[Day 17] An art piece

It was the Merchant Ivory film adaptation of ‘Surviving Picasso’ that got me into Pablo Picasso. Guernica¬†stands out, not just as one of Picasso’s most memorable body of work, but for the story behind it; Picasso was said to have made his wife and mistress fight for him while he finished the painting.

Part of the 30 Day Writing Meme. Next is ‘Day 18: Whatever tickles your fancy’.


To Life, to Art – Badong Bernal

I never worked with Sir Bernal, but it was hard not to know of him.

He designed the set for “Comfort Women” made out of bamboos. The lead actress would be bruised every time they had to go through her rape scene. Director Missy Maramara asked if there was any way to keep her from bruising. Bernal’s retort, “Let her adjust to the set.”

He never hobbled with a cane. He strutted, with confident strides down Gonzaga Hall. Rumor has it, he was sighted without his cane once. Why? “Style.” He said simply.

It was also for that reason he put huge lights in the wings during a ballet performance. Never mind that dancers exited and entered from there and had to watch their step. It was an inconvenience yes, but there was no better way to put light on the full form of the body. You could see it even if you were seated in the last seat of the last row of CCP Main Theater.

For Bawat-Tao (Everyman), he saw a see-saw to describe the delicate balance of life sought by Everyman. Say what you will about Metropolitan Theater Guild’s Midsummer Night’s Dream but most of its magic, I feel, would not be possible without Badong.

He was old-school: he screamed at people till they got it right. He even threw his cane at students. They say, the more he screamed at someone, the more promise that someone actually had. Sure enough, a blockmate that got the brunt of his temper sought him to be her thesis adviser. She did well.

Some other things told to classmates:

“Never allow yourself to be mediocre!”

“To create, you must learn to destroy.”

Difficult lessons that even I take pains to learn, over and over again.

I cried when I found out he had passed. I couldn’t understand why. “Because he is an institution. He’s one of those that made it possible to actually work in theater.” says a good friend, Mahar.

Sure enough, in his passing, there’s a change in the air. There is loss, yet, but then there’s the sense of so much more to come. After all, it’s a vibrant year for local theater.

Besides, another friend quipped, “The good Lord needed someone to manage all the Souls in Soul Parade day. Who else but.”

I can imagine him dressing up the people we love in those rich, Asian-inspired robes.

Love and light, Badong Bernal. R.I.P.

Art as Conversation

My approach to art is to see if it works as a whole. I wasn’t wowed by Mideo Cruz’s “Poleteismo”, but I get it. If the only thing we see is a condom and a dildo over pictures of Jesus and Mary, then the criticism fails.

I overheard a colleague criticize Mideo Cruz’s work as being too controversial, because, “If this were a Middle Eastern country he’d be dead.” Yes, but then the rest of the world goes on to call them barbaric.

“Poleteismo” was shocking, but I wouldn’t say controversial because it is a slice of the real world. I thought what made it more disturbing for other people was the placement of pop culture posters right next to religious imagery. For those who thought it tasteless, I say they haven’t been inside a typical poorhouse where it’s not weird to see FHM posters are put up next to the Last Supper. It’s not about being sacrilegious to them. It’s just decor, it’s their aesthetic. Agree or disagree with it, it’s their concept of “maganda”.

As the debate on reproductive health rages on in the country: Do we also continue to deny that religion, Catholicism in particular, continues to meddle with what should be state issue of reproductive health? Review your facts. The symbolism of “Poleteismo” isn’t even that much of a stretch.

In the time I’ve spent with the arts, I have not seen any government or church body support or uphold a standard for art and aesthetic. I have seen a lot more toned down, even outright banned.

This is what agitates me most about the Mideo Cruz fiasco: why are we so concerned about what shouldn’t be seen, when we haven’t set the foundations for good, local art?

Recommended viewing: “Hamlet 2” by Andrew Fleming.

“It was stupid!” “Yes it was stupid, but it was also theater.”