enKWENTrO: Mga Kwento ng Enkwentro
by Toym Imao
Installation of “Barikada” and “Muebles”
“enKWENTrO” is a two-part art installation which consists of “Barikada” which is made of bamboo, repurposed condemned/old campus furniture, components from past installations, particularly coming from “Nagbabadyang Unos” (Gathering Storm) in 2020. Assembled and painted red, they form two towering barricades in the Oblation Plaza, near the actual barricades set up by students in 1971.
“Barikada” is the descended form of “Nagbabadyang Unos,” a suspended artwork that represents the protests and mobilizations that started on the historic steps of Palma Hall in 1970 during the First Quarter Storm and culminated in the siege of the university in 1971 during the Diliman Commune with the barricades that were set up by students and the UP community along the main portals of the campus. Barikada, with its bamboo components and hanging messages and stories embedded in the installation, is also a homage to the artist Jose Luis Yee or Junyee’s art installation “Balag” made of the same materials, and constructed during the year of the First Quarter Storm. That important work is technically the first art installation done in UP Diliman 50 years ago by an artist who is acknowledged as the pioneer of installation art in the Philippines.
“Muebles”, which means either furniture or apparatus, refer to around 50 upcycled class tables, student’s desks, and chairs wherein sculptural relief and in-the-round components are embedded in the furniture to represent narratives from events leading to the Diliman Commune of 1971. These sculptural elements were inspired from actual documented accounts and events during the early years of the Marcos dictatorship. The concept of this collection of specially designed furniture is to represent the classroom as not only a sacred space of learning but also a venue for one’s awakening into the painful histories and realities of a nation. For a period of three days before February 1 (the first day of the Diliman Commune) these muebles will travel from three separate points in the campus – the centers of mobilizations of students: the Palma and Melchor Hall Steps, and the Vinzons Hall Plaza (where the monument of Andres Bonifacio is located). These “travelling” muebles will be documented with photographs and caption stories along the empty roads, street corners, steps, and buildings of the campus and will culminate with their final placement within the “Barikada” installation at the Oblation plaza.
When we did “Nagbabadyang Unos” in 2020, it was a work that was supposed to represent the gathering ferment and dissent in 1970 that eventually led to the Diliman Commune of 1971 and the declaration of Martial Law in 1972. Little did we know that it was in a way “prophetic” because on the next day, when we took down the installation, a sudden pandemic lockdown was declared. We didn’t even have the time to collect some of the components of the dismantled work since we were shut out from the campus. These leftover materials we were only able to retrieve months after and were used during the 2020 UPD Pailaw program and for “Barikada” this year.
The “Unos” became the pandemic, and amidst a nationwide lockdown, Malacañang was able to flex its authoritarian policies under the guise of managing an outbreak.
“Barikada” was planned since the start of the 1st quarter of 2020 before the pandemic and continued in the late 3rd quarter when lockdown restrictions were eased. We started with the actual installation preparations and mobilizing for the artwork last January 18 by securing the site and staking locations the following day. We were informed on the evening of our first day of preparations with the news that the UP-DND Accord was unilaterally abrogated by the state.
Barikada now not only represents a commemoration of the Diliman Commune but becomes an essential visual response to current developments concerning the university and state forces. Just overnight, it is transformed from an artwork that was meant to remind us of the past but has morphed into a protest art installation for the present, a pièce de resistance that accompanies the call to #DefendUP and academic freedom by the UP community of alumni, faculty, students and staff.
“enKWENTrO” is the 2nd phase of a proposed three year commemoration that started with “Nagbabadyang Unos” in 2020 and “Batas Militar” in 2022 for the 50th anniversary of the declaration of Proclamation 1081 placing the entire Philippines under Martial Law in 1972.