NEW YORK CITY |  September 21, 2012 marks the 40th anniversary of the signing of Proclamation no. 1081. This proclamation was the declaration of martial law in the Philippines by the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos. It was actually signed on September 17, but was postdated four days later on September 21 because of Marcos’s superstitions and numerology beliefs. After martial law came into effect, it was formally announced to the public two days later, at midnight on September 23, 1972, via a live national television broadcast.

That martial law era, which lasted almost a decade, is the subject of a three-for-one “re-collection” by three artists who will gather in the mid-afternoon of Sunday September 9 at a Sunnyside gallery in Queens, New York.  (Complete details and information can be found at the end of this article.)

The event will take place at Bliss on Bliss Art Projects (www.blissonblissstudio.com). It consists of “Inconspicuously Consumed,” an exhibition by Eric De Leon Zamuco; “In Memoriam,” an installation and performance piece by Jeho Bitancor; and “The Day Manila Fell Silent,” a salon-style talk by transnational writer Ninotchka Rosca, the author of Endgame: The Fall of Marcos. Each artist will reflect, reminisce and recollect, in their respective ways, the events of that infamous day in Philippine history.

"Inconspicuously Consumed," an exhibition by Eric De Leon Zamuco
“Inconspicuously Consumed,” an exhibition by Eric De Leon Zamuco

“Inconspicuously Consumed” refers to three installations (two for the walls and one floor piece), each one created out of gilded paper and gilded objects. Eric De Leon Zamuco, who relocated from Manila to Missouri in 2005 and then to Massachusetts in 2009, has been working on the show for the past two months.

“My body of work has revolved around themes that include identity, belief, home and place,” Zamuco says. “I did the tourist rounds of a few historical mansions, hours from where I live and saw these massive dwellings, walls and ceilings gilded in silver, gold and platinum. The motivation to silver-leaf began here, with the interest in the associations of the process to history, religious iconography and ostentation.”

The title of Zamuco’s exhibit refers to a term coined by the sociologist Thorstein Veblen. “It was this public display of wealth in America in the 19th century that led Veblen to coin the term ‘conspicuous consumption,’ ” Zamuco explains. “In contrast, the inconspicuous in the installation is now a collection of gilded ordinary things and personal effects.”

His exhibit offers a subtle reference to the history of martial law in the Philippines. “It starts at the center of the space, where a gilded miniature chair and revolving tray are arranged,” he says. “The single light source, directly above the objects suggest an interrogation space. It questions an era, wherein the fierce rule of a few was rooted in its own level of ostentation. On the two wall installations, I silver-leafed images and forms on grounds that are (though not obvious) drawn from information on torture.”

Zamuco says that his work functions as both social commentary and self-critique, with the intention of transforming the commonplace, pulling the immaterial from banality and, perhaps, drawing “knowledge for some kind of human order.”

"In Memoriam," an installation and performance piece by Jeho Bitancor
“In Memoriam,” an installation and performance piece by Jeho Bitancor

Jeho Bitancor, a painter who created the installation performance “In Memoriam,” emerged in the 1980s as a quasi-surrealist with his early explorations in art. Eventually he moved on to social realist paintings. His breakthrough works, often personal and contemplative, engage with the themes of society, the Filipino diaspora and other nexus of issues, experiences and thoughts.  In 2006, Bitancor was named Cultural Centre of the Philippines Thirteen Artists Awardee. He has exhibited extensively in the Philippines, Singapore, USA, Malaysia, Thailand and Hong Kong. He was trained in the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts (1984-1992), and the New York City Art Student’s League (1997). He is collected by the Singapore Art Museum, Ateneo Art Gallery, National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Aurora Provincial Government, Museo de Baler, as well as several private collectors.

Author Ninotchka Rosca adds that in her salon talk, she will describe the day martial law was declared and “the overt psychological impact it had on people.”

She continues, “I’d like to think that all three events are connected thematically, though the other two artists are younger and may have different perspectives on martial law. I hope that people will gain an understanding of the origins of warlordism, dynasties, impunity, etc., and how our national refusal to deal with the Marcoses has allowed these spawns of martial law to continue.”

State of War (novel)

Rosca, a novelist, short story writer and activist, was a political prisoner during those Marcos years. She was forced into exile to Hawaii and was threatened with a second arrest for her human rights activism. Rosca was designated as one of the 12 Asian-American Women of Hope by the Bread and Roses Cultural Project. These women were chosen by scholars and community leaders as role models for young people of color, who, in the words of Gloria Steinem, “have been denied the knowledge that greatness looks like them.”

Bliss on Bliss Studio is a cross-cultural center for the arts located in the historic Queens neighborhood of Sunnyside. It focuses on new work by contemporary artists, writers, filmmakers, scholars, performers, and arts educators based in that borough.

Under the pretext of a staged assassination of his former Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and an ensuing communist insurgency, Marcos ruled by military power through martial law, altered the Constitution in the subsequent year and made himself both Head of State as President and Head of Government as Prime Minister.

Marcos also manipulated elections and the political arena in the Philippines, and had his political party (Kilusang Bagong Lipunan or KBL which translated into English as New Society Movement) control the unicameral legislative branch of government called the “Batasang Pambansa.” All these allowed Marcos to remain in power. Martial law was lifted by President Marcos on January 17, 1981. — randy gener, in the theater of One World

"The Day Manila Fell Silent," a salon-style talk by transnational writer Ninotchka Rosca,
“The Day Manila Fell Silent,” a salon-style talk by transnational writer Ninotchka Rosca,

BLISS ON BLISS ART PROJECT
presents

Proclamation 1081 “A re-collection”
a triple commemoration

Sunday Sept. 9, 2012

2:00PM Opening Artist reception | “Inconspicuously Consumed” By Eric De Leon Zamucoag
3:00PM Performance installation | “In Memoriam” by Jeho Bitancor
4:00PM Salon style talk | “The Day Manila Fell Silent” by Ninotchka Rosca, 1993 American Book Award recipient and author of “Endgame : The Fall of Marcos”

RSVP to bliss [at] blissonblissstudio.com
Seating is limited

Sunday Express newspaper headline "FM Declares Martial Law"
Sunday Express newspaper headline “FM Declares Martial Law”
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4 thoughts on “Queens arts gallery remembers Philippine martial law

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