Catch This UP Professor’s Exhibit Before You Enter 2020!
Gari Sy Rivera | December 12, 2019
Photos by the author
From November 22 until December 6, 2019, University of the Philippines Professor Marco Ruben Malto once again showcases his work through an open exhibit at the Art & Design West Hall, College of Fine Arts in the University of the Philippines Diliman, and this time around, he’s named it Kalendaryo 20/20, highlighting the events that continually shape Philippine culture.
Malto is known for his past works and exhibits that touched on themes of Philippine history, practices and pressing issues and how they critically impact Filipino society today, these exhibits were Bayang Magiting (2013), Siete Estaciones (2014), Ang Petroglyphs ng Angono (2015), Susmaryosep! (2016), Peksman! (2017), and Kahimanawari (2018). The consecutive UP Diliman Centennial Professorial Chair Awardee today continues to engage viewers and spark conversation through his surreal, figurative and expressive works, “alerting” them again of crucial matters that the nation faces through his medium.
The December 2019 exhibit is timelier than it seems to be, considering that the idea of time is used in its theme. Exhibit Curator Abby Mercado shares of how the exhibit serves as a recap of the past year’s events, “Diba every year mayroon tayong year-ender na binabalikan, so siya, tinitignan niya ang lahat ng issues na nangyari the past year. Kasi pagdating ng December nakakalimutan na sila ng iba.” (“Like year-enders, the exhibit looks back at the issues that happened in the past year. When December comes, some people tend to forget about them.”)
Explaining the name of this year’s exhibit, Malto tells of how a calendar serves as a symbolic representation of preparing for what’s ahead, specifically for the year 2020, “Yung mga taong nagpre-prepare for the next year, they prepare their calendars, mga bago.” (“The people who prepare for next year also prepare their new calendars.”) In preparation of what’s to come, we must have a clear understanding of what has happened before we move on to what’s next, this is how the artist envisions the relevance of clarity in the process of foreseeing and moving forward. “When you have 20/20 vision, it means you have the clearest vision. And next year’s 2020, ‘di ba? Naisip ko na maganda ‘yun na topic.” (“Next year is 2020, right? I thought that might be a good topic.”)
National events, particularly social-political issues like extra-judicial killings, rice and water crisis, politicians and joyrides, for the artist are what majorly impact the nation’s future, as they too are also brought about by similar events in the past. All interconnected, Malto finds these events somewhat the same with previous events that already occurred in Philippine history, expressing, “Lagi ko iniisip na parang paulit ulit yung events, ‘no? Mayroong cycle of period or time.” (“I always think about how events are repetitive. There’s a cycle of period or time.”) The idea of “history repeating itself” was visually depicted in his work, portraying parallelisms of certain people and matters of the past with those of today, such as the return of martial law, and the various influences of foreign nations to the country’s relations and culture.
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Sharing of what sets Kalendaryo 20/20 apart from his previous showcases, he points to the size and material of these works, “Lagi akong malalaking works eh, pero naisip ko na kung pare-parehong size, medyo kulang sa variation. So, I thought of smaller scales. Natuwa ako sa mga maliliit kong gawa, lalo na dun sa mga board.” With the differentiating factor of, Malto mentions his exploration of using alternative materials for his pieces. “I was able to play around with less limitations, na-extend ko yung materiality sa gusto kong concept, hindi lang na exclusive sa paint.”
The professor also notes how the use of different things to create art and its message is something already done, but sometimes forgotten. “Yung aura na “uy pwede pala ‘tong gamitin,” like teabags, these are not new. Nakaklimutan now in our daily lives na andaming pwede gamitin. Ang importante lang in all of this is yung mensahe, kung gaano kaklaro at gaano kabuo.” (My works are have always been big, but I thought that if they were all the same in size, it would lack in variation. So I thought of smaller scales. I liked the small works I made, especially those boards. I was able to play around with less limitations, to extend the materiality with the concept I wanted, not just exclusively using paint. The idea of using something else, like teabags, these are not new. It’s mostly forgotten in our d aily lives that there are a lot of materials that we can use. The important thing in all of this is the message, it’s clarity and wholeness.”)
The takeaway that Malto ultimately wants the viewers of his works to be is for them to be analytical, contemplative of their selves and their role in the nation. “In every show I had, isa lang ang gusto kong tumatak sa viewer ko, maging reflective sila of themselves, of what’s happening in the society. And by doing such, you can question things with that- nagiging critical ka, di ka lang tumatanggap. So nagiging part ka in nation building, mahalaga yun kasi parte yun ng pagiging mamayan.” (“In every show I had, the only thing I want my viewers to remember is to be reflective of themselves, of what’s happening in society. And by doing such, you can question things with that-you become critical, you don’t just accept information. You become a part of nation building and it’s important because it’s also a responsibility of being a citizen.”)
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