What is confinement? Is it only about being isolated within a physical space?
When we are finally out, are we free? When we are finally out, are we safe? When we are finally out, is life better?
In this exhibit, we talk about confinement not only as a physical condition but also as ideological, hegemonic, cultural and psychological incarceration. After more than two years of collective isolation, we now ask ourselves whether the limitations in movement, resources and access to public support are truly only experienced within the context of a pandemic or perennially our scenario for many decades now?
With the intention to rewrite art for art’s/artist’s sake as art for everyone’s sake and provide a platform to talk about our current social and political landscape, contemporary artists-advocates collectively speak to fellow Filipinos in this exhibit. As we all are grappling to find normalcy in this new masked life and a new governance that in many ways than one not at all new, we ponder on the idea of a/n (un)safe space, of this time and place that no amount of optimism can conceal the virus that is psychological, systemic and has been perpetuating before covid-19.
Paul Eric Roca’s paintings utilize experimental morphology as reimagined iconography. Roca’s Interlude of Indifference series places the viewers in confrontation with familiar monsters that are historically permanent characters in our daily life. This confrontation pushes us to reflect on a possible passivity to prevalent monstrosity that may very well signify apathy or detachment. In either apathy or detachment, one thing is for sure: a conscious ignorance of monsters around us that may sometimes be a conscious participation to let monsters lurk and dominate our society. Jojie Lim’s series is both a pictorial and allegorical presentation of confinement. The first of the series, done in 2020, portrays a masked figure in a very uncomfortable position while balancing objects inside a confined space. Shown in the walls are traces of the agony of counting days in isolation while the objects held by the human figure refer to basic needs for sustenance, juxtaposed with a papier mache animal mask that may symbolize non-human existence. After 2 years, the artist renders the same masked figure no longer counting time but still in discomfort, exhaustion and apparent instability. Tintin Elbo’s At Wanderland’s Gate shows a never-ending maze that symbolizes never-ending struggles. Our life traversing this covid-19 pandemic as well as the other pandemics we are facing (such as the pandemic of greed, injustice and inequality, and the mental health pandemic, among others), is portrayed as entrapment in this maze where we cannot find a way out. Veejay Villafranca’s Pandemic Diaries is a series of photos that chronicles day-to-day situations and experiences since the beginning of and throughout covid-19 lockdowns. Pandemic Diaries intersects visual anthropology and documentary photography wherein the artist locates himself not only as an observer but also an interlocutor in the discussion of struggles, welfare, security and safety, and the range of nuances in all those in the context of a global pandemic and zoomed in the microcosm of individuals and groups. Kirby Roxas’ Mirasol’s Diary is a dreamscape of hope that presents a vision that the younger generation deserves. Almost presenting hope as a surreal concept which is comparable to our current experience, Roxas’ painting is juxtaposed with Oliver Ramos’ artworks that capture the act of going out. How do we go out and what are we going out for? In one painting Ramos depicts a young man about to go out, seemingly in a split-second hesitation or fear of what is to outside. What is outside is presented in the rest of the pieces. Jade Gacuan’s work metaphorically interlaces hope, loss and grief in a movement of 15,035,773 people that imagined a future of change. It asks how the weight of a movement happen to be not be weighty enough to unhinge from ideological constructs. The works of the artists collective Concerned Artists of the Philippines and political detainees supported by Kapatid: Families and Friends of Political Prisoners is a collection of artifacts of a nation’s cycle of becoming and unbecoming. This assemblage collects a range of subject matter such as a question of authority and salvation in Mideo Cruz’ relief seconded by the ambivalence of both in Grace Corpus’ piece, a metaphor of rip-and-repair in Racquel De Loyola’s embroideries, a visual journal of imprisonment in JP Versoza’s paintings, the quiet resistance in a play of emblems in Tojamarie Sadie’s series and the powerful image of a closed fist reiterated multiple times by the rest of the group. This is an assemblage of resistance that claim art as a weapon to go against the grain, to aspire for the best for all. A reminder that freedom is not afforded to all of us, it is an assemblage of how struggle may actively be turned into power and a call for us to participate in this overturn. When we’re finally out, maybe it is time to change what has long been keeping us active. Now that we can gather, maybe it is about time we actively free ourselves of the chains of injustice, inequality, curtailment of freedom and insecurity of resources. Now that we are able to go out, maybe it is time to by all means collectively try our best never to be confined again. Never again. # - Avie Felix