Arts & Culture

"Barado," Inspired by Manila Traffic, Tells the Stories of Nine Lives Stuck in Transit

Enzo Razon curates the brilliant maiden exhibit by Tarzeer Pictures.
IMAGE IAN SANTOS
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Consider the rush hour traffic along EDSA as a microcosm of trapped desires; that those behind the wheel and in the passenger seats are driven by needs both immediate and long-term, and that the immovable congestion of their vehicles locks them in a state of wanting.

Each moment, as a fixed point in time, is a chorus of different voices expressing exasperation and hope, in self-contained screams and in silent solitude. Traffic, in essence, creates clogs in our lives, and the experience of being in-motion-but-not only serves to make what is being blocked more apparent.


Jappy Agoncillo’s massive mural greets visitors as they approach Barado

In the exhibit Barado, Tarzeer Pictures explores what that blockage means to nine young artists making their Philippine debut. Tarzeer’s Creative Director Enzo Razon—along with his partners Dinesh Mohnani and Gio Panlilio—spoke of the show’s thematic core as a collaborative process, allowing the artists to select their medium and interpret barado as they saw fit, creating an experience that, on paper, looks as random as the city’s bustling streets, yet finds a strong sense of cohesion between the works on display.

Complicity and Complacence

For Razon himself, one of the things that intrigued him most about Barado’s inspiration was the fact that we are complicit in the creation of traffic jams as we head towards our destinations. In a way, he says, this creates a sense of complacency among everyone involved; there is this unspoken understanding that we are contributing to the problem, but that very act is deemed necessary to get us where we want to be. That interplay between guilt and acceptance comes to play in a thought-provoking installation Razon created for the exhibit: a loving tribute to his nanny, Rose.

For the exhibit, Razon painted flowers on one of her uniforms, positioned it above another floral painting, and arranged a small shrine of corned beef cans underneath it. On an adjacent wall, he projected drawings he made while under her care. On the surface, it reads like a simplification of her identity from Razon’s childhood self, but there is a level of self-awareness to it that tells a deeper story.

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Enzo Razon with his tribute to yaya Rose

Alienation

For photographer Gio Panlilio, the barriers represented in the exhibit are deeply personal. Having moved between several countries as he grew up, Panlilio never felt like he belonged in any place he called “home.”

“I always felt like I was striving to be part of something,” he shares. “My photos are meant to reflect that sense of alienation and longing.”


Photographer Gio Panlilio with his work

In a series that feels more like self-expression than documentary, Panlilio captures candid moments in which people come face-to-face with barriers—physical, social, and emotional—between them and their environments. An older fisherman’s grizzled hand raises a net, unknowingly casting it over the image of a child learning their trade. A weary-looking individual presses his hand against the glass windows of a convenience store, his eyes looking directly at the lens of the photographer on the other side. A young girl sits on the shore, looking exhausted as she watches everyone else go about their work.

Panlilio’s photos force us to confront these images on a personal level, and as result experience a separation that the subjects—and the artist—can’t seem to break through.

Ignoring Boundaries

On the other end of the spectrum, Jono Duran Pisano’s work represents liberation from boundaries both visual and personal. His piece is a composite of multiple photos, with each 1/8th portion of the work painted in a different technique. The end result is a surreal image that pulls the eye in different directions, with the focal point changing according to the viewer’s own preferences.


In some ways, the image can be rather kitschy, but that’s by design. Pisano spoke animatedly about his experiences as the owner of an art gallery in New York, where “novelty became the thing.” As an artist fascinated by religious kitsch, he found himself at risk of getting jaded by an art scene where his tastes weren’t, as he tells it, “acceptable for the fine arts culture.”

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Experimentation through the pursuit of his own interests became a way to avoid getting jaded with art, and it’s resulted in work that’s as much about challenging one’s self as it is meditative. In Pisano’s painting, it’s the composition that drives an almost comic book-like narrative, utilizing its audience’s optics to tell a story.

Perspective

For drone photographer Jose Alvarez, barado took on a more literal meaning with photos that showed Philippine life in congestion. Aerial shots of traffic, shanties, and garbage showed undiscovered tessellations in the city around him, creating accidental symmetries from the byproducts of living in Metro Manila. Despite the beauty found in his images, the work nevertheless evokes a sense of claustrophobic unease.

“Happy is boring,” Alvarez says when asked why he chose these particular subjects. “I want to show people a different side of the Philippines.”


Drone photographer Jose Alvarez

From above, the neophyte photographer—Alvarez began shooting only last year—is able to see the country as a cramped, frustrating mess, and yet the images are captured so lovingly that they convey a sense of intimacy despite the distance. Alvarez’s voice manages to feel new within an emergent medium, but with familiar undertones. It’s an interesting beginning for a promising new talent.

Paralysis and Freedom

Jacqueline Pisano currently considers fashion design as her main creative outlet, so to see her first public work in experimental animation at Barado is a welcome surprise. The pieces use dance movements to mimic the process of making garments, while the fevered sounds of a sewing machine play non-stop through the speakers.


Jacqueline Pisano at the entrance to her experimental animation piece

The artist explains that the animation represents the paralysis created by tension, as well as its necessity in the creative process. Magnified to the level of detail in her work, with the sewing machine’s rapid rattling constantly calling your attention, tension creates a stressful environment. But when constructing the garment itself, the designer needs to maintain a certain level of tension in the threads to create structure and texture. The key, therefore, is balance.

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While one might be tempted to see this as Pisano’s interpretation of the theme, she points out that this is only part of it. The animation is, rather, a demonstration of the free flow of creativity, in which one art form informs the other. It is as much a representation of blockage as it is a demonstration of its absence.

A Multiplicity of Voices

Other artists featured in Barado include spoken word poet Lakantula, who tested where his mental blockage would appear in the course of a marathon improvised poem (a piece that lasts around 90 minutes); photographer Martin San Diego, whose black-and-white imagery shows the day-to-day obstacles and clogs the average Filipino encounters; artist Jappy Agoncillo, whose massive mural depicts a man trapped inside a technicolor box of pop culture and art; and photographer Alex Westfall, whose collection of memories and burnt photographs display an in-depth look at her own frustrations.


Martin San Diego and his images of the Filipino in transit


Spoken word artist Lakantula with a video of his marathon improvised poem

With its maiden exhibit, Tarzeer Pictures has managed to cram, into a singular moment, a multiplicity of voices, all of which belong to artists in transit towards the next stages of their careers. It’s an exhibit that shouldn’t work—that shouldn’t have a sense of internal harmony between the various perspectives on display—but it does, in the way that Metro Manila’s chaotic streets manage to make sense to those stuck in traffic. Like a nonlinear narrative, Barado tells a story made possible only through the convergence of disparate lives.

Barado continues to show until May 19, 2018 at Tarzeer Pictures, 2288 Pasong Tamo Extension, Makati City.


Lizzie Santos-Razon, Enzo Razon, and Enrique Razon


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Enzo Razon’s tribute to his childhood nanny, Rose.


Illustration by FurOnFire (Enzo Razon).





Tina Maristela Ocampo




Gio Panlilio’s black-and-white photography.


David Batchelor and Marilu Toda-Batchelor





Dinesh Mohnani, Enzo Razon, Joanna Preysler-Francisco, and Raul Francisco


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Marco Sumayao
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