This Is Art Fair Philippines' Most Provocative and Chilling Exhibit
I sit on the lone chair inside the booth. Twelve-year-old Christine’s soft voice crackles from a speaker over my head. “Nakatira
The recording is played directly above a blue armchair defiled by a single bullet hole, where Christine's father was actually shot. A projection of a girl speaking, presumably Christine, plays across. This case is just one of many that Everyday Impunity chose to highlight at their Art Fair installation called “Ang Mga Walang Pangalan.”
Curated by Erwin Romulo, with photography by Carlo Gabuco, music by Juan Miguel Sobrepeña, sound system design by Mark Laccay, and lighting design by Lyle Sacris, the chilling exhibit is set in a dimly lit room at the fair’s venue. The entire left side of the wall displays hundreds of Gabuco’s photos of various killings and the bloody aftermath of the president’s war on drugs. To recreate the feeling of stepping into a crime scene, Sacris hung up a few dangling lights that rotated and flickered, while Sobrepeña provided an eerie background noise to accompany the heart-wrenching scene in each of the photos and Laccay designed the sound system, which played Christine's voice recording.
Erwin Romulo, Carlo Gabuco, Mark Laccay, Juan Miguel Sobrepeña, and Lyle Sacris
Curator Erwin Romulo and Juan Miguel Sobrepeña explain the exhibit to fairgoers.
Gabuco took to the streets for two years, documenting the killings, which would usually occur at night in urban poor neighborhoods such as Christine’s in Payatas. His assignments would carry on until the next day when the family of the deceased would mourn, hold wakes, and plan funerals for their loved ones. “There was a pattern. Their faces were wrapped and there was cardboard,” Gabuco tells Town&Country. It was in July 2016 that he first decided to reveal the stories of these unfortunate victims by documenting the injustices brought upon them.
Gabuco's photos displayed at Art Fair.
The visual artist is very vocal about his long-term project, posting photos on an Instagram account called Everyday Impunity and on his own website. While his risky work has been recognized internationally and won him a grant from the Magnum Foundation Fund, Gabuco chooses to focus his camera on the trail of devastated families these killings have left behind. “This is not just a story about a war nor politics. This is a story about change and its high cost,” Gabuco once told photography website Invisible Photographer.
In most of the cases, Gabuco noticed a recurring theme that seems unthinkable to those oblivious to the happenings—a theme that centered on an overpowering sense of poverty. “They’re poor. They didn’t have money to bury their dead and they’re scared,” he says. “They feel vulnerable and at the same time, neglected and helpless.” He recounts that because of this fear and helplessness, there are cases when the families would not even bury their dead or claim the bodies anymore.
Gabuco admits that he has felt unsafe “several times” but the families and the people surrounding the EJK victims are in a more vulnerable state. “We’re protected,” he stresses. They’re not.