27 January 2008

The Cesare Syjuco

The Year:
Sometime in 1993

The Exhibit:
The ArtLab's Wall-less Gallery

The Scene:
The empty basement space of MAC.
The artists started to arrive.
Works were slowly unloaded from vans, cars, trucks, etc.
I saw the bulk of the items: leaves, bricks, tree trunk, etc.
I told the staff to have an early lunch.
I knew it will be a long day. . .

Day 1
The works were all unloaded and waiting for installation.
The artists were milling about, smoking and drinking.
Then they all went home.

Day 2
More works were unloaded.
No installations yet.
More smoking and drinking.
They all went home without installing.

Day 3
More works unloaded.
More smoking and drinking.

By the afternoon of the same day, one of the artists went up to me and pleaded to step in with my curatorial authority and demand the installation of the exhibit. I smiled helplessly. Although I curate and do the layout of most of the exhibitions at that art space, I normally work (collaborate) with the artist/artists and in some instance the guest curator/s. This particular exhibition happen to have its own Curator in the person of Cesare Syjuco. Cesare was also one of the artists in that exhibition. I respect curatorial authority and unless I'm asked, I will not meddle in the installation or screening of the exhibit.

But sensing that there might be problems in the ingress proceedings, I went to the basement to check. A whole pile of objects stood waiting along the walls of the space. The artists stood in one area watching the empty space. I almost laughed out loud but three days is not exactly a laughing matter considering I mount major exhibitions in that huge space in one day!

I was asked for my suggestion and I computed works and number of artists and made several possible layouts. I called my lone gallery hand and together we started installing panel walls for the artists to see. After moving the panels several times, a consensus was called and the artists started claiming their spaces. And the installation began . . . and what came out made the three days of suspenseful waiting worth it!

The ArtLab's Wallless Gallery exhibit was one of the most exciting and highly visited exhibitions at MAC that year. The exhibit has gone on tours to different sites and yet people kept coming in droves. Children and students came in buses and on foot! It was one of those rare major exhibitions where people can touch and interact with the artworks on exhibit! And the controversy most of the works generated was as astounding as only the brilliant minds of a true artist can produce. Audiences were awed and asked themselves what they were seeing. Is this art? For they never experienced or seen anything like these works in most galleries.

But such is the magic of Cesare Syjuco, one of the most acclaimed Filipino multi-media artists of our time, Cesare is a painter, poet and art critic who is a TOYM (Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines) awardee for Art and Culture Advancement, The Gerry Roxas Foundation Presidential Award for Outstanding Achievement in the arts, the Cultural Center of the Philippines Gawad CCP sa Sining Biswal, the Art Association of the Philippines Grand Prize and Gold Medal for Painting, the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature in English Poetry, the UNESCO Paris Gold Medals for Photography and Design, the Catholic Mass Media Awards for Outstanding Filipino Communicator, and the first Purita Kalaw-Ledesma Award for Art Criticism, among many others.

I salute his genius. Check his works: