Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Professional Shiznit 1

The River Rising

By Maria Azuza Sta. Maria


It is always interesting to witness a reversal of roles, most especially when it carries a great deal of significance. We often hear of stories such as children raising their parents and unsuspecting mentors learning a thing or two to from the most improbable pupil. The insights we gather when we hear such tales are nourishing. Through them, we are left with a clear sense of growth and renewal. This time, it is a story of how the role of art transcends that of mimicry and capture. The tables are turned by the art community through putting a different spin on the saying "art imitates life." The three-day affair that is Artists for Pasig River goes beyond imitation; it aims to nurse and resurrect what was once the lifeblood of Manila.


A River Lost: Invisibility Versus Awareness


To rescue the Pasig River from melding into the background of the modern city, Manila Contemporary in partnership with its neighboring art gallery, Silverlens, and the 10.10.10 Pasig Run Committee, spearheaded Artists for Pasig River which runs from October 1 to 3. Its soul predecessor, Art Flood 2009, which was geared towards relief operations for the benefit of typhoon Ondoy flood victims, brought in an overwhelming P180,000. This heartwarming response paved the way for the inception of Artists for Pasig River with the intention of doubling the previous fundraiser's contribution.


The art market, which is a venue for donor artists and art collectors to converge and sell modern and contemporary works of art, remains true to the idea of "art flood" by making viewers, supporters, and benefactors shift their attention to the Pasig River. This year's proceeds will be granted to KBPIP (Kapit Bisig para sa Ilog Pasig) and will be used to rehabilitate the Pasig River and its tributaries.


The 25 kilometer stretch of the Pasig River, which connects Laguna de Bay to Manila Bay, has been famed and revered for its beauty. Aside from being well-known because of its splendor, the river was the city's economic hub, serving as a life source to what would later become a sprawling metropolis. The Ilog Pasig, as Manilenos fondly call it, is also witness to many historical changes. Once considered a prominent transport route in Colonial Spanish Manila, many structures such as the walled city of Intramuros, Malacanang Palace, and the Hospicio de San Jose have aligned themselves by the river. It is undeniable that the Pasig River has had its share of glory before it faded into the background of urbanized Manila.



A Flood of Art for the River


            Day one of Artists for Pasig River is the unveiling of Artflood 2010 at Silverlens Gallery. Upon entering the venue, one can't help but notice that the paintings offer a visceral assault, thanks to their diversity in style, subject, and color. The fact that the gallery is simple and white makes everything pop out. Before conception, each artwork started from a blank canvas. Now, the gallery assumes the role of blank canvas---another role reversal to illustrate how art and life are not far removed from each other if a clear purpose is spoken of. "This year's works are from a diverse mix of artists," says Neli Go of Silverlens. "There's no artist who is more popular than another. Each of them simply wants to go out and support the cause in any way they could." While the pieces of this year's exhibit are made up of an eclectic mix, they all work towards a common goal which is to bring in funds for the KBPIP. Donor artists include Hermes Alegre, Ina Ayala, Henri Cainglet, Bea Camacho, Mariano Ching, Charlie Co, Jigger Cruz, Corrine de San Jose, Emmanuel Garibay, Antonio Leano, Jason Oliveria, Jet Pascua, Sam Penaso, Ian Quiranle, Norberto Roldan, Pepper Roxas, Mark Salvatus, Frederico Sievert, Wire Tuazon, Gail Vicente, and William Yu just to name a few. The number of artists who participated makes the flow of support for the cause evident.


A more intimate affair is prepared in Manila Contemporary's gallery for the second day of the art market. In collaboration with Silverlens and Margarita Fores of Cibo d M, River of our Dreams, is made possible. The solo exhibition of fifteen photographs taken by lensman Frankie Callaghan depicts the Pasig River as an elusive beauty. Taken from different vantage points in Manila, the photographer wished to imbibe the river with presence and identity. No longer used as a backdrop for the city, the Pasig River is now made the subject of each photograph, making viewers pay close attention to it. The exhibit's title, which was derived from a slogan on a bridge passing through the river, is just apt: from once being a source of dreams for many, it is now our dream to bring the river back to its former state of being pristine and alive.


The third day of Artists for Pasig River is the final day of registration for the Pasig Run 10.10.10 in Manila Contemporary. Day three of Artists for Pasig River offers 10.10.10 participants more ways of supporting the cause other than running for the Pasig river. Runners were given the option of viewing River of Our Dreams, visiting Silverlens for Artflood 2010, and shopping at Manila Contemporary's monthly organic market, which coincides with the event. The 10.10.10 run seeks to invite runners from schools, corporations, and government offices to unite for the rehabilitation of the river.


Art Flood 2010 proved to be a well-attended event, showing that the Pasig River is slowly being rescued from invisibility. Through the different works of art, awareness about the river and its importance was brought back into the spotlight--- art no longer imitates life, but gives life, paving the way for a river, rising.


(Professional Writing Sample, October 10, 2010)


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