the environment. He also spelled out using everlasting flowers a mantra that “Flowers, Trees and Mountains Are All Intertwined,” poking of course at the giant mall above Luneta Hill.
The artists who made the mosaic and younger ones were at the Session Road during the one week that it was closed. They were beating gongs and dancing to collect signatures to resist the expansion of that mall which would mean the killing of 182 pine and alnus trees.  The signature campaign drew thousands of allies (see story).
Which brings us back to the mosaic. Kidlat’s son, Kabunian, was among those who laid out the mosaic during that Panagbenga.
Kabunian became so good at it (after a summer of apprenticeship in Europe) that he formed a merry band of mosaic artists called the Mighty Bhutens. Kabunian together with Oliver Olivete and Guiller Lagac were unconventional and uncanny in their mosaic but they got commissions inspite or because of these qualities.
The Mighty Bhutens were among the Cordillera artists who were commissioned by Absolut Vodka to come out with their own individualized Absolut. The Bhutens did, what else, unconventional rendition of the vodka profile using wood, mosaic and a lot of whimsy.
Others included Rommel Pidazo, Mark Tandoyog, Carlo Villafuerte and Rocky Cajigan. These VOCAS boys had their own signature styles infused in their own Absolut.
Rocky, for example, used Bruce Chatwin’s story infused with an up-ended bottle flowing and drying out on stranded paperboats. Carlo, the Edward Scissorhands of Baguio art, used circles of sewn cloths to form his couture Absolut.
Over at the BenCab Museum is the ongoing exhibition of Rodel Tapaya entitled “Prism and Parallelism.” Tapaya from Morong, Rizal recently won the grand prize of the Asia-Pacific Breweries Foundation Signature Art Prize in 2011, for his large-scale work Baston ni Kabunian, Bilang Pero di Mabilang. His works at BenCab are on the same line, which means more contemporary renditions of Pinoy mythical creatures.
At least Tapaya knows his culture unlike ABS-CBN which came out with a recent feature showing Negritos in Kalinga garb and labelled as Igorots. KC Concepcio was even shown posing with this faux-Igorots. Already veteran journalist Edwin Daiwey is starting a signature campaign against ABS-CBN. Educate yourselves now, Channel 2!
Speaking of BenCab, there was a news that Beatles Paul McCartney has acquired a copy of the National Artist’s early works. Paul apparently got it during their aborted tour here. He got it for a measly P70, which I Facebooked, is worth a BenCab dot nowadays. Tapaya’s show runs till April 15.
Since it is Women’s Month, VOCAS would be having its second WAPAAK on March 18. Women artists from Baguio and the rest of Cordillera are invited to join this exhibit curated by Ceres Canilao. For more details,  see this:
We are planning to do Art Update every other week so if you have any exhibition in town or an artist you want featured, please contact us. Ciao 


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