Buwitre (Vulture)

Omens in Time

"I think I may have entitled this show Buwitre (Vulture) because maybe, this is what is left and picked off after a pandemic – some hefty personal introspection and many, many lessons learned. I am just any woman trying to maneuver my way through a hedge maze of house chores, being a wife, a daughter, a sister, making a living, making sense of a pandemic, and being a painter." Wrote artist Liv Vinluan as she communicated the essence of her current exhibition. The vulture holds a venerable symbol of "purification, compassion, and maternity" in ancient Egypt. The bird of prey performed the necessary service of cleansing the world of stench and rottenness when it was taboo to touch dead bodies. This seemingly morose association to the displayed sentimental works brings the discomfort that is requisite for the idea to permeate through our consciousness. 


The work Burning of Manila captures much of our recent days – being witnesses to tragedies as they unfold. The artist asks "What does it mean to make and engage in art in the time of a raging pandemic?" Beautifully merging her concerns, Manila is Burning II shows two young artists paint the inferno that is Manila while standing on a massive floating battleship. In her representations, she brings to the fore trivial inquiries without oversimplification, but an attempt to untangle the complex baggage of being both a Filipino and an artist. She is heavily influenced by the history of art and nation, visibly shown in her use of the glazing technique done by old masters while investigating the cyclicality of our country's narratives. Layering paint and chronicles from dull, dry shades of gray with horror stories on land and sky. The process has a waiting period that creates a push and pull dynamic allowing for space and time for contemplation. Another day, another battle.


It is often imagined that artists live in recluse, inside their creative worlds. In Liv Vinluan's body of work, the contextual plane is rendered more evidently to accommodate an understanding of the interdependence of personal and social conditions in artistic production. The works of art are positioned in intertwined epochs, relating to the artistic vision that is not separate from existing. From where the artist stands, it is clear that as the vulture consumes death, rebirth is not far from the horizon. (Con Cabrera)


And the Rest Was History

In And the Rest Was History, Bembol Oligario Dela Cruz delves into the secret—and often pernicious— history of ordinary objects, as exemplified by the iconic forms of the manual typewriter and the Volkswagen Beetle. Though they look innocuous, some objects trace their roots in the dark chapters of the human story, such as fascism. The Beetle, for instance, replicated by Dela Cruz in life-size scale, was the brainchild of the Nazi Germany’s leader, Adolf Hitler, who commanded Ferdinand Porsche to design a car that was as affordable as the then-ubiquitous motorcycle and would ply the network of newly built roads under the Reichstag. Though production has been discontinued in 2003, the Beetle remains a beloved icon by automobile connoisseurs, prized for its impeccably modern silhouette and efficient engine. In the painting, the car is disemboweled of any discernible machinery and wheels, presenting the husk of what was considered an automotive achievement, as if hunted by the burden of its undeniable past. Though defunct, these inventions have informed succeeding innovations (the laptop and the driverless car), part of the grand scale in the evolution of inanimate objects. Placed within the ambit of the viewer’s attention, these paintings are part visual record of obsolete technologies and part illumination of their history—the medium being the message.


-Carlomar Arcangel Daoana



Draped in the Stars and Stripes, the man brandishing the walis tambo in the Capitol Hill riot is reportedly Ilocano. Although a minority in a predictably white crowd, he is far from the only person of color in the siege. Amidst the Confederate, Tea Party and Neo-Nazi flags associated with the far right, there were a few colored faces carrying their own symbols: the man from Kochi with an Indian flag, several Asians from South Vietnam, Japan and South Korea carrying their own ensigns. Sure, there were other flags: Australia, Canada, and Israel, and even LGBTQ+. Some of them were refugees, some of them guests. A good guest helps their host.


As a part of the world slowed down to stare at the latest American car crash, it was much harder to look away when you noticed the minorities in the details. It's not just schadenfreude when you catch glimpses of yourself.


When Filipino artists Jose Honorato Lozano, Damian Domingo and Justiniano Asuncion were developing the style of watercolor illustration known as Tipos del Pais in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they were not just creating an art of Filipiniana representation, but rather mastering a manifestation of the much older art of catering to expectations. An auto-exoticization. As the colonial powers changed from Spanish to American to neoliberal economics, the market remained essentially the same. Skin tone still meant social standing and modes of dress still signified status.


The consumer is not seen. In color, the consumer presumably has lighter skin, if not in complexion then in outlook. The consumer is a connoisseur of the exotic, of folk art, yet never really of the folk depicted. The consumer buys what is expected. What is expected is the retention of a status quo.


Tributes for kingdoms, keepsakes for tourists. Sometimes it's just a matter of scale. Decolonial processes have equipped you with the tools to identify these: the consumer from the consumed, the proletariat from the capitalist, the guest from the host. But they are tools for identification, not emancipation. The borders and binaries are in a constant state of collapse.


Yet a form of feudalism persists, no longer of land and bodies, but of language and minds. Trading dress and lightening the shade of a Filipino or a global social experience does not really change thinking. A terrorist could be a freedom fighter. A guest could be a migrant worker -- no matter how many Star-Spangled Banners, no matter how perfect the American accent.


As soon as you retake the power, another form of power is co-opted. When you center blackness and the experience of subjugated minorities, you tip the balance and something spills over: dark stains on white Manila paper. Reality becomes stranger -- or you become more aware of its absurdity. A brown Ilocano is not expected in a white bigot rally. Yet there he was. All dressed-up. Tipos del Pais. A good guest helps their host. (DC Dulay)