Big Crowd with a Big Buzz negotiated inclement weather and the dramatic dichotomy of Van's downtown eastside to attend Cruz/Loyola performances chez Gachet. Expectations were extremely high for the works by these two politically-active/socially-engaged artists from Manila, Philippines who are both well-known in the international performance art circuit.
Mideo Cruz's durational performance
presented at Gallery Gachet, Wednesday, Oct 17/07
Cruz built a small 3-walled bedroom in the all-white gallery, installed a bed covered with red goo, crucifixes, jewellery, guts, food etc., and then suffused it with red light. He lay naked on the bed while de Loyola squirted him with liquid (more red paint?) and a recorded vocal track droned over the installation/aktion.
I asked three Tagalog-speaking-gallery-goers what was on the soundtrack and received three different answers; one said it was a list of names, one a Catholic hymn, & one that it was a children's poem. I suspect it doesn't matter and the telling of the tale lies neither in the detail nor the implied narrative. Norman Crisologo said of Cruz's work that "it tells me stories with different endings".
With this quote in mind (as well as looking at previous work on Mideo Cruz's webpage from which 2 images are shown left & right), I felt Mideo Cruz's RED ROOM was a shrine, a torture chamber, a bearing witness, and an embodiment of the artist's assessment of the history and future of the Philippines. Was the list of names an homage for persecuted and prosecuted political prisoners? Was the Catholic hymn a source of iconography/oppression? Was the children's song a testimony to the betrayal of children/hope/future? Maybe none of these things ...
It was hard to see the performance. The gallery was crowded. And 75% of the audience had brought cameras and jockeyed for position with the LIVE-festival staffers who were doing still/video documentation plus hosting a live webcast on the internet. (LIVE staffers Elisha Burrows & Brady Marks shown below).
All those CAMERAS clustered around Cruz's naked body felt like a shark-feeding frenzy over a CSI-cadaver. Part of the artist's intent? Perhaps to implicate our obsession with media and technology during this time of globalization and war?
The large crowd waited and mingled -- rubbing wet woolies and squishing in soggy shoes -- once in a while glancing at a dramatically lit medium-sized knife embedded into the crisp white gallery wall. So much crowding and mingling that for me it was reminiscent of large performance art events hosted by Le Lieu Gallery in Quebec City, PQ.
Suddenly, a voice.
Racquel de Loyola's performance
Mebuyan presented at Gallery Gachet, Wednesday, Oct 17/07
A powerful, emotional, operatic, make-your-hair-stand-on-end-kind-of-voice packed with pathos, tragedy, and guts. Slowly, Racquel de Loyola, dressed in white flour or talcum reminiscent of butoh, & dressed as multi-breasted goddess Mebuyan from Bagobo tribe, slowly made her way through the crowd -- singing, singing, singing. I did not want this part of the performance to end. I wanted her to sing forever !!! In fact, to me, this WAS the performance.
Loyola eventually made her way to the gallery wall with the embedded knife, squirted red paint from the nipples of her breasts, whipped her powdered hair about to create clouds of white dust, and then squished/lanced her remaining breasts until she was empty of blood/paint. Finally, her breasts ripped open and hanging. revealed her ravaged chest wall looking like a horror image from female war dis-memberment or a nightmare of breast cancer surgery.
Many ancient cultures have a multi-breasted goddess and this icon is used frequently by feminist artists. But Racquel did it particularly well! Racquel's performance also reminded of one by legendary theatre artist Tsuneko Kokubo of "Snake in the Grass Moving Theatre Company". In the '80's, I saw Tseneko (Koko) perform a series of multi-breasted goddess butoh-inspired performances at the Nikkei Internment Centre Museum in New Denver, BC and the Silverton BC Art Gallery.
As Daina Warren drove me home to my little fishing village through the urban-shiny-rainy-slick streets, I was riding waves of memories: Koko/Racquel/Gamelan orchestra(s)/the late Martin Bartlett/shadow plays ...
At Gallery Gachet, Mideo Cruz and Racquel de Loyola continue to work with Vancouver's Filipino community especially the Sinag Bayan Cultural Collective.
... respectfully submitted by Margaret Dragu @ Gallery Gachet, Wed Oct 17/07
LIVE5 Photos: Mideo M Cruz and Racquel de Loyola Photo Sets