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Filipino artist archives country and life from dramatic to the mundane

Aug 06,2019
Left: One of Buen Calubayan’s hammock installations at his exhibition “Landscape, Museum, Household: A Sweeper’s Guide.” Right: A scene from video work “Feast of the Black Nazarene” (2012), based on an annual festival. [ARARIO GALLERY]
A solo exhibition by a Filipino artist is offering visitors insight into the country’s history and traditions.

Buen Calubayan is the star of “Landscape, Museum, Household: A Sweeper’s Guide,” an assorted collection of the artist’s archives, paintings, media and installation works now being held at Arario Gallery at the RYSE Hotel in Hongdae, western Seoul.

At the gallery’s entrance is a large video projection featuring thousands of people on the street all struggling to reach for something. Titled “Feast of the Black Nazarene” (2012), the video is actual footage from the annual celebration of the same name.

The Philippine Revolution of the late 19th century, which was fought against Spanish colonizers, is another topic heavily featured in works at “A Sweeper’s Guide.”

Most notable is “Pasyon and Revolution: Light and Brotherhood” (2019), a paper hammock made entirely from pages of “Pasyon and Revolution” (1979) by Reynaldo Ileto. A video shows Calubayan meticulously piecing the paper together.

“The process involved meditation and contemplating,” Calubayan explained during a press briefing at the Arario Gallery last Thursday. “Weaving is a process of merging all these stories with the past and the people I work with. I search for my place in this historical narrative.”

“The image of the hammock is a handy shelter and offers comfort, but at the same time it is an image of a net and a trap,” Calubayan added.

A small section of the gallery is dedicated to recreating the experience of Mount Banahaw, where revolutionaries hid from enemies, through images and texts found in the mountain.

The rest of the exhibition is dedicated to the artists’ paintings and written notes produced while working as a researcher at the National Museum of the Philippines and “performing everyday activities akin to a sweeper who has to envision the picturesque through the ergonomics of work.”

Over 300 pages Calubayan wrote on his daily life, like when he caught the bus or had a meal, cover one wall.

“Archiving is important because you can see things from afar. But you do it to get nearer, study and interpret, and bring it to examination,” Calubayan said.

BY KIM EUN-JIN [kim.eunjin1@joongang.co.kr]

The exhibition runs through Nov. 10. The gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. except Mondays. Entry is free.