PUBLIKHAAN: MAKING HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES PUBLIC
Tutok Karapatan (TutoK), a group of artists advocating human rights, will hold a series of upcoming art events starting this month, tackling the spate of extra-judicial killings in the Philippines. TutoK was formed late last year as a response to what the group described as the “deteriorating” human rights situation in the country.
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Performance artist Jeho Bitancor came out of a room dressed in dark glasses, slacks and a long-sleeved shirt with necktie. Threatening to burst out from under his shirt, making him look like a heavy-built underworld ninong (godfather), were various objects he had stuffed under it.
He stood by a table and took out from under his shirt a loaf of bread. He next took out a glass object that looked like the top of a cathedral’s steeple. He inverted the glass object and inserted the cross into the bread. He then filled the part of the glass object sticking out with cream. He sipped some and then spit it out, letting it drip over his necktie and shirt.
He took out three apples from under his shirt, and then a plastic doll resembling a baby. With a hammer he also took out from under his shirt, he bored a hole into the doll’s abdomen, stuffed the apples into it, and then crushed them with the hammer. The doll now looked like a bloated and disemboweled corpse of an infant.
He placed the doll into a plastic bag which he hanged with a string from his neck.
Attached to the string was a tag on one side of which read “kapayapaan” (peace), and on the other side read “demokrasya” (democracy).
Bitancor’s performance was the finale in a press conference held by Tutok Karapatan (TutoK) last Nov. 7 at the Newsdesk Cafe in Quezon City. TutoK held the press conference to announce a series of art events tackling human rights starting this month to April next year.
TutoK was formed late last year as a response to what the group described as the “deteriorating” human rights situation in the country.
Based on data from Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights), there have been 780 victims of extra-judicial killings under the Arroyo regime from January 2001 to Nov. 11, 2006. Of this number, 339 are with known political affiliations.
The idea for TutoK came up in November last year during a workshop among artists on women, art and healing at Sambalikhaan, Quezon City. In an open forum held after a discussion on the human rights situation in the country, a number of the participants talked about a plan to pay tribute to the victims of extra-judicial killings through a series of portraits.
“This is an artists’ initiative,” explained TutoK project director Karen Ocampo-Flores, a painter, during the press conference. “The art events are to be financed mainly with our group’s own funds, which we raised by selling artworks last year.”
Painters Emmanuel Garibay and Jose Tence Ruiz are the group’s chairman and adviser, respectively.
Other members of the group’s steering committee aside from Flores are: Ruel Caasi, Mideo Cruz, Noel Cuizon, Boy Dominguez, Racquel de Loyola, Cap Reyes, Raoul “Iggy” Rodriguez, Wire Tuazon, Ramon “Chitoy” Zapata, Mike Muñoz, Noell El Farol, Ferdie Montemayor, Alfredo Juan Aquilizan, writers Lisa Ito and Richard Gappi, and Arlene Brosas of the Musicians for Peace.
The first event to be held by TutoK for this year is Publikhaan: Making Human Rights Issues Public, a partnership with the Neo-Angono Artists Collective which spearheads the activity. In this event, TutoK integrates with the third Neo-Angono Public Art Festival, to be held Nov. 16-22.
Participating groups in Publikhaan are Kaktus, Linangan ng Imahen, Retorika at Anyo (LIRA), Kalipunan ng Sining at Kultura ng Pasig, Kilometer 64, New World Disorder, Ugatlahi, Komikera, Anino Shadowplay Collective, Sto. Niño Choir, Surrounded by Water, Ideas, Tandang Juancho Museum and the University of Rizal System.
The next event would be Perspektiba, a series of exhibits on the political killings. Curated by Cruz, it will open at the Beato Angelico Gallery, University of Santo Tomas (UST) on Nov. 21 with a live installation by Bitancor. The exhibit will run at UST until Dec. 2. As part of the Perspektiba-UST event, TutoK will hold a forum in the afternoon on Nov. 29, with multi-awarded novelist Jun Cruz Reyes as the main speaker. At night that same day, there will be performances by artists Jose Tence Ruiz, Jef Carnay, and Cos Zicarelli; and award-winning poets Roberto Ofanda Umil and Angelo Suarez.
Other participating artists in the Perspektiba-UST exhibit are painters Antipas Delotavo, Boy Dominguez, Gene de Loyola, and Manny Garibay; multi media artist Claro Ramirez, Lyra Garcellanno, Don Salubayba, Ed Manalo, Benjo Elayda, Mark Ramsel Salvatus III and Buen Calubayan; and art groups Anting anting and UGATLahi.
The Perspektiba series of exhibits will next run at St. Scholastica’s College in January next year, and at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City in February.
Dos por Dos
In December, TutoK will hold Dos por Dos, an exhibit of 2 x 2 works in media at the Boston Art Gallery in Cubao, Quezon City. It will be curated by Montemayor, Garibay, Farol and Caasi. Dos por Dos will run Dec. 2-30.
In February next year, TutoK will hold Pasang Masid at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). The group describes the project as “a critical and historical overview of a national cultural institution and aims to illustrate the CCP’s peculiar role as a cultural instrument of the state and as venue for artistic excellence.” Selections from the CCP art collection will be exhibited side by side with current works, photos and artifacts from TutoK artists. Pasang Masid will be TutoK’s project for National Arts Month next year.
Karapatan secretary-general Marie Hilao Enriquez expressed support for TutoK at the Nov. 7 press conference.
“We laud this effort because art has a way of capturing the imagination of people and arousing interest in them,” Enriquez said.
“It must be remembered that artists and cultural workers played a major role in awakening our people to assert our rights and fight for basic freedoms and democracy under the dark years of martial law,” Enriquez, herself a victim of human rights violations during the martial law years, also said. “Now, that there are attempts to bring back the dark days of the dictatorship and in the wake of unabated killings and disappearances, our nationalist artists are once again rising up to the occasion of being with the people’s side.” Bulatlat