Tuesday, 12 July 2011

0010B Contemporary Jazz In The Philippines: 1970 To The Year 2010, Transitions Via Extrapolation, 2010

On September 21, 1972, President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos ("Macoy") stunned the world when he declared Presidential Decree 1081, more known and feared as Martial Law.  The Tagalog slogan of the day was: "Sa Kaunlad ng Bayan, Disciplina ang Kailangan" [In the Making of a Nation, Discipline is Needed].  As a dictator, he enforced this by the mighty arm of military rule.  A curfew was set from midnight to four in the morning, and all those who were caught violating the curfew were detained at Camp Crame constabulary headquarters.  I was one of those unlucky motorists apprehended by men in fatigues and brought to the camp where I had to cut cogon grass as a result of my innocent tryst in the wee hours.  This hard lesson taught me to practice caution and I was never apprehended again.

Somehow, this rule of law played an enormous part in inspiring artists from all walks of life.  In the music scene, for example, bands were sprouting up from one end of Manila to the other, extending to the exclusive subdivisions of Makati, an area located centrally within the 60,000 plus hectare area of greater Manila.

The Ayala Corporation of the Ayala-Zobel-Roxas families developed Makati into what is now the business hub of the country.  The upscale residents in this enclave nurtured the bars and clubs in this area.

Eventually, in 1975, avant-garde artist Cesare Syjuco, his wife Jean Marie, and their outfit Mergatroid Productions partnered with Ramon Jacinto's radio station DZRJ and launched a nationwide Battle of the Bands contest.  Sponsored by Pepsi Cola and its subsidiaries RC Cola and Seven-Up, the first-of-its-kind competition offered P10,000.00 as a major prize, together with an eight-foot trophy shaped in the form of a G clef.  Three well-respected musicians were tapped as independent judges:  the revered musical-director and pianist Emil Mijares, who at the time headed his own band called Time Machine; professor and trumpeter Eliseo Clamor, who headed the Winds and Percussion Department of the University of the Philippines Conservatory of Music; and professor and pianist Carmencita Arambulo, a master's graduate from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, who headed her own music school called the Greenhills Music Studio.

The battleground was an empty lot along the corner of EDSA and the South Superhighway, and the participating garage bands performed on the makeshift stage built on the cogon grass field.  The bands worth mentioning culled from various high schools and colleges from all over Manila.  Some of the bands that competed and paid their dues were:  Walter Wirth's Petrified Anthem, Johnny Alegre's Hourglass, Ed Jose and Richie Quirino's Destiny, Resty Fabunan's Maria Cafra, Alex Cruz's Anak Bayan, Florante, Gabe Ascalon and Harry Tambuatco's Mother Earth, Dennis Garcia's Red Fox, Heber Bartolome's Banyuhay, Gin Goni's and Jim Sarthou's Aunt Irma, and the late Hicky Tambuatco's Feathers.

The result of the competition was controversial because it was a tie between two unpopular bands involved with the experimentation of fusion at a time when rock music was at its height.  At the time that the nationwide Battle of the Bands was held, composer-guitarist Johnny Alegre was a journalism student at the UP.  He faithfully chronicled this event with precision:

"More than 200 musical groups of all styles participated to record their original compositions, and were subsequently given air time over DZRJ's Pinoy Rock and Rhythm Show.  Of the bulk, twenty semi-finalists were selected, then short-listed further to ten.  Concerts were held in "Jam Park", a vacant lot beside the Roche pharmaceutical complex in the corner of Epifanio de los Santos Ave. (EDSA) and the South Superhighway.  The contest's final grand prize was adjudged a tie, between the two related bands that made a difference because they performed a jazz-fusion repertoire that was not considered popular at the time:  Destiny and Mother Earth.  Together with other participants like Petrified Anthem, Hourglass, Aunt Irma, Feathers, Banyuhay and Florante, they were given recording hours at the sophisticated Cinema-Audio Recording Studios to release a collective album.  Leading the anthology of original material in this record project was Ed Jose's "Moments of Tranquility" for Destiny, a contemporary performance that heralded contemporary compositional ideas in jazz."

The overnight success of the Battle of the Bands encouraged the formation of numerous garage bands that were inspired by the new wave of fusion sound.  Because fusion employed or borrowed a lot of rock elements, quite a few groups playing pop, folk, blues and rock die-hards, tried their hands at this evolving genre; some were short-lived, and others met with considerable success!

(Excerpt taken from Richie Quirino's "Contemporary Jazz In The Philippines:  1970 To The Year 2010", Anvil Publishing 2010)

Monday, 4 July 2011

0012B Hounds In Heaven, The Cesare Syjuco, January 2008

By Lui Bacaltos

The Year:
Sometime in 1993

The Exhibit:
The ArtLab's Wall-less Gallery

The Scene:
The empty basement space of MAC.
The artists started to arrive.
Works were slowly unloaded from vans, cars, trucks, etc.
I saw the bulk of the items: leaves, bricks, tree trunk, etc.
I told the staff to have an early lunch.
I knew it will be a long day. . .

Day 1
The works were all unloaded and waiting for installation.
The artists were milling about, smoking and drinking.
Then they all went home.

Day 2
More works were unloaded.
No installations yet.
More smoking and drinking.
They all went home without installing.

Day 3
More works unloaded.
More smoking and drinking.

By the afternoon of the same day, one of the artists went up to me and pleaded to step in with my curatorial authority and demand the installation of the exhibit. I smiled helplessly. Although I curate and do the layout of most of the exhibitions at that art space, I normally work (collaborate) with the artist/artists and in some instance the guest curator/s. This particular exhibition happen to have its own Curator in the person of Cesare Syjuco. Cesare was also one of the artists in that exhibition. I respect curatorial authority and unless I'm asked, I will not meddle in the installation or screening of the exhibit.

But sensing that there might be problems in the ingress proceedings, I went to the basement to check. A whole pile of objects stood waiting along the walls of the space. The artists stood in one area watching the empty space. I almost laughed out loud but three days is not exactly a laughing matter considering I mount major exhibitions in that huge space in one day!

I was asked for my suggestion and I computed works and number of artists and made several possible layouts. I called my lone gallery hand and together we started installing panel walls for the artists to see. After moving the panels several times, a consensus was called and the artists started claiming their spaces. And the installation began . . . and what came out made the three days of suspenseful waiting worth it!

The ArtLab's Wallless Gallery exhibit was one of the most exciting and highly visited exhibitions at MAC that year. The exhibit has gone on tours to different sites and yet people kept coming in droves. Children and students came in buses and on foot! It was one of those rare major exhibitions where people can touch and interact with the artworks on exhibit! And the controversy most of the works generated was as astounding as only the brilliant minds of a true artist can produce. Audiences were awed and asked themselves what they were seeing. Is this art? For they never experienced or seen anything like these works in most galleries.

But such is the magic of Cesare Syjuco, one of the most acclaimed Filipino multi-media artists of our time, Cesare is a painter, poet and art critic who is a TOYM (Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines) awardee for Art and Culture Advancement, The Gerry Roxas Foundation Presidential Award for Outstanding Achievement in the arts, the Cultural Center of the Philippines Gawad CCP sa Sining Biswal, the Art Association of the Philippines Grand Prize and Gold Medal for Painting, the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature in English Poetry, the UNESCO Paris Gold Medals for Photography and Design, the Catholic Mass Media Awards for Outstanding Filipino Communicator, and the first Purita Kalaw-Ledesma Award for Art Criticism, among many others.

I salute his genius.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

0010 The Philippine Star, Poets on Stage, June 2010

By Alfred A. Yuson
The Philippine Star, 28 June 2010

Exactly a week ago, the impresario Rock Drilon and I slipped into senti reveries at his flagship (and remaining) Mag:net venue on Katipunan Avenue, after he reminded me that it was the summer solstice. That evening’s Happy Mondays poetry reading was bound to be special, he said. And so it was, with many young poets taking to ether. 

Rock harked back to a couple of decades ago when we both got involved in a memorable outdoor reading at Rizal Park in the wake of the Mt. Pinatubo blast and ashfall that had turned Manila gray. Billed as a healing ritual involving poetry, music, and performance art, it also fell on the day of the summer solstice. 
So that was why he had asked that I importune Cesare A.X. Syjuco to be present at Mag:net last Monday. It would have been a reprise of sorts, sans occasion of natural disaster. I excused my kumpadre for being taken up in domestic frenzy, since he still had to complete his new works for a Galeria Duemila show early next month.

But two nights later Cesare did show up, at another reading, one that has also become traditional, albeit conducted only once a year. It surprised me, in fact, that the Printemps des Poetes reading at Alliance Française was already on its 12th edition, as a souvenir poster declared.

Wow. I hadn’t realized that. Usually held around March in token recognition of springtime in the West, this year it had to be deferred to June due to technical concerns. Still and all, 23 poets and a few musicians pushed through with their participation, delighting the organizers led by AF president Deanna Ongpin-Recto and deputy director Mickael Balcon.

Just as gratified was the audience, 200-strong for the first part, but which noticeably dwindled after the extended intermezzo that featured a buffet table with tasty couscous, and a bar that opened its floodgates for red and white wine.   

I had brought my day-old yellow vuvuzela a friend had hand-carried from Johannesburg, and was nursing the notion of giving it a blast before starting on my poem, and ending my reading in the same horn-blowing manner. Discretion prevailed, urged by a sensing that the hosts were in a sensitive mood after their football team was booted out of the World Cup just the night before, by no less than the Bafana Bafana eleven. Ah, oui, no sense in rubbing it in with a beehive drone from a yellow horn with a South Africa sticker, when Les Bleus had just turned into Les Miserables. 

Despite what could have been a dour ambience, the reading went exceedingly well, with all the poems (and songs) dwelling on the year’s theme of “Couleur femme” or “Color of Woman.”

My kumare Grace Monte de Ramos had a standout performance with her spiritually saucy poem “Kama Sutra for Woman.” So did Yanna Verbo Acosta with “Stranger,” handmaiden-ed by a haunting guitar beat. Also providing primetime props by way of providing poetry cum pulchritude were the young poet-performers Asha Macam, Mookie Katigbak, Maxine Syjuco and Johanna Fernandez.
We missed La Tondeña non pareil Virginia R. Moreno, who had always been a fixture at this annual gathering. Last year she brought the house down with a sportive, sashaying-with-a string-of-pearls number. 

This time, it was Ambassador Jimmy Yambao who chanted Urdu verse. Pete Lacaba and Princess Nemenzo took turns with Pete’s Salinawit renditions of La Vie en Rose et al. in Tagalog, with Martin Makalintal of the French Embassy on keyboards. Poet-as-pasha Virgilio Almario had his poem read in the original Filipino by Marne Kilates, whose translation of it into English was in turn read by Marivic Rufino.

Well, Rio’s a National Artist for Literature, so he can get away with master-ful appreciation of his own poem while seated on the front row. Besides, as he had confided at barside, these days he enjoys indulging in energetic playtime with his apo, except that it leaves him in a state of exhaustion. Must have something to do with the tot’s relative youth.  

The French ambassador, His Excellency Monsieur Thierry Borja de Mozota, who had joined the reading last year, sent in a poem to be read by proxy, on the rainbow colors of “Binibini” nights in Manila, with the striking metaphors of a “yellow card” and a “red light” included in the last line. A “red card” might have been more prescient, but the poem as it was could have been no less cheerily ominous. Ah, irony.
In any case, after we had all expressed our gratitude to our hosts, and exchanged congrats all around for a fun night, I had the chance to tell Jean Marie Syjuco about the Mag:net flashback to our Rizal Park reading in June of 1991.

Yes, she said, that was quite memorable, with everyone throwing off sparks to illumine the entire bonding experience that sought to cast away the demons of the ring of fire that had wrought havoc on our country. And she recalled that Cesare had also performed a poem with the same prop he used on our latest Printemps gig: a toy space gun that emitted a variety of sounds. Why, indeed he had proven that after two decades, he can still pull the trigger.

This impels me to shoot off more recollections of memorable poetry readings, out of the hundreds that we must have joined or helped organize.

First and foremost would be that evening of an early Paco Park Presents gig, way back in 1982, when Jimmy Abad, Cirilo Bautista, Freddie Salanga, Ric de Ungria and I had our first public reading as the Philippine Arts Council or PLAC. We read poems in the company of then fresh UP graduate Loren Legarda, Joy Virata, Gigi Virata and Boots Anson-Roa, while UP College of Music stalwarts Ryan Cayabyab, Ramon Santos, Chino Toledo and Lester Demetillo, among others, served up the finer poetry.  
Then there was another unforgettable PLAC gig, this time in UP Baguio, one summer afternoon in the early ’80s, with Imee Marcos in attendance. And Freddie read his hyper-militant verse, yet had the temerity to take me to task for reading a lyrical poem that had the line “In the palace by the river...” Jimmy, Cirilo and Ricky keep looking back over their shoulders as we walked away from the campus, with Freddie and I still wrangling over who had been insensitive to the presence of someone special in the audience. 

It was PLAC & Friends that had a command performance in the ’90s, in Baguio’s Cafe by the Ruins — as organized by our friend Boy Yuchengco for his dad, Ambassador “Big Al,” and his friend the Japanese Ambassador to Manila. A typhoon blew in and knocked the power out just as we were about to begin our reading. Flashlights and kerosene lamps circled the stage as we pushed through with quite a dynamic hour, of heartfelt poetry in the dark amidst howling wind and drumming rain.
If I recall correctly, RayVi Sunico and Danton Remoto were with us, both as Fabilioh! as the raging bagyo, and Myra Beltran also danced up a storm. But what made it even more memorable was that the Japanese ambassador also stepped up and drew out several haiku on a sheet from his breast pocket, and read with great aplomb.

I remember the readings at La Moreno’s Cafe Orfeo in Malate, where one night in the early ’80s, the poet and art critic Leo Benesa took me aside and castigated me with a hiss for mispronouncing the word “assassin.” After which the young Rock Drilon lifted up my spirits by having me sit by the Malvar St. gutter to pose for what turned out to be a bipolar portrait in charcoal.

There was a spontaneous reading we had one May evening together with the young writing fellows at the Dumaguete workshop, barely a month after Nick Joaquin had passed away. Armed with bottles of vodka and rum, we assembled on the grassy lawn of South Sea Resort and did our thing. What broke us up was an act perpetrated by a duo that read excerpts from Nick’s Portrait of the Artist... — casting themselves as Candida and Paula, and rendering the dramatic lines in instant translation into Visayan gayspeak.

Then there was that act at a book launch held on the swimming pool deck of a hotel on Roxas Blvd. — where the legendary Ermita outlaw Pepito Bosch held up a silvery bangus while frozen in place by poolside, as visual accompaniment to a reading performance by... was it Jean Marie or Cesare?
Ric de Ungria played percussion with an ethnic instrument from Mindanao while he read a winning poem to great effect at a Palanca Awards night. Jimmy Abad does NOT ever read, BUT recites his poetry and that of many others, always to wild, admiring acclaim, especially when it’s his “Tae” poem — this last at Kitty Taniguchi’s Gallery Cristina in Dumaguete.

Top-of-the-line among our poet-readers would be Gelo Suarez, whom I first witnessed reading from a roll of toilet paper when he entered a UP-sponsored love-poetry-reading contest at Filipinas Heritage Library. He won it, too, when he was but 16! Since then, he’s killed chicks by attaching them to balloons he lofts up in the air to dramatize a poem, stood on the center island on Katips Ave. howling his verses at the traffic both ways, and had himself dragged off the CCP’s Main Gallery while delivering a poem of protest.

Vim Nadera has attired himself in more guises than Willie Nep’s for his performance readings — as an imam, a revolucionario, a peasant, a black-smocked terrorist, or as a fiesta host forcing swigs of lambanog down several rows of an audience in titters. 

And of course the Syjuico sisters Trix and Maxine have always been showstoppers, more for the audacity and aplomb of their conceptualized personae at readings than their undeniable good looks. Trix has slain and mutilated many a giant teddy bear with her infamous pair of scissors, crawled on the floor of Mag:net at Boni High St. (now defunct), bound herself in chains and masking tape, and rolled herself upon flour and talc to express herself in poetry.

At Alliance Française last Wednesday, Maxine departed from her usual bravura acts by simply reading a bittersweet poem ever so sweetly. It takes all kinds, of decisions and moods, that lead to an exemplary reading. But no doubt we have numerous signature performers of the realm when it comes to the spoken word, chanted word, space-gun-attended word, or consummately inflected word (like RayVi’s act at the latest Printemps; another paragon in this department is Mikael de Lara Co) — enough to make the Pinoy poet a class act on any stage.

These days there are regular fortnightly readings (on the first and third Mondays of the month) that continue the long-running Happy Mondays series at Mag:net Katips, as organized and deftly handled by poet-impresario Joel Toledo. And no, he’s not into it because he wants to make a name for himself or ingratiate himself with generations of active, vital, public-reading poets... But for the lovers, yes! Of the spoken word and all things bright and beautiful, and/or speak of kindred spirit and warm camaraderie. And oh, even for the haters who are also invited, and sometimes do join in, if rather awkwardly, then go on with their blog and FB rants, maybe because they have yet to get a life, or get it up. Up on stage.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

0016 Philippine Panorama Magazine, Words As Painting: The Case of Syjuco, February 2007

by Cirilo F. Bautista
Breaking Signs / Philippine Panorama Magazine
25 February 2007

Two persons brought me out of my misanthropic existence sometime this month.  The first was Cesare A.X. Syjuco, the multi-talented artist, who invited my wife Rosemarie and myself to be the guests of honor at the opening of his latest exhibit at the MAG:NET Gallery in Makati City.  There, we happened to meet, among many others, Rock Drilon, Gus Albor, Raffy Ignacio, Danny Sillada, Ronnie Lazaro, and Krip Yuson.

Entitled "Mighty Big Headstand", Cesare's show features a handful of his newest literary hybrids, fusion of words and images transferred to palpable surfaces, in this case, flexiglass, glass, and concrete, works which are initially striking for their bareness and modest appeal.  The white walls practically make the glass and flexiglass disappear, leaving only the words floating in space.

Even in his student days in De La Salle University, Cesare had been stretching the possibilities of language incorporating it into elements of the plastic art.  In this show, he does make words stand on their heads, that is present the viewers with a new way of comprehending reality.  His experiments produce words as meanings and words as shapes in intriguing compositions where verbal dexterity enhances and harmonizes with imagistic structures.  A new art utterance emerges, utilizing puns, double plays, paradoxes, graphic descriptions, and metaphors.

As soon as the viewers establish the mental connections in the pictograph, they cannot escape the ensuing delectation.  They are struck between the eyes, as it were, and understand its aesthetics.  It helps that Cesare is also a poet, a musician, a philosopher, which gives him the advantage of perceiving things with uncanny, sharp perspectives.

The invitational poster for this show, for instance, conveys a sense of the mysterious with four dim figures on top of a stone staircase and the superimposed text ":He's out there somewhere.,  :If we could find him, we could kill him... then there'd be no one to kill us., :If we could find him, he wouldn't be out there."  Who are these creatures?  What are they talking about?  The viewers are left to supply their own narrative structure to explain the situation, and in the process become involved in the picture.  In fact, they really create the linguistic significance, not the artist who merely provides the means by which the viewers' minds are stimulated into action.

Inside the small gallery, the pictures on glass and on the walls, three with backlights, create that anticipation of exploding realization because the atmosphere slowly gets charged with the verbal energy. You have to be alert and focused, though.  You achieve your own enlightenment by helping yourself unlock the suggested or hidden meanings.

One work has the picture of an airplane on the tarmac, with the words, "You are arriving here., Please notice the air."

Another work has the image oh half a human body with its leg on a chair and the words "You have died here., 1. Please notice the gravity.  2. Please notice the occasional lack of it."  Near it lurks the image of a big white zero on a black background with the words, "You have resurrected here., Please excuse the inconvenience, Please don't struggle., Please do exactly as you're told:"  You approach these pieces with an empty mind at first, then start loading it with the collective and perceptive sensation and thoughts you collect in the course of looking.  When you are able to synthesize them, then your rational meanderings gather into a personal enjoyment.  The linguistic utterances become understandable.  Now you know.

Some viewers may be displeased or puzzled by these utterances. some may even find eschatological profundities in them, but they would hardly be unaffected by them.  And that is the characteristic of Cesare's avantguardism.  He disposes with your neutrality, luring you to take a stand where otherwise you would be satisfied being just an observer.  His picture-words are meant to disarm you, to jar you into realization that there is more than the usual litaralness that resides in them.  To accomplish this, he makes words stand on their heads in the manner of Japanese Zen koans or Tagalog riddles:  "A Man will be Here for you shortly., Please Commit to Memory -- zero to infinity spans nothing and everything at once," "a shadow/is never blacker/than its shadow," and "a hole in china/isn't always/a mountain in peru."

0012 The Manila Bulletin, Weapons of Mass Destruction in Cesare & Jean Marie’s Aesthetics, April 2008

by Danny C. Sillada

Weapons of Mass Destruction in
Cesare & Jean Marie Syjuco's Aesthetics
By Danny Castillones Sillada
“Por que también somos lo que hemos perdido...”
(Because we are also what we have lost…)
-Amores Perros, the movie

Published from Manila Bulletin, Page E-4, Monday, April 21, 2008
There is an air of intangible emptiness and, at the same time, that ineffable feeling of finding oneself in the midst of Cesare and Jean Marie Syjuco’s installation art. The more one goes deeper within the maze of their works, the more one feels that delicate part of human soul tiptoeing between the temporariness of time and eternity.

In their recent and first collaborative art exhibit titled “2 Minds, Many Madnesses”, after thirty years of their marriage, the couple virtually created an immense space on scanty walls and floor areas of the newly-opened Mag:net Gallery at The Columns in Ayala, Makati.

Congruent to the yin-yang principle of complimentary opposites, these two great avant-garde Filipino artists cradle their viewers with the intensity and the gentleness of their aesthetic creations.
The birth of art from ancient civilization to the romantic and classical periods generally evolved and revolved around women. In fact, in the recent archaeological research about the ancient European civilization between 7000 and 3500 b.c., researchers found and unearthed some 30,000 sculptures of clay, marble, bone, copper and gold from 3,000 sites about the figure of goddesses, an indication of the ancient belief that the Creator of the world was Goddess.

The Filipino society, with its unique culture and tradition, is a society raised by mothers or women. Similar to the ancient European civilization, women have played a very important role in nurturing humanity in our post-modern society. And women, in general, are the artist’s muse and inspiration to create, the cradle of his dreams and the source of his creative power.

But what if a woman creates, what could be the source of her inspiration?

In her installation “I am the shadow of the waxwing slain by the false azure in the windowpane”, a quote from Vladimir Nabokov’s “Pale Fire”, Jean Marie Syjuco poignantly creates a sad picture of an orphaned egg snuggled on a tiny bird’s nest. The installation narrative tells a mother bird, after crashing through a glass window, fell and instantly died leaving its solitary egg untended.

Powerfully woven with realistic objects sans a dead bird, the theatrical composition of installation portrays the inevitable reality of death and abandonment. “Someday soon, I will depart from this world” said the artist to this writer with tears oozing from her eyes, “and I am worried for the eggs (children) that I will leave behind.”

In another installation, the artist tiptoes on the same trail of indefinable melancholy with her sentimental homage to a family friend, the artist-poet-writer Sid Gomez Hildawa, who recently passed away.

Jean Marie uses the premonitory last poem of Hildawa, which he wrote shortly before he died. She portrayed an empty wall with a trace of white rectangular space at the second floor of Mag:net Gallery. The only visible object is a rusted nail on top of a lighter surface, an indication that there used to be a painting hanging on that empty wall.

If one gazes long enough, he or she will experience that indescribable feeling of nostalgic sorrow looming in the air. And one will feel not only the absence of the painting on the wall, but also the absence of the one wrote the poem about an empty wall.

“Now that the artwork is gone,/”, wrote the late poet, “visitors ask, “What used to be there?”/ and “What was it about?,”/ as if they hadn’t seen the piece before,/ or maybe not carefully enough…”. (Excerpt from Sid Gomez Hildawa’s poem “Sick Leave”).

By just looking at an empty wall or by just reading the poem beside it, an individual will experience that wrenching feeling in one’s heart, so powerful as though one had just lost the presence of a loved one.

The artist, the poet, the viewer – all is confined within the symbolic reality of an empty wall – an inevitable reality of absence, death and departure.

The art of Jean Marie Syjuco, in general, touches the sensitive part of human soul. She brings her viewers face to face with their own existential realities. As indicative in her portrayal of orphaned egg, empty wall, floating roses, virtual cage, among other works, the artist as a woman perceives life, despite its bleak reality, as something to be endured, embraced and nurtured.

Her art professes its own unique source from the womb of a woman, whose maternal instinct is to conceive, labor and deliver life into the world to be nourished, healed or bandaged from the brokenness of human existence.

In essence, her art is not something to be dissected and decoded with complex meaning, but something to be seen and understood as it is. It must be felt in one’s heart and soul as delicate as the woman’s fragile nature. However, it is the same fragility where the woman’s power emanates, flourishes and nurtures.

As an art born out of a woman, in a philosophical sense, she maintains the balance to create rather than destroy and build again in order to maintain the balance. Unlike man’s art, which characterizes the conquest of the uncharted, a woman’s art, on the other hand, creates what has been empirically present with such passion and dexterity.

THE WIT AND HUMOR IN CESARE'S WORKSCesare A.X. Syjuco’s art, which is known as the New Literary Hybrid, is characterized with wit, humor and satire. In contrast to Jean Marie’s works that appeal to the human emotion, Cesare addresses the cognitive level, exploring the widths and depths of human consciousness through the linguistic and visual structures of his aesthetics.

For instance, in his “Weapons of Mass Destruction” installation, there are six framed artworks with texts and illustrations that are horizontally arranged on the wall: (1) If it grunts like an ox, (snail), (2) If it quacks like a duck, (mouse), (3) If it bleats like a sheep, (grasshopper), (4) If it squeals like a pig, (lion), (5) It must be bum yeggs, (eggs), (6) It could mean a World War, (nuclear scientist).

What would happen if a mouse quacks like a duck or a lion squeals like a pig or a grasshopper bleats like a sheep?

In an intelligent and playful manner, Cesare explores the sounds of animals and insects with hypothetical propositions and, finally, arrives at a conclusion in the last sequence that says: “It could mean a World War!”

Although, the syntactic propositions defy the logical principles, there is but one reality that the artist wishes to convey – the weapons of mass destruction and its imminent presence and peril to humanity.

In the same vein, in a more compelling installation titled “Divinities”, a meter-long acrylic panel backlit by fluorescent is vertically attached on the wall. On the transparent surface of acrylic is an almost invisible caption running upward in a vertical direction. At a relative distance, the installation appears to be an ordinary fluorescent bulb, yet, at a closer look, it signifies more than what it represents.

Human perception and judgment on reality can, sometimes, fail and the artwork itself proves that the viewers can be wrong with their perception of reality. Unless an individual is keen enough, he will notice that an ordinary fluorescent light tells more other than its factual existence as a bulb.

And, in this case, it announces that “God Speaks to Cesare” or to anyone for that matter, who notices the inscribed text on the acrylic panel. The fluorescent light signifies the light of God or as God Himself, a symbolic reality that the artist cleverly wanted to reveal.

For God, as the artwork signifies, could be everywhere speaking to anyone in any form or manner.

The cohesive use of textual and visual devices in Casare’s art is akin to the mass media campaign, albeit, in a hybrid and avant-garde manner – highly intelligent, poetic, humorous and satirical. In the same manner, his aesthetics trudges on the philosophy of language addressing the problems of (1) the nature of meaning, (2) the language being used, (3) language cognition, and the (4) relationship between language and reality.

The basic principle that his art proposes is the symbolic elements of written texts with visual devices in relation to the truth and, whether truth is verifiable or not, he challenges his viewers to delve deeper based on the given elements of his aesthetic composition.

From the viewer’s point of view, perhaps, the salient question that he or she must ask: ‘What is the meaning of text in relation to the visual presentation of aesthetic elements or vice versa?’

In literature, this can be answered based on the “connotation” (what does art suggest and imply) of textual image, the “denotation” (what is the aesthetics’ point of reference and its essential meaning) and its “intention” (what is the final cause of the aesthetics in relation to reality).

Knowing the background of the artist as a poet, a literary iconoclast, his works can be best understood as visual poetry or poetry of space, text and image, all in one aesthetic presentation. Or, in a more poetic description – writings on the wall – which is infused with carefully chosen visual devices to enhance and magnify the artist’s revelation of reality.

“I am an experimental poet first,” says Cesare, “and a visual artist second. But I write mostly for the walls and not for the page, and that’s where the boundaries between the two get crossed.”

His genius as a poet-artist is incomparable in his generation. He is a linguistic philosopher, whose art and poetry challenge the normative concept of aesthetic reality. He is a poet, who engages a complacent mind to think deeper and explore the uncharted part of human brain, and a man of compassion and reason, who affirms the creativity of others and their respective contributions in the development of art and culture in the Philippine society.

The art exhibit at Mag:net Gallery by the two Filipino renowned couple, Cesare and Jean Marie Syjuco, is the first of a series commemorating their 30th Anniversary of partnership both in marriage and in their respective artistic careers.

Cesare A.X. Syjuco is a multi-awarded poet, painter and critic, known as the golden boy in Philippine art scene in the 1980s, while Jean Marie Syjuco is a multi-awarded sculptor, painter and performance artist.

The amalgam of the two great artists produced multi-talented children ranging from musicians, poets, performance artists, fashion models, among others.

To sum, Fr. Reuter says, “A family that prays together stays together”. Aside from praying together, art or creative passion binds the Syjuco family together. Hence, “A family that creates together stays together!” 

0009 The Manila Bulletin, Cesare A.X. Syjuco: Visual/Verbal Icon, July 2010

By Johnina Martha Marfa
18 July 2010, The Manila Bulletin

And your imagination ends at the sight of texts sprawled on a picture. You wonder: is this a description, a label of sorts? Confounded, you look at the piece with glazed eyes only to find yourself drawn even more to the perplexity it caused you. Tracing your way back, you recognize a strange sentiment—appreciation, perhaps?—and attempt to see it with a clearer perspective, still wondering how, despite the confusion, you liked the piece. Whether the piece is art or poetry doesn’t quite matter anymore; why attempt to contemplate further if the appreciation is already present?

Such is the effect of the art of prizewinning poet-artist Cesare A.X. Syjuco to first-time viewers, especially to those who have gotten used to seeing art devoid of text. Presented both as artistic and literary signs, Syjuco’s pieces blur the divisions and limitations of art and of poetry by putting them together in one creative space. Coining the term “literary hybrids,” Syjuco creates pieces that exist on the edge of things and seek to stretch the mind’s impressions and boundaries of art and poetry through the fusion of imagery, both visual and verbal, producing art in poetry beyond the printed page.

This overlapping interest in the arts has always been a fascination to Cesare Syjuco, even as a child. “I’ve always been artistic, as in ‘artistic,’ in quotes,” he shares, “and my original influences were literature, theater, music.” He recalls how, as a child, he would put all these together by making his own theatrical production. “As a child, he’d make mimeographs of plays and short stories he wrote and then give them out lang,” his wife Jean Marie relays. “He also loved designing tickets and posters for his show, and then his audience would be everyone in the house. He’d write a play, act in it, sing and dance, and then give out tickets of his show so everybody could watch.” During this time, however, he considered—and actually still does—himself more of a writer than an artist.

“I started as a writer,” Cesare says. “Even back when I was very young, I was already writing. As a result of my writing, I met this artist named Lee Aguinaldo. I was around 17 or 18 then. He took me under his mentorship. He gave me books, gave me materials that got me started on art as a medium. Through Lee Aguinaldo and through my wife [Jean Marie], who was already dabbling in art at that time, I became a visual artist.”

And dabble in art he did. From a play of words, Cesare found himself shifting to a play in media, allowing himself to utilize not only common paints and pencils but also materials of construction and installment. His love for words were transferred from the printed page to spaces shared with images and pictures painted and re-presented, interacting in such a way that the text and pictures create wholly new art pieces unlike any other of their time. The sense of tradition, though respected and admired, is left missing; what is present is a sense of creating a new form, a new tradition in art that draws attention to itself, takes on literature and pop culture and challenges its viewer to appreciate it in spite of its novelty. This, Cesare makes possible, through the various possibilities of digital media.

“The medium I have at the moment is based on the fact that I don’t have a place to paint right now,” Cesare admits, quite sheepishly. “So I do a lot of digital art. What I do is I work mostly within the circumstances available to me. Pumasok na lang ‘yung digital media when I had kids. But I’m very happy with it because at the moment, it’s the best way to fuse the literary and the visual.” He further shares that his medium is not the only thing that changed with family life. “My schedule changed when I had a family. I started to work at night instead of in the daytime. That’s the way I’ve been ever since. It’s too magulo in the morning,” he shares teasingly. “To be a parent is a change of life.”

This change of life, however, hasn’t stopped Cesare Syjuco from living and breathing and creating art. If anything, living with a family whose primary interest is also art makes him all the more driven to pursue his artistic thrust. “I’ve arrived at the point where I think of art and poetry at the same time,” Cesare says. “I think of the words and the pictures at the same time. It’s something I’ve learned to do. [Although] one entails a different side of the brain as the other, in my particular case, I am trying to come up with what I think will be the art of the future, which is art and poetry together.” Much like digital media, Cesare Syjuco’s art keeps improving, changing, updating and upgrading itself in sync with the changing times and the rapid growth of technology. His is an art that displays itself as a re-presentation of a century where technology dictates change and art does not limit itself to the corners of a canvas or a piece of paper.

Although one must think: Doesn’t this kind of art risk being aloof to its viewers? Cesare Syjuco begs to disagree. “If the art is really art, it will eventually communicate to people,” he explains. “It will eventually address the consciousness of the majority. But that does not need to happen right away. Sometimes the art is so new that people cannot address it right away. There’s always confusion first, I think, when the art is relevant, when the art is good.” What good art is exactly, though, Cesare couldn’t say. “To me, art can’t be explained. The moment it’s explainable, it’s no longer art. If you refine your senses well enough, eventually, you can recognize it. But to explain it in some way, I think, is not possible.”

Let yourself be led then, back to the art piece, its images and its text. Though still quite confounded, you attempt to remove the haze in your eyes and experience the world through the art piece, if only for an instance. While the text leads your thoughts away, the images keep them at bay, letting you return to the piece after each drift. And then step away—let your imagination begin.

Cesare A.X. Syjuco’s solo exhibit “The Ancestry of a Stone: New Literary Hybrid” opens on Saturday, July 24, 2010, at the Galleria Duemila, Pasay City. It runs until August 27, 2010.

Monday, 27 June 2011

0002 The Manila Bulletin, A Sudden Rush of Cesare: Q&A, March 2011

By Vim Nadera
The Manila Bulletin, March 27, 2011 

Compared to the Philippine Heart Center’s focus on the heart or the Lung Center of the Philippines’ focus on the lung or the National Kidney and Transplant Institute’s focus on the kidney -- no center or institute whatsoever caters solely on the brain.
So,  we celebrated the Brain Awareness Week last Friday with the brainiacs!
We cudgeled our brains just to go with the genius flow of Dr. Gemino Abad, Yanna Acosta, Bobby Balingit, Igan d’Bayan, Mitch Garcia, Marne Kilates, Ian Madrigal, Eghai Roxas, Lirio and Meann Salvador, Danny Sillada, Ramon Sunico, Alfred Yuson, and the Syjuco sisters Maxine and Trix with Utakan and the high and the mighty in High Street.
It was the launch of the latest from the multimedia master Cesare Syjuco!
Entitled,  “A Sudden Rush of Genius,” his book of poetry has a 15-track CD album.
Some call it perigree. Others call it pedigree.
Well, the entire project is the brainchild of his wife,  Jean Marie and his son A.G., who were both so enthused by his 2005 comeback performance at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, that they decided an album would be timely.
There were two problems with it. The first was that he didn’t want to leave the house to work on an album, let alone have to deal with engineers and session artists.
The second was that he didn’t have anything structured enough, let alone radio-friendly enough, to put in an album. And so it was decided, in the end, that the recordings were to be done at home, with Jean Marie as the producer, and A.G. as the engineer and sole session artist.
In the late 1990s, long before he graduated summa cum laude from San Beda College Alabang, A.G. was the original Man In Black who served as the principal composer and arranger of the art-rock band Faust, whose MTVs of hits like Mr. Pa-cool featured us as an Art Lab artist with the late great Sid Hildawa, Jojo Legaspi, and Orville Tiamzon.
“A Sudden Rush of Genius” was completed in 2006, but the album and the book have remained unreleased until now. A.G. has done a great job at consolidating Cesare’s pieces, editing them when necessary, and bringing them to life in a very real way-- while still preserving the character of each poem.
Cesare admitted his happiness with the project’s outcome, given its limitations and constraints. Looking back, what he remembers most are the late hours they would spend in their makeshift studio in a corner of his artist’s loft, guitars, and FX pedals littering the floor, and ideas running through in a great many directions. That’s where the title is from.
As the book proves it worth as National Book Awards finalist for Best Design, the author deserves to be considered for this year’s Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas award from the Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas (UMPIL).
Well, he is a born winner as a painter, a poet, a composer and an art critic of international stature, his name is usually incomplete without his Ten Outstanding Young Men Award (TOYM) for Art and Culture Advancement;  his Gerry Roxas Foundation Presidential Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts; his Gawad CCP Sa Sining Biswal from the Cultural Center of the Philippines; his Art Association of the Philippines’ Grand Prize and Gold Medal for Painting; his Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature in English Poetry;  his UNESCO Paris Gold Medals for Photography and Design; his Catholic Mass Media Awards for Outstanding Filipino Communicator Citation; and his first Purita Kalaw-Ledesma Award for Art Criticism, to name a few.
Join us in picking the brain of “The Golden Boy of Philippine Avant-Garde!”
VIM NADERA: Q. What made you decide to suddenly and mysteriously disappear in 1992?
CESARE SYJUCO: When I was awarded the TOYM in ’92, I made a conscious decision to take a break from exhibitions, deadlines, and all of the controversy and petty bickering that characterized the art world. I didn’t realize it would take so long! And really, there’s much to be said for and about artists keeping to themselves.
VN: What did you do for more than a decade?
CS: I worked like a madman, as always. I just didn’t show what I made. And I didn’t say what I thought. Then there were the kids to raise and that was a handful in itself.
VN: What or who forced you to do a comeback?
CS: That was in 2004. The late Sid Hildawa of CCP was my friend. He and my wife conspired together to give me little room for retreat. The CCP Main Gallery was a very big lure, and CCP backing is hard to come by even now.
VN: What can you say about your being a cult figure or legend among your peers?
CS: That’s a little like being a mythological beast, isn’t it? Yes, I think I like it!
VN: How was the Philippine art and literary scene during your time?
CS: It was excruciatingly slow, much slower than it is now. The old and decrepit were at the helm, and you had to wait for your turn to speak up. There was Albano and Chabet on the one hand, and PLAC on the other. But hardly anyone had heard of them, let alone seen what they had done.
VN: What was lacking that made you decide to fill up?
CS: The glaring lack of anything totally new, daring, and brilliant. That’s what Art Lab was for. It was a quest for new talent, new ideas, new attitudes, new venues, new audiences.
VN: What are your groundbreaking experimental works in visual-literary transmedia?
 CS: Pretty much everything I’ve done in the past 30 years has led me to this point. With works like mine, it’s not easy to single out particular pieces. And periods are so Picasso!
VN: Who are inspired you, then and now?
CS: I’ve always been inspired by the greats. There are far too many to enumerate. But I can say for a fact that Lee Aguinaldo and Cirilo Bautista were early mentors. To an extent, so was Peque Gallaga. The rest is a blur.
VN: What was the role of a certain Jean Marie in your life?
CS: Jean Marie is my everything -- my wife, my constant companion, my inspiration, my motivation, my refuge, my critic, my best friend. Literally everything.
VN: How do you influence her, or does she influence you?
CS: Oh, I think she definitely influences me!

VN: How’s Cesare the Husband?
CS: Good, I think. I’m usually locked up next door with my paintings. I hardly ever complain, and I remember all the important occasions. What more can a girl ask?
VN: How’s Cesare the Father?
CS: Even better. I’ve spent all these years raising my children up close and personal, so there’s very little else that I can teach them. And honestly, I just want them to be happy.
VN: What’s the main ingredient of your highly artistic family?
CS: I think it must be a matter of genetics and acquired behavior. Heaven knows I didn’t encourage my kids to be artists. Who in his right mind would do that?
VN: What’s the typical day for the Syjucos?
CS: Regardless of what we do earlier in the day, we get together for dinner at home. And then we talk until very late at night. Those are the two most typical things we do. Living in one and the same compound in Alabang has its benefits.
VN: What is your advice for each one of your genius kids?
CS: Trust completely in your God, in yourselves, and in no one else. Strive to be happy, and watch out for the devil. He likes smart people.

0007 Business World, Textual Tension, August 2010

by Sam Marcelo, Business World Senior Reporter
12 August 2010

Words, the traditional weapons of writers, are ever-increasingly being wielded with aplomb by artists. In a recent talk titled "Public Domain, Private Hell," artist-critic Cid Reyes observed that text is a graphic part of contemporary art that can be used either as "a violation of the pictorial surface or the extension of a concept."

"[Art] is no longer just visual; it’s treading on the verbal," he said. "The statements themselves stun you."

Random words in white sans-serif typography, for example, often cut across Wire Tuazon’s paintings. Recently, an auction house used a Ronald Ventura oil with block capital letters spelling out "I Love Alligatore" as an auction cover piece. Over at the Ateneo Art Gallery, artist-activist Kiri Dalena illuminates empty rooms with neon signage for Watch History Repeat, her ongoing homecoming exhibit. In one space, she repeatedly accuses anyone who enters of being a "LIAR!" In another, she sends a missive in red cursive: "Dear activist, write a slogan for me."

In the local art scene, however, Cesare A. X. Syjuco is the undisputed philosopher-king of text-infused art. Where other artists are dabblers conducting verbal experiments, Mr. Syjuco owns what he calls his "New Literary Hybrids" -- described as equal parts poetry and visual art.

In The Ancestry of a Stone, he displays 20 new works along with a few pieces from his landmark 2004 solo exhibition at the Main Gallery of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Perfection, a neon sign first exhibited in the said 2004 show, sets the tone of the present exhibit and summarizes the cerebral humor of Mr. Syjuco: it spells out the same word with an unlit "n" -- perfect in its imperfection.

Mr. Syjuco’s New Literary Hybrids come in many forms: neon; text-object composites in vitrine; backlit text-image composites on acrylic; video projections; and installations. He appropriates found images and objects and injects his own brand of intelligent humor (much in the same that he previously remixed Roy Lichtenstein’s pop art with Filipino soap opera dialog for an early series).

A stone etched with the Latin phrase "Cogito Ergo Sum" (Rene Descartes’ famous formulation "I think therefore I am") sits in a glass case with this exchange: "It means I love you in Greek." "No, stupid. It’s Latin." "Whatever." The work is both a pun (it’s all Greek to me) and a critique on the present generation’s aversion for analytical debate. Oftentimes, "whatever" is a catch-all word used to dismiss conversations that require more than a little mental flexing.

"Every time you look at his work, something new comes to mind. You keep on trying to figure it out," said Jean Marie Syjuco, Mr. Syjuco’s wife, an artist who also curated The Ancestry of Stone. "He layers images color, texture and text. The final piece is synergistic, something that is more than the sum of its parts."

Two site-specific installations can also be found in the gallery. The first is in the bathroom, where an unsuspecting victim in need of relieving himself is startled by the bloody silhouette found on the Psycho poster. The second is a multilayered piece that plays with reflections and transparent surfaces. A yellow neon sign that says "ITNAVA" can be read properly when mirrored on the opposing and adjacent walls -- "AVANTI" (Italian for "forward") hovers like a jaundiced ghost over a piece with an airplane on a runway, a deliberate and appropriate sentiment.

Looking at his work as objects, one notices how clean and precise they are. The bulbs lighting his work are used as elements in themselves, say as a horizon dividing sea and sky or as a tank gun’s line of fire.

Mr. Syjuco’s show is hard to describe, suffice to say that it’s very "now." One must see his New Literary Hybrids, experience them and bathe in their glow to fully appreciate their genius.

"Cesare is always thinking," said Ms. Syjuco. "He possesses a very unique imagination and everything he does is touched by it."

0006 The Philippine Star, Cruz, Syjuco: Achievers, January 2011

By Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) 

The following citation by the JCI Senate and Insular Life, which sponsored The Outstanding Filipinos (TOFIL) Award, says everything or nearly everything about Isagani R. Cruz:
“Highly principled and a deeply ethical person, Isagani Ronquillo Cruz, Ph.D., has worn many hats. But no matter what hat he wears, he has always devoted his life to the advancement of the Filipino people through his untiring work as literary writer, newspaper columnist, editor, publisher, cultural worker and manager, television host, literary judge, cabinet undersecretary, anthologist, book reviewer, quality assurance assessor and consultant, lecturer, scholar and teacher.
“His outstanding achievements in the fields of literature, journalism and media have earned him various local and international recognitions, including the prestigious Chevalier dans l’Ordre National de Merite, British Council Senior Fellow, Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards in Literature Hall of Fame, South East Asian Writers Award, Gawad Dangal ng Wikang Filipino, Gawad Pangbansang Alagad ni Balagtas, Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan sa Panitikan, among others. Known to be a complex person, he is able to write about and discuss issues simply. He stimulates minds with ease as he blends wit and humor. Prolific in both English and Filipino, he is a literary giant.”
*   *   *
When I was cultural editor of the post-EDSA Manila Times, Cesare A. X. Syjuco was my visual arts critic. Reading his pieces, I immediately realized he was no ordinary critic with his vast knowledge, keenest perception of his subject and his literary style. Even then, I was already aware that Cesare was encompassing other fields as poet, painter, musician (guitarist and singer), that his wife Jean-Marie was likewise a painter, and that their children had inherited their multi-faceted talent. This was later consistently proven by the family’s diverse exhibits, held singly or jointly.
Cesare’s most recent literary feat is a CD album/poetry book of text visuals and music entitled “A Sudden Rush of Genius” — how fitting! — subtitled “The New Underground Poetry of Cesare A. X. Syjuco.” The book was adjudged one among the Five Top Best in Design” by the National Book Awards 2010 jointly sponsored by the Manila Critics Circle and the National Book Development Board.
In the album, Cesare recites his poems, among them “Murder X the mannered tongue”: what idlings erect the mannered tongue/so that it quivers on its pivot/and reberberates/murder most foul, the slanderous/rhythm that kills by inflections,/a genuflection, prim/and proper as it’s cheap? discard/the verbiage of speech, and its place/a thousand verses bloom, each resplendent,/each discreetly poisoned at the bud…/an aromatic dangerous seduction/this: lilting as (bowed) strings/silken to the ear, sensuous and black.,/the game is played with/plagued with/diagrams, the magic a sham, the trans-/formation an illusion., cold speech/is murder in any language., is., mur-/der., in., any., language.,
The book has this write-up: “A living legend, the reclusive painter, poet and critic Cesare A.X. Syjuco is undoubtedly the most acclaimed Filipino multimedia artist of our time. The prizewinning ‘Hybrid Poems’ featured in these new recordings have previously appeared in various literary publications, art projects and exhibitions, and Cesare’s occasional live performances of his own poetry and music from 1981-2008.”
  • More on the author: “Hailed by the Philippine press at age 15 as “the young Mozart of Pinoy Rock”, Augusto R. Syjuco was the lead guitarist, composer and arranger for FAUST!, the phenomenal art-rock band of prodigious siblings that was discovered by MTV Asia in 1996, quickly signed to a major record label and disbanded two years later after releasing two controversial albums that included the historic ‘My Secret Identity’ in 1998 – probably the first full-length album to be released for free on the worldwide internet.

0008 The Manila Bulletin, Poetry & Live Art Performances at Cesare Syjuco's Ancestry of a Stone, August 2010

By Danny Castillones Sillada
01 August 2010
“I don't think artists can avoid being political. Artists are the proverbial canaries in the coalmine. When we stop singing, it's a sure sign of repressive times ahead.”
- Theresa Bayer

It has already been a tradition for a multi-disciplinary artist to invite poets, performance artists, and musicians to perform at the opening of his or her show. The convergence of different artistic mediums at the opening of Cesare Syjuco’s exhibit, for instance, produces interactive dialogues between the artists and the audience. And for the audience, it has always been a treat to witness such unique gathering of artists from different disciplines to reveal their aesthetic discourses through poetry, music, and live art performances.

Among those who performed at Cesare’s “Ancestry of Stone” last July 24, 2010 at Galleria Duemila in Pasay City were Gimeno H. Abad, Alfred “Krip” Yuson, Rayvi Sunico, Vim Nadera, and Maxine Syjuco for poetry; Cesare Syjuco, Mitch Garcia, Ian Madrigal, and this writer for live art performance; Lirio Salvador, J.P. Hernandez, and the members of Elemento for music.

Gimeno Abad always performs his poems from memory, thus speaking his poetry from his soul. The lightness of his persona and the sound of his placid voice emanate a buoyant atmosphere, cradling his audience with the rhythm of his verses. Alfred Yuson, on the other hand, seems blasé yet bubbly the way he engages his listeners with his spoken words. He always delivers his poems with wit and humor, titillating the mind and heart of the audience as though he was seducing a woman. Rayvi Sunico, a bilingual poet, speaks his poetry with such passion, drawing his audience closer to the texture of his linguistic expression.

Clad in tuxedo impersonating an opera singer, if not Pavarotti, Vim Nadera rouses the audience into laughter when he sang the name of Cesare Syjuco to the tune of “Besame Mucho”. Wearing a white mask and hand gloves, this writer also performed a poignant piece titled “Suicidal Tears”, an existential cry of anguish and despair, as expressed through bodily movements and bloody tears that came out from the mask’s eyeholes.

Lirio Salvador, the founder of ethno-industrial band called Elemento, redefines avant-garde music with eclectic sound that comes from assembled electronic and metal scraps. His orchestral music, with J.P Hernandez playing the percussion, creates an ambient backdrop for other artists to perform their pieces, like the sensual and mesmeric Maxine Syjuco with her short poem about the rain. Then, later, it was segued by Mitch Garcia, showing off her written statements on sheets of paper before the audience. One of her conspicuous avowals says: “Atheism is a non-profit organization.”

Cesare Syjuco’s performance is indubitably satiric and whimsical, luring his audience to listen attentively to the playful sound of his plastic gun with his emotive soliloquy: “She loves me, she loves me not…”(The man himself seemed to be overwhelmed and gratified over the success of his show). Noticeably, among the audiences were from showbiz, like Ronnie Lazaro and Joel Torre, and visual artists, like Tony Twigg with his wife, Gus Albor, Eghai Roxas, Red Mansueto, Roberto M. A. Robles, Raffy Ignacio, Boy Achacruz, and UP Professor and art critic Reuben Ramas Cañete, to name a few.

Hosted by gorgeous Trix Syjuco, co-host of Illuminati opposite Alfred Yuson at GNN Destiny Network (Channel 21), the superbly curated “Ancestry of Stone” and the entire performances were aesthetically orgasmic, culminating with exotic food, beer, and wine.

After the guests left one by one before midnight, this writer with Jean Marie Syjuco (painter and performance artist), Silvana Diaz (gallery owner), Lanie Aquino (cousin of PNoy), Gus Vivar (publisher), Mary Ann Sillada (Director of Neatnix Philippines), and Ilac Diaz (Pinoy social entrepreneur, activist, and model) relished once again the oeuvre of Cesare with a warm conversation on arts and culture, social issues, politics, and, of course, religion.

It was, after all, a night of aesthetic revelation that reopens our eyes to many facets of political and social realities, and a beginning to renew our hope and trust to our new political leader. And as one of Cesare Syjuco’s artworks says, “God Speaks to Cesare,” we (visual artists, writers, poets, and indie filmmakers and musicians) are hoping the same thing that God will already break His long silence and, this time, HE WILL SPEAK TO NOYNOY to bring peace, harmony, and prosperity in our country!

0019 Philippine Daily Inquirer, A Blast from the Arts, January 2007

By Constantino Tejero
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 01 January 2007
PHILIPPINE POLITICS may be a mess, the economy is on the brink, and the poor will always be poor, but the one thing still alive and kicking in the country all year round is the arts. A salute to the Filipino artist then for always deserving of our thumbs up, way, way up.
Elderly but still potent
Some senior artists don’t seem to dry up of creative juices, as they never fail to mount exhibits of their most recent works with undiminished potency. Just when you think they’ve long been rolling in their laurels, you stumble on new works by the likes of Arturo Luz, Juvenal Sansó, Roberto Chabet, Malang Santos. Even the nonagenarian Anita Magsaysay-Ho startles the art world now and then with a brilliant piece or two.
Young but very, very strong
Upcoming artists and relative unknowns often come up with strong art that can hold a candle to works by veterans. In June, Jesus Genotiva held his first solo show of expressionist portraits so potent one couldn’t look at them with equilibrium. One Marlon Magbanua impresses with abstraction of such fineness it should shame the clumsy brushwork of a few overhyped abstractionists.
Still on the frontline
Artists we haven’t heard from for some time have returned to the scene. Cesare and Jean Marie Syjuco came back from abroad and continued their series of avant-gardist installations and performances. Some we thought have stopped production, such as Red Mansueto and Alan Rivera, reappeared in group exhibits with interesting innovations on their respective art.
Hearts of gold
Artists can always be relied on to raise funds for charity. Early this year, Kulay Marikina exhibited nearly 100 artworks whose proceeds went to indigent cancer-stricken patients of the Philippine Children’s Medical Center. This month, Impy Pilapil and Ann Pamintuan are exhibiting their sculptural pieces for the cause of Make-a-Wish and Kythe Foundation. This only underscores the fact that artists are really humanitarians at heart.
Excitement of awards
The Thirteen Artists Award, now given by the Cultural Center of the Philippines every three years, proves to be as exciting as ever. Many of the awardees this year are precisely the same people the development of whose respective art we have been watching for some years now: Jeho Bitancor, Jayson Oliveria, Lyra Abueg Garcellano, Gary-Ross Pastrana, Luisito Cordero, Ma. Cristina Valdezco, Jevijoe Vitug, Mariano Ching, Daniel Coquilla, Lena Cobangbang, Ronald Anading, Eugene Jarque and Yasmin Sison-Ching. This award can be more exciting than the National Artists Award as its choices hold an element of surprise while the latter’s are often a foregone conclusion.

0017 Philipine Daily Inquirer, Cesare A.X. Syjuco and the New Formalism, February 2007

By Angelo V. Suarez
Philippine Daily Inquirer
19 February 2007
WITH THE STENCH OF THE GREAT New Critical corpse still hanging in the literary air, it has become almost an insult to brand anyone a formalist these days, what with the old formalism’s emphasis on the so-called closed nature of the literary “work” (in opposition to Roland Barthes’ open literary “texts”) and debilitating delusions of organic unity—poetry’s arrogance of apparent completeness unto itself, denying any contextual relations to cultural and historical materiality.
But with the fresh air provided by “Mighty Big Headstand,” the first of a series of small-scale exhibits cum large installations of “visual and literary hybrids,” Cesare A.X. Syjuco doesn’t seem to give a damn what he’s branded anymore.
And maturely so, for to extend his metaphor it isn’t merely the brave artist’s head at risk here: The verbo-visual headstand straddling different traditions at once is done also by the body-language of its viewers/readers, unwitting participants who themselves become personae in these 3D poetic texts, quite literally exploring a book bound by walls rather than paper or carton, themselves read as part of the show by more and more passersby.
Textuality, texturality
By the gallery’s entrance, one is greeted by the declaration “You have resurrected here,” as if by coming to the show s/he has entered a new life, a new textual beginning—followed by the instructions “Please excuse the inconvenience/ Please don’t struggle/ Please do exactly as you’re told,” forewarning the audience of more instructions and consequent participation, urging them into performance, penetrating the cold defenses of and disturbing armchair readership accustomed to being spoon-fed with bland and passive insight.
And certainly there is no passivity here. The show, after all, entails engagement, for to read Syjuco’s texts is to also view them, juxtaposing the abstraction of discursive language against the concrete experience of the image—a showcase of the creative potency of typeface when taken for more than mere tasteful design: typography at the service of signification, the medium becoming McLuhan’s message.
The use of transparent glass not only allows both sides of the page to be read and viewed at once, but allows the other pages—the walls behind the glass—easeful visibility from any single standpoint: Imagine being able to read page 14 of a standard book while you’re still on page 8.
One may also view one text then proceed to another, without any given order save for those formulated by chance or by the viewer.
A form of reading, a reading of form
Tension between the verbal and the visual, the two-way penetrability of glass, death and shadows and resurrection—the motif of duality and reflection is made most palpable by twin wide and lighted panes depicting planes occupying two walls at a 90-degree angle within the gallery.
Each airplane is faced with its doppelganger, both parked over their own reflections, printed in what seem to be Benday dots like those famously employed exaggeratedly in Lichtenstein’s popular comix-style art.
But these dots aren’t so much culled from old comix as the cover boxes of more recent hobby toys, of plastic tanks and model planes waiting to be assembled by the enthusiastic hobbyist.
But the implications go beyond the banal surfaces of hobby. Above the left plane, the text goes, “You are leaving here,” and below, “Please notice the Air.” Above the right plane the text goes in counterpoint, “You are arriving here,” and below, “Please notice the Air.”
What is most interesting here isn’t the juxtaposition of arrival and departure as mirror-images of each other (made literal by the actual surface reflections of each other as effected by glass and light), but the two planes’ juxtaposition against a third wall, on which hangs a glass pane depicting the image of the Madonna and Child.
Where the classical meets the contemporary, the pane which is the Holy Infant’s makeshift 2D stable becomes the olden reflection of the plane’s pane, which in turn is its makeshift 2D hangar.
And while one plane is the other’s doppelganger just as arrival is departure’s mirror-image, could this possibly be making the implication that the Son is the Mother’s reverse double, consequently connoting the secularization of the once-divine and the sacred quality huge manufactured objects (especially military objects) like planes have come to acquire?
The discourse jumpstarted by Syjuco is not simplistic but materially nuanced, denying any easy one-to-one correspondence among reflections: A shadow isn’t merely as dark as its shadow, after all, and holes don’t automatically translate into mountains.
And yet even in isolation, the third pane is already in itself a complex marvel: Backed by light whose five long bulbs seem like a hand giving both icon and audience the finger, the image’s classical roots in painting is complicated by its postmodern reproduction as printout.
The pinkish luminescence of the middle finger almost begs the viewer to pay attention to detail, to stoop in close examination of the imperfect inkjet quality of printing, lengthwise jags all over. This prompts the audience to reexamine the other imagistic texts, their occasionally unsmooth placement of acetate sheets over glass, emphasizing the seams over what seems plain and natural.
For, like in his use of Benday dots in the planes, it is this confession of artificiality that constitutes Syjuco’s formalism, that all artistic products are merely products of their process: Disillusioned by organic unity, one ceases to view any form as natural but rather as arbitrary constructs, shaped by the artist and further shaped by his audience.
Far beyond mere utilization and manipulation of form, “Mighty Big Headstand” is a mighty big critique of form—and Syjuco accomplishes this like a true master, at once playful and with effortless grace.
The show is ongoing at Mag:net Gallery, Paseo Center, G/F, Paseo de Roxas, Makati.