Recently, drag queens were criticized for injecting political topics into their performances, which brought up discussions on whether art, regardless of the medium, should be political. The truth is that not every piece should have political themes to be considered great. But it also doesn’t mean that other artists should censor themselves in showcasing injustices.
At Art Fair 2020, we saw a number of works that tackled issues from transportation to Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s misogynistic comments. Here are the standouts:
A safe space
Artist Anton Belardo (aka Jellyfish Kisses) is known for his “confessional diary” art works that come in colorful motifs. For Art Fair, he created an interactive space where people can look at his paintings and take photos with the whimsical sculptures. Like many of his installations, this was meant to be a safe space for all kinds of individuals, especially the LGBTQ+ community who have been discriminated against in public spaces.
The president’s rape jokes
“Look At Her” by feminist artist Nikki Luna is a mirror that features a quote from Pres. Duterte from a 2018 speech in Davao: “As long as there are many beautiful women, there will be more rape cases.” He said this after a police report showed that there had been a rise in cases of sexual violence in Davao, where Duterte served as mayor before running for president.
Extra judicial killings
Probably one of the most photographed installation at Art Fair was sculptor Julie Lluch’s version of Juan Luna’s “Spoliarium,” which featured 25 “witnesses” and prominent Filipinos like Jose Rizal and Francisco Balagtas. Before entering the exhibit, guests were greeted by a sculpture of Josephine Bracken. clad in black and a funeral veil while holding a three-meter scroll with the names of all the victims of Duterte’s drug war.
In 2019 and the early weeks of 2020, we’ve seen how the government tried to blacklist Angkas for alleged violations and how some officials tried to downplay the traffic problem in the country. Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo even commuted from Marikina City to Malacañang Palace last October to try and prove that there’s no transport crisis in Metro Manila. It took Panelo 3.5 hours to get to his workplace, which was already a long time on the road. But he still insisted that citizens should just be “creative” in avoiding traffic and other inconveniences while heading to work.
Young artist Nika Dizon tackled these transportation issues in her painting “Have a Safe Trip.” It featured elements like Panelo riding a jeep and a train going up in flames, a commentary on the continuous MRT and LRT glitches.
Did you attend Art Fair this year? Which were your favorite works, political or not?
Photos by Argyl Leones
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