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Saturday, January 28, 2012

A WARRIOR’S ART


A warrior's art
By Wilson Lee Flores (The Philippine Star)
Updated January 23, 2012 12:00 AM

Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one. — Stella Adler

MANILA, Philippines - Recently, this writer and art lover learned from Drawing Room curator-owner Cesar “Jun” Villalon Jr. that sculptor-painter-musician Lirio Salvador met a near-fatal accident with a motorcycle hitting him in Dasmariñas, Cavite last Dec. 30. He continues to be confined at the intensive care unit (ICU) of UMC La Salle Dasmariñas Cavite.

Before this accident, the 43-year-old multi-disciplinary artist Salvador was given a grant by the Asian Cultural Council (ACC) in New York City for a half-year residency program there which was supposed to start end of this month January.

Salvador and the Elemento music band he founded were also supposed to perform from Jan. 12 to 15 at the recently-concluded Art Stage Singapore event in the Marina Bay Sands complex. Lirio is founder of the Elemento band, which specializes in experimental music. The musical instruments the band uses were all personally made by Salvador.

Salvador’s unique sculpture exhibit “Sandata” was originally scheduled for Jan. 19 to Feb. 25 at the Vargas Museum of University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City. It successfully pushed through at 4:30 p.m. of Jan. 19, without his presence.

One of those who heard this news of the accident is National Artist BenCab based in Baguio City, and he donated his beautiful 2007 nude painting for sale through Lirio’s home gallery The Drawing Room in Makati City in order to raise funds for the latter’s huge medical expenses. BenCab is a friend of Lirio Salvador.

Other artists who followed suit and donated their art works for The Drawing Room fund-raising for Lirio Salvador included Kiko Escora, Alfredo Aquilizan, Troy Ignacio, Riel Hilario, Diokno Pasilan and others. This writer had purchased the BenCab and Escora works to support this fund-raising project. Jun Villalon said other groups are also doing their own fund-raising projects to help this artist.

Regarding the art exhibit of Lirio Salvador at UP’s Vargas Museum, let me share an essay by top art critic Patrick D. Flores:


“Zatoichi San” by Lirio Salvador and “Sandata ni Lirio 3”


Heavy Metal
By Patrick D. Flores

The allure of the object — its conspicuous, all-over luster — is sheer exterior. But it is material to its intimacy, mainly because it draws us to it, it makes us want to touch it, to even play it. Its tactility prompts us to have it and to hold it. After all, it is not only object, it is instrument that creates sound, charged with electrical current, and amplified for a mass to hear.

For Lirio Salvador, the confluence between visual art and music is intrinsic in the production of visual and musical form, with his own performance crossing the needless gap so that the object of art and the event of performing turn into a complex aesthetic effort, surely with all its syncopations.

Here lies the beauty of this fusion, or better still, confusion, which is the basis of all compelling art: the ability to defy predetermination and to prevent things from falling into place. Is it guitar or cello or sitar, or is it sculpture? Is he displaying an artifact or composing sound from it? Or is he staging both as an encounter of these seemingly disparate elements?

The initial temptation is to say “sheen.” It is not only veneer; it is also the promise of a material to relatively withstand nature. It appears stainless; it does not corrode supposedly, it refuses to be eaten away by rust. It may actually be chrome-plated. Whatever its constitution is, the impression it conveys is one of defiance against degradation, the unruly consequences of time and nature and the welter of the world on the whole.

Moreover, it is also a sign of “quality,” which is parlayed into the market of commodities as an important attribute. Being so, the stainless effect or the chrome-like coolness is an aspiration of the consumer to gain access to objects that define a particular capacity and, therefore, status. It signifies a shift in this economy that is also a shift in the technology of production and the cultivation of taste and affectation. Its mass production has in time made it a global merchandise, replacing the “traditional” utensil, for instance, and filling the shelves of stores. It has become ubiquitous.

But this is just carapace. For this sheen is tempered by the commonplace of the “surplus.” The artist unsettles our expectation of the “brand new.” His materials are gathered from different places, re-functioned from their original mechanisms, pirated from their authentic intentions. They are surplus, that is, excess or discard. They are ready-made spoons and forks, they are bike parts, gears, pipes, faucets, trays, kitchen ware, and the like — perspicaciously melded and cobbled together, hewn to streamlined fantasy.

These pieces are unique, therefore, not because they are singular, but because they are amalgam of mass-produced objects, which are then disaggregated from their contrivances and assembly lines to become a wonderful admixture of, again, con-fused factures. In the end, such sense of surplus generates a paradoxical whimsy of an industrial sensorium, on the one hand, and a folksy, improvised thingamajig, on the other. While the music it makes is acutely urban, experimental, and catatonic, its form is intricate, invested with ornament, baroque in its silver embellishments, in fact swarming like molten matter.

Think of the jeepney as a cognate proposition, previously a wartime vehicle morphing into a popular public transport in the present, heavily — ebulliently —adorned by painting and graphics, plying the most rugged and labyrinthine of routes in both metropolis and hinterland. It is the Filipino pasada, its past and its path, paved with a history of reconversions of the equipment of empire.

Finally, with “sheen” and “surplus” crafting a form that is on the border or boundary of anticipations, the “spectacle” of the artist performing with these inventions configures a milieu of interaction not only in terms of techniques mingling but also of people congregating for both the visuality and musicality of the erstwhile isolated, quotidian “object.” It is this greater assemblage that matters in the end: that the artist dissolves the sedimentations of preconceptions and recovers the possibilities of the inner dynamism residing in forms and how they could provoke action, the decision, the responsibility of the body to act on an aesthetic situation brought forth by an artifice of marvel. Moreover, it is a meditation on the machine, as some modern artists of the historical avant-garde had accomplished, the prospects of its penetration and malleability.

There is, surely, mimicry infused into this enterprise to the degree that the musical instrument is re-soldered, made to look like the norm, although idiosyncratically encrusted. Having said that, there is also a heady and sensitive understanding of the idiom of music, described by commentators as “atonal random electronica,” and how it is articulated through certain tools like the magnetic pick-up, the resonator, the synthesizer, and the amplifier. Place all this in the milieu of a gig with his band Elemento or with an orchestra in attendance as what happened in an American neoclassical auditorium in Pangasinan, and the outcome is thrilling — sterling and sonic bricolage.

The prospects of this innovative practice are myriad, and Salvador, — honed in a working class school in the belly of the city and living in a province of onerous free-trade zones — is a rare species in this art world. Gabriel Barredo’s ornate and sometimes mesmerizing scenographies are kindred endeavors. But his only peer in this pursuit is Diokno Pasilan, himself a musician and migrant who designs instruments from boats and performs in communities across the islands. The intersection between the visual and the musical, the industrial and the folk lies at the transdisciplinary talent of the artist who ensures a wider scope of making and making people move.

And if we reflect on the process of how material and affect converge, we will inevitably be led to how particles of the alloy used in plating everyday objects are ingested in our systems through the food we eat and the vessels on which they are served and how the waves of sound pervade the air that becomes our rhythm to which we dream.

These subtleties of permeation, of how specks and strings of metal and music come to belong to our substance prove to be Lirio Salvador’s sandata. It is translated as weapon of sound constructions in the bellum against monotony. It is defense against the decomposition of modernity. It is reverie against the cynicism of consumption. It is a warrior’s art.

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