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Anting - Anting
The Cultural Center of the Philippines Exhibition


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by Patrick D. Flores




            After surmounting the crisis of representation, contemporary art comes to grips with a crisis of presence. In a context in which everyday life is aestheticized by a ravenous mass media and a global entertainment industry that penetrates and exhausts, how is art to intervene in generating a form of distinction that still matters, neither in the modernist sense of estrangement nor in the postmodernist device of pastiche?  If art can still be reckoned as an evocation of an enchantment with possibility and the disenchantment with inequity, or even the banality of evil, how is it to present itself in the society of the spectacle and simulacra? If the aura of art had been effectively outstripped in the age of mechanical reproduction and been reconceived as artifact, commodity, or material culture in active circulation in the mad traffic of globalization, how is it to matter and materialize?

            On yet another plane, what if this art invokes the anting-anting, roughly translated as amulet, and works on it as a theme or a subject that touches to the quick a relay of allusions to potency: gayuma, agimat, bisa, Infinito Dios? How do these forms of evocations make the cut in current society and everyday life? Both art and the art of and on the anting-anting haunt and are, therefore, to some extent spectral, in the sense that they possess power, albeit challenged, and harbor will. This presence can be felt and in fact can stir if drawn from the context of local knowledge, from an ecology of belief, from a system of making sense and process of ritual, consecration, and nurturance, from a scheme of magic, mythology, and the millenarian redemption. It also emerges from history, a postcolonial one that addresses both domination and resistance in the struggle for liberation and in the negotiation of contemporary life in popular culture.  

            These layers of relations render complex the exhibition of Anting-anting, a group of both accomplished and emerging artists bound by their ties to Cavite, an industrializing boomtown wracked by sharp social discrepancies but enticed by prospects of development. The locus of Cavite itself is significant; it invests the community and its art with place and its politics. One of its prominent politicians was known in the movies for portraying a hero with the anting-anting: the mystique of cinematic fantasy merges with the equally phantasmagorical realpolitik of Cavite. And if we step back and take in the bigger picture, we see anting-anting and Cavite in a wider cultural cosmology, in a denser forest of intersecting meanings.

The group Anting-anting was formed in 1997. It has mounted four group exhibitions and completed five commissioned murals that discuss the burning issues of the day, most specifically the changes wrought by the infusion of industrial capital into the Calabarzon area and the telltale encroachment of garbage on habitation.

            For this project, the members of Anting-anting interpret the anting-anting not as an inert object. They rather regard it as a medium, in the broadest contemplation of the term as material and an intervening agency. It is a range of forces in the socio-political continuum of history. It s a spectrum of potentials summoned for discrepant ideological interests. It is also an expression of artists with different styles and shaped by divergent careers, artists who take to the anting-anting in many ways, informed by the many ways of their encounter with it. But all this comes together in the fellowship of art.

            The most resonant revelation of the anting-anting in the experience of the artists is the process of believing; it appears that it is not so much belief as discourse, although this is undoubtedly paramount as well, as the aesthetic of believing, the modus operandi, so to speak, of believing. This production of belief tracks the temper of energy, of power, of a certain sovereignty and invincibility, of the end(s) of mortality. 

            But for these artists, this power is not simply to be exercised as mere prerogative; that would be too petty and vulgar. On the contrary, they view it as a problem that seeks resolution in the following themes.





Curated by Patrick D. Flores