|Market Sign Intervention 5th Neo-Angono Public Art Festival
||As Movement and Organization
Established in November 2004, NEO-ANGONO is both a movement and organization founded by visual artists, writers and poets, musicians, theater people, filmmakers, cultural workers, and art critic and researchers. The members of the core group were Wire Rommel Tuazon, Keiye Miranda-Tuazon, Carlos “Totong” Francisco II, Aaron Bautista, Ian Lomongo, Rem Vocalan, Ramon “Chitoy” Zapata, Claire Zapata, Mideo Cruz, Raoul “Iggy” Rodriguez, and Richard Gappi.
Most members are residents of Angono while others come from Manila, Mindanao and as far as Japan and USA. The group welcomes non-Angono artists because their ideas – once applied and contextualized in Angono milieu – are potent ways of infusing Angono art scene with new life and blood.
The group’s advisers include artists Nemi Miranda Jr., Jose Tence Ruiz, Mideo Cruz, Iggy Rodriguez, respected art critic and UP professor Alice Guillermo and poet-musician Jesus Manuel “Jess” Santiago.
As a movement, NEO-ANGONO strives to render modernist visual and artistic language responsive to the times by articulating and invigorating contemporary Angono experience, sensibility and consciousness. It is also a movement because it observes the intricate engagement and interplay of various creative art forms (the seven artistic idioms) wedded in the local community and people. This is symbolized by the group’s logo – a right hand planting a seedling with seven small leaves.
As an organization, NEO-ANGONO is non-profit, artist-centered, committed to experimentation, recognizes the need to contribute to art research and education, and welcomes support and advice from colleagues and critics. It has participated in art festivals such as the 2nd Tupada International Action Art Event held in February 2005, the UGNAYAN 2005 (4th Philippine International Performance Art Festival) held in September 2005, and art forum initiated by people behind Mag:net gallery.
As part of its educational program, the group has given free workshops and seminars on art (painting, sculpture, glass etching and silkscreen printing), poetry, drama and theater, and music to 2,000 scouts from all over the country in the 2004 National Jamboree held in Mount Makiling Los Baňos, Laguna as well as to more than 1,000 high school and college students of University of Rizal System in Pililla, Morong, Angono and Gingergrace Academe in Angono. This summer, the group will hold another workshop in Barangay Sapang, Talim Island in Binangonan, Rizal courtesy of a Belgian foundation.
Public Art: NEO-ANGONO’s niche in the national art scene
For the past three years, the group has undertaken independently the public art festival which has featured more than 200 art performances. The recently concluded festival, though, was co-presented with National Commission for Culture and the Arts (through the project titled “Popularizing Public Art and Strengthening Cultural Engagement” under NCCA’s Layag: Contemporary Artist Residency Program) and tutoK Karapatan, an alliance of more than 200 artists nationwide calling for respect for human rights.
The festival was an offshoot to the annual art exhibit of “young and third generation of Angono visual artists” whose works and paintings usually depart from the subject and style of elder Angono artists. The festival traditionally kicks off with an early morning tribute to Angono’s two national artists – Carlos “Botong” Francisco and Maestro Lucio San Pedro. At the tomb of Angono’s two great sons, NEO-ANGONO artists ask for their guidance and blessing, sing songs, recite poetry,and do performances while the first light of the day spreads from the mountain to Laguna Lake.
The festival ends on the eve of the town fiesta with a concert like fete de la musique featuring various bands playing ska, reggae, alternative, indigenous and world music while
audience pour water over their head and enjoy drinks to cap the tedious and tiresome week.
Like any other independent and artists-initiated activity, the festival managed to survive
through the financial contribution and collective effort of its members, support from private
art patrons and enthusiasts, and collaboration with students and residents of Angono. The group also observes “ampunan,” or playing host to artists from Manila and provinces by providing them free food, lodging and, sometimes, free beer during the “cultural engagement,” the group’s jovial term for drinking session, idle talk and socialization.
Public art, though, may also be bad for one artist’s health and ego, so to speak.
In November 2004, one member – and a prominent artist at that -- personally tried but failed to sell his painting at a lower price so that there would be money to spend for the festival which was on its second day already. In 2005, five members of the group suffered minor injuries when they fell out of truck along with the bamboos they will use for their art installation. Last public art, an artist has to control his temper because a resident inside his house unwittingly (or wittingly) poured a pale of water over his head while he was installing art pieces on the Angono River.
In general, the public views with amusement and admiration the art pieces and performances located in public spaces. Artworks and performances are no longer confined to the four walls of galleries or museum since they are now looking at these pieces and enticing them to respond and participate.
This is evident in the sign intervention project in which one artist covered the letters “M,”
“K,” and “E” of the ANGONO PUBLIC MARKET signage, thus producing “ANGONO PUBLIC ART” which was one of the most visible artworks and info material of the group.
There was also this installation of large photographs of Filipino soldiers during the Filipino-American War, which were hanged on Angono River to send the message that these unsung and unnoticed heroes in the fight for our independence deserved what is due them in history books and minds of their countrymen.
Also effective were the “Share-a-thumb print” performance urging the public to support and uphold human rights; the street performance in which an artist tied himself and refused to eat for a whole day while placing beside him a note from Edmund Burke which says, “For evil to triumph, it only takes for good people to do nothing;” and the “Sunset Cinema” installation on the lakeshore of Laguna Lake where, after the festival, the people took and kept as souvenirs the artworks installed behind the large white canvas.
The ferris wheel performance is also an annual project of NEO-ANGONO’s public art festival. Last year, large portraits of victims of political killings were placed on the ferris wheel and rotated slowly. The performance, titled “Vicious Circle,” calls for a stop to the rampant killings happening nationwide. During the first two public art festivals, the ferris wheel served as image for a “crisis-laden Christmas season” and as symbol for land problem of Angono people during the Spanish period.
A great leap in the public art festival was the dance performance of Dancing Wounded Commune, a first time in the history of Angono, Rizal. The group performed a piece that dwells on the philosophy of a theater artist as regards to love and passion.
Another activity which has become part of the annual festival is the “Sinekalye” or film showing located on Metrobank parking area where Angono’s last cinema, the Star Theater, used to occupy. The bamboo poles and white canvas serving as stage and large television do not only become functional installation but an on-site installation as well because it is pregnant with meaning and testament to reclaiming a lost part of Angono’s cultural past.
In the end, we are looking forward to a time when the younger artists of Angono – those who are so-called next in line – will dub and consider our works as “repetitive and outmoded already.” Perhaps, that would be the greatest appreciation and compliment that we could get because in so doing, these young artists will eventually explore the limits of art we once traversed and create their own new perception based on their time and milieu.
This is good news because it means that the spirit of Angono’s art will continue to nourish and flourish.