DECEMBER 1 - DECEMBER 9, 2018
Mga Sugilanon opened the week before the major annual fiesta in Batan, in celebration of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Similar to 2017's year-end show Pag-Unawa, Mga Sugilanon benefited from the week-long festivities which drew an influx of fiesta-goers from neighbouring barangays and towns to Poblacion. As is every year, Poblacion was in a collective state of revelry. Overlapping events activated the public spaces in Poblacion, most of which are within a two block radius from Elmo's House. During the nine-day run of the exhibition, Elmo's House front exterior became a dynamic part of the celebration.
Mga Sugilanon is an Aklanon term which translates to The Stories We Tell. The exhibition features the works of artists-in-residence Mariah Reodica (Pasig, Manila) and Emen Batocabe (Las Pinas, Manila), as well as the commissioned mural of Batangnon Morgan Abella.
Morgan Abella's mural was unveiled during Mga Sugilanon and is the focus of a separate article. To read more about Morgan's processes and inspiration, please visit this link.
This article centers on the work displayed in the main gallery and adjoining spaces, by Mariah Reodica and Emen Batocabe. Distilled from the activities and research conducted by the artists during their month-long residency, and influenced by their impressions of Batan and its people, Mga Sugilanon is at its core, an exhibition in direct conversation with Batangnons.
The two artists engaged in mural paintings at the neighbouring Barangay of Songcolan and collected video and photo documentation during trips to Mambuquaoi and Tinagong Dagat.
Daily walks around Poblacion, nights at the Pantalan and feria grounded their knowledge of daily life in Batan. Batocabe, in particular, found kinship between life in Batan and his early years in Batangas, where his family originates.
The documentation and resulting work from these activities became the foundation for the show.
With Paniki gallery's open-air concept, exhibitions are illuminated by the shifting rays that travel across the walls from morning till night. This aspect of the gallery was thoughtfully considered in the installation of the works. The use of strobing lights in the evening contrasted the mood created by the natural light during the day.
Just as stories change with perspective, the works also shift with the light. From the natural to overtly synthetic, different elements are revealed, hidden and adjusted. The tone changes, the cadence alters.
The exhibition explores many stories, stories we hear, the stories we tell ourselves and the stories hidden just beneath the presented narrative. There is a telling and a retelling and the then a new telling again. Different images emerge, and details are at once obscured and emphasized.
Black fishnet commonly used for fishing in the area is used to display a palm tree figurine.
Clothespins from the house was repurposed to hang Emen’s ink drawings on the wall. Rocks, fruit, twigs and other objects from in and around Elmo’s House compose the scroll of images.
Flattened matchbox placed in a frame on top of a pile of blackened coconut husks speak of a fire that will never burn.
Obelisk - windswept coconut trees - mountain top - TROPIC DREAMS
Yellow fringe dress a framed piece of painted cardboard and a candy wrapper.
A collection of studies by both Emen and Mariah are pinned to the wall with halved rubber bouys.
A looped video plays on a small DVD player placed in the center of the gallery shows footage of a day in Songcolan playing jackstones with local kids. Cement tetrapods sit in the background.
The portable DVD player sits on tops of NEWSWEEK issues, framed by a rebar piece (part of a previous residents’ installation).
A pair of white mosquito nets hang by the front exterior of the house. They appear eerie from a distance. At night they catch a projection of scenes taken from moving boats and vehicles, a crackling bonfire, a full moon.
The strobing lights transform the gallery into a breathing space of multi-coloured orbs. Candles placed in front of the title wall add to the feeling of ceremony some of the other pieces invoke.
The drawing workshops evolved organically. There was an original plan to host workshops, but the mechanics of how that will come to be was yet to be determined. Until the response of the children to Mga Sugilanon; their uninhibited excitement and awe inspired Emen and Mariah to create a space for the kids to draw.
Chairs and tables were set up, equipped with buckets of drawing implements and paper. Emen and Mariah would draw at the tables which quickly attracted kids that followed suit. The drawing workshops developed into a daily routine, lasting until the final day of the show.
The completed drawings were prominently displayed as part of Mga Sugilanon. The drawings were their own visual response to the exhibit, which was most honest and unreserved.
Emen uses his cell phone to provide more light while the kids draw.
Mariah serenade the kids with eraserhead songs, starting an sing-a-long as everyone knew the words.