A post meditation on Rebuke
Rebuke exhibit had run from June 4 – 18, 2010 at the Outer Space Gallery
The Collective, 7274 Malugay Street, Suite B, San Antonio Village, Makati City
By: Noel Sales Barcelona
The recently concluded exhibit—that is the focus of this essay—had this unusual subject: the art of rebuke or the attempt to correct the alleged misdeeds of a person or persons in order to restore that kind of social order or status quo.
Twenty-nine good artists had participated in this attempt to crystallize or concretize this art of “correction”: AJ Omandac, AJ Tuviera Tolentino, Ambie Abano, Bobby Balingit, Buds Convocar, Con Cabrera, Heber Bartolome, Irish Flores, J.Pacena II, Jet Bernal, Katrina Dayrit, Kin Misa, Loren Marquez, Marius Black, Mica Cabildo, Mike Andaya, Niel Marcelino, Niño Hernandez, Noel Pocot, Raul M. Roco Jr, Rayan Ladyong, Recci Bacolor, Rhea Consorio, Salvador Ching, Sarah Geneblazo, Stella Kim, Tomas Leonor, Xander Calcet and Zeus Bascon.
With different artistic, educational and cultural backgrounds, they came up with the different concepts and ideas of how this kind of act, rebuke, can be translated into a work of art, useful not only in decorating one’s hall or room, but also to serve as a contribution to the development of the Philippine contemporary art.
Moral vs. Immoral: an overview
In a predominantly Christian society like the Philippines, many of the people’s “moral” concepts are coming from the Christian dogmas that are mostly condensed from the teachings of the Judeo-Christian Bible or the Words of Christ. In the case of the Muslims, it was the Qur’ān and the teachings of their prophet Muhammad had served as their primary source of moral teachings.
Out of these religious teachings, come the forms or ways that a sin should be reprimanded or rebuked.
However, throughout the years, with the modernization of the world, these standards or barometers of morality had been radically changed. As Marxist thinker and psychologist, Lev Vygotsky once wrote in 1925:
“Moral concepts and ideas vary depending upon the social environment, and what is considered bad at one time and in one place, elsewhere might be considered the greatest of all virtues. And if there are any common features in all these different manifestations of moral consciousness that can be identified, this is only because certain common elements shared by every human society were once part of the social order…” (From the Chapter 12 of Vygotsky’s Educational Psychology)
While the religious barometer remains as the number one standard in shaping the moral and ethical beliefs in the Philippines, modern Filipinos—especially those who belongs to the younger generations—had challenged this. They have come up with the new interpretations of ethics and morality.
This new interpretation had brought forth conflict between the adherers of the old and new moral and ethical standards. While the traditionalists remain firm on their stance that the religious moral and ethical standards is the infallible rule to be used in measuring the goodness or evilness of the human person, the modernists are also firm in insisting that the new order demands the abolition of the said “nonscientific” beliefs and it must be replaced by more scientific ones.
The conflict is being heightened, as anyone might observe, by the imposition of the traditionalists the retention of the old roles of the sexes, the male and the female.
As American psychiatrist and social psychologist Roderic Gorney said in his book, the Human Agenda published in 1972,
Any person’s identity grows in two clusters, those elements that relate to “being” and those that relate to “doing.” In Western culture generally, perhaps building on the biologically greater activity of males, men tend toward psychological orientation around the infinitive “to do,” whereas women tend to be psychologically oriented much more the infinitive “to be.” What woman “is” in terms of her social role defines her much more in her own and others’ eyes than what she “does.”
Practically, the same theory can be applied to a country colonized by the Western countries like the Philippines, wherein gender plays a “specific” role to play in this large stage called society.
New system, new rules
However, as this author has mentioned before, the advent of new social theories had brought forth new interpretations of these roles, hence bringing also new interpretations on how the sexes must act in the light of the coming of the new world or the development of a “modern” society.
But the development of a new order also brings with it a new set of rules and guidelines that the people living under the new system must follow; thus a development or an evolution of the new ways of rebuking the alleged wrongdoings of the “subjects” living under the new rule.
Correcting the error: the ‘aesthetics’ of rebuke
The art of rebuke is the journey to the inner core of the one being rebuked. Will he or she accept the alleged misdeed or not?
For AJ Omandac, it is really a relief to accept the act of rebuke for it will enable the person to review the mistakes and if possible to “rewind” the events in order to restore the lost harmony between the persons who committed the mistake and the one who had been done wrong. The smile in the subject seems to be an evidence of that relief, in his “Rewind” (24” x 24”, acrylic on canvas).
Mythological, AJ Tolentino’s “Lilith and Eve” (24” x 24”, oil on canvas) arouses ones curiosity.
The work is a unique combination of symbols of the Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Mayan and Aztecs, Greek and Jewish mythologies. This is a unique one, this reviewer can say, for it symbolizes both the end (death) and the start (life), wisdom and folly, and the fulfillment and emptiness.
Lilith, in the Jewish and Mesopotamian and Acadian, is a female demon, a symbol of beauty yet of barrenness for she cannot bore any child. That is why, she is being associated with the desert and the wind blowing in that wide area where water is scarce and only few beings can survive.
However, Lilith’s sexual appetite can also be considered as a liberating as much as a tying force.
Eve, on the other hand, is actually the complete opposite of the Lilith being mother of all the living. Yet her “defiance” to the Law of Yahweh regarding the no consumption of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil had hindered her to enjoy the bounty of the Garden of Eden (Cf. Genesis 3: 1 – 21, the King James Version of the Bible).
These observations by this reviewer have seemed to be supported by the two mythical animals that serve as the background of this wonderful work, the owl and the cat: the former symbolizes destruction and death in the Mayan and Aztec traditions while the latter, symbolizes aggression and fierceness, being the representative of the Egyptian goddess Bast (or Bastet).
As this author has discussed before, the current system disallows women to become aggressive. Being sensual is seen to be promiscuous; therefore, being sexually active is considered a violation of the “natural” laws. Hereby, women are expected to be tamed, timid, shy, mothering, unassertive, and submissive. Nevertheless, the violation of such law or falling short to the given “moral” standards warrants a reprimand, a rebuke from the persons considered as authorities.
On the other hand, there is a hidden wisdom on this painting that one should know: that in every mistake or error corrected, there comes perfection and fulfillment.
Confronting one’s mistakes or misdeeds, or accepting one’s imperfection, seems to be the subject of Ambie Abano’s “Looking Within, Seeing Beyond” (woodcut, 49 x 49 cm). The confrontation could be a painful or an easy one. Will I accept or not accept the mistakes or misdeeds or weaknesses that are being accused to me? Whatever the case maybe, one should reflect on the consequences of such acceptance or denial.
The message of Bobby Balingit’s “Tong Kyongyang” (mixed media) is simple: play by the rules or lose. In order to achieve happiness or contentment without the feeling of guilt or remorse, one must not go beyond the rules. One must stick to the rule in order preserve that harmonious order of nature (as symbolized by the stick and the ball and the obstacles or nails that serve as the path to your goal).
Buds Convocar’s “Power of Faith against the 7 Deadly Sins” also communicates that simple message of having a genuine faith in your heart, trusting the Lord with all your heart, with your entire mind and your whole strength; and loving your neighbor as yourself: The Golden Rule that the biblical Christ had taught all subjects of the Christian religion, in order to protect oneself against the powers of evil (Cf. Matthew 22: 34 – 40).
Meanwhile, Con Cabrera’s “Faux Romantic” (24” x 24”, acrylic on wood) depicts the wrongness of incorporating falsehood in any relationship. If one had violated this cardinal rule of the heart, he or she must be dealt accordingly.
Will you be tempted by your desires or not? This seems to be the question that J. Pacena II wants to raise with his “A piece of strawberry green tea flavored ice cream cake”, 24” x 24”, mixed media).
Knowing his background as an activist/artist during the Marcos era, Heber Bartolome’s work, “Untitled” (24” x 24”, acrylic on canvas) seems to invite us to rebel against the wrong system by using creative means. In Bartolome’s case, it was music that served as his tool to expose and rebuke the wrongs in the Philippine society.
Irish Flores’s “Waiting for My Hero to come” (24” x 24”, acrylic on canvas), depicts that spark of hope that soon, every wrongdoing in the society, soon, will be rebuked and reprimanded.
Of course, being reprimanded can also cause pain. This could be the reason behind the child’s facial expression in Jet Bernal’s “Hikbi” (sob) (24” x 24”in, oil on burlap sack).
The surreal work of Katrina Dayrit, which has been remained untitled (24” x 24”, mixed media) is can be interpreted of the mixed feeling of remorse, revenge, hurting, and healing. Amidst the chaos, there is an order as depicted by the bright yellow light, at the background of the painting of mixed colors of blue, purple, red and green. Only if one can give way to that act of correction, and everything will be restored into order, everything will be bright again.
Kin Misa’s “Fight or Flight” (24” x 24” rust on canvas) is an act of war against the so called “bird of evil.”
One of the most interesting pieces in the exhibit is Loren Marquez’s “Protest.” The little girl, who serves as the main subject, holding a placard stating “No Live Action My Little Pony Movie,” the other placards in the bucket and the warning sign at the right hand of the little girl, is but a manifestation of protest against the “robbing” of innocence of little children. It could also mean an act of self-censorship, in order to prevent that unwarranted reprimand against “inappropriate” actions.
Marius Black’s “Deconstruction of Human,” (24” x 24” oil on wood) is also a very interesting piece in the concluded exhibit. Though the picture literally “deconstructs” the woman’s body, the symbolism is very moving: One must deconstruct one’s soul (thoroughly examine one’s conscience) in order to understand its complexity and restore it or reconstruct it to be able to make it whole again (correction of one’s wrongdoing).
The message, at first glance, may look negative but Mica Cabildo’s “Regret is Useless,” (24” x 24”, crochet cotton, canvas, acrylic, cotton fabric, polyester thread) is a positive one. Regret, or feeling of remorse, is actually—based on real experiences of this author—the very first step in order to facilitate the healing between the person that has committed the mistake and the other person who had been aversely affected by such misdeed.
Silencing as a form of rebuke is the central theme of Mike Andaya’s “Rebuke.” This 24” x 24”, digital print on canvas, has also another meaning: the political, that shows how fascism can serve as a tool by the State in order to “rebuke” the so-called dissidents.
Is Niel Marcelino’s “Silent Scream” (24” x 24”in, mixed media) a testament of guilt or anger against iniquity? What about Niño Hernandez’s “Harbor in the Tempest” (24” x 24”, acrylic on canvas)? Does it mean that everyone can take refuge on the “rule” in order not to be reprimanded? Or one must change the standards in order to make the rules more correct?
A political statement, Noel Pocot’s “Rebuking Hello Garci” (24” x 24”, mixed media in wood panel), is continuously rebuking the sinning of the past government. However, justice seems to be elusive.
Raul Roco Jr.’s “twins” “Bright Colors in a Dark Day” and “Do You See the Light?” (Both are 24” x 24”in mixed media) carry a very positive meaning: there is always a bright side of things.
Recci Bacolor’s “Outside, Looking In” is a retrospection and introspection of the consequences of a misdeed. It also could mean a warning for a future misdeed as the eye looks like giving that sharp, stabbing look against a (future?) decadent.
“Eto’ng Sa’yo” (roughly translated as “This one’s for you!” 24” x 24”, mixed media) by Rhea Cosorio, is actually a protest against the “standard” norm. This mischievous painting is indeed, a good piece to add in one’s collection.
Waiting for salvation or the justice-giver is the central message of Salvador Ching’s “Paghihintay” (Waiting, 24” x 24”in, acrylic and graphite).
Mystical indeed, Sarah Geneblazo’s “The Imitation in Form,” (24” x 24” oil on canvas) is a very good piece to discuss. The deformed womanlike figure in the middle of the canvas has a lot of things to say. It could be a defilement of a once perfect being, or it could be a defiance of the norms, perceived to be unjust and incorrect itself.
The painting could also mean denial of such misdeed, whatever it is as the figure had eyes closed and neck is twisted in 180 degrees. Or it can also mean another thing?
However, one thing is for sure: Geneblazo’s work invites us to reexamine ourselves in order find that truth.
Denial of misdeed or “sin” is exactly what Stella Kim (Sue Jean), is trying to communicate with her beautiful painting “I Didn’t Do That” (24” x 24”, oil on canvas). Every one of us, in one time or another, does that in order to prevent reproach.
An open rebuke is better than hidden love (Proverbs 27: 5). Love doesn’t permit wrongdoing; it exposes and correct them (1 Corinthians 13: 6). That is the central message of Xander Calceta’s “Better than Hidden love” (24” x 24”, oil on burlap sack).
Another “biblical” painting is Zeus Bascon’s “Una sa Lahat, Tingnan Muna ang Sarili” (Examine your self, first; 24” x 24” mixed media in canvas, mounted in wood and frame). Based on Jesus’ own words: “Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37, New International Version).
However, this does not mean that you will just kept mum on the evils that are plaguing your society. Or you will let the sinning of your brother or sister, just continue. What the Lord means, do not be self-righteous… period.
This exhibit is unique not because of its theme; but due to the diversity of the ideas on how to present the art of correction or reprimand, in a canvas or any other medium.
And what made the works more interesting? Is the sincerity of the artists to counter whatever they perceive wrong or irregular with their environment and trying to get them corrected by presenting a strong message with their artworks (Written for the American Chronicle – Beverly Hills, CA).