Out from the box called “nonessential” came the works of art that are now hanging and standing on the ground of the Malayan Colleges of Mindanao (Mapua School). Never has the artist been so constrained than in this time of pandemic. Ironically, however, is the fact that when labelled opposite the essentials, the artist became productive, rebelling and asserting his or her importance in the community.
Art has been the last resort when all modalities of communication fail. That’s when revolutions start. Mindanao Art 2020 became the basket that carries the varied artistic fruits of Mindanao. Right at its center stands a vessel constructed to tell the audience the beauty of liminality, which is what every Mindanawon artist held on while forced to stay home. In this liminality the artist was able to cross the boundaries and barriers of COVID-19, which easily translated to the canvas and the sculpture strategically curated at the lobby of MCM.
One of the many outstanding narratives in the totality of Mindanao Art 2020 is the works of the students from Davao City National High School. With Jeff Bangot as head artist and Jay Reeve Guerrero as its curator, these two art educators collected the artworks of their learners and put it into two giant paintings (at 4×8 ft each) that tell so much about the youth’s thoughts, feelings, and everything in between.
Bangot said that the learners, who are members of Arts and Design and Special Program in the Arts, express through drawings and paintings. It calms their minds and shushes the noise that infiltrate it.
The World Health Organization reports an increased number of suicide-related calls since the pandemic began. From 35 calls a month, they now receive 400 calls a month. Many of these calls were from people aging 15-29 years old.
Is art truly nonessential, especially now?
What’s captivating about the artworks of the learners from DCNHS is the manner that the youth culture is expressed in every doodle pasted in the canvass. They are non-conventional pop art and stranger to those who dwell on the regular. Nonetheless, there is no ambiguity in its telling about the learners’ hope and aspiration for the future. While they were unable to go out and do their teen activities, they found refuge in the pages of their old notebooks and pens to subdue their raging emotions and heal their souls.
Bangot emphasized, “Through art the child can define who he or she is. It will also help him or her process pain. If we teach them how to do and appreciate art, maybe we can become better human beings.”
Bangot, who is also noted for creating arts with students out from trash, found a way to transform the used pens into an installation art that tells the audience that life is like a pen.
Over a thousand ball pens were used to form three giant ball pens as an homage to the tool used for generations but which suddenly became immaterial because of the pandemic. These giant ball pens stand in the left corner of the lobby. Bangot said it is like a memorial service to the tool that lost its significance in the new normal. He sought to remind audiences that the pen is life and its ink is the passion that one can spend accordingly.
As the ink of the ball pen is used on the doodles, not one single drop was wasted. But there are also unused ball pens in the installation that tell the audience that one can go in this life and waste it, not serving its purpose. The installation forces the audience to reevaluate life and ask whether to use the ink until spent or just keep it intact.
This is why Davao City National High School’s principal, Evelyn E. Magno, vowed to fill the empty spaces and empty corridors of the campus with installation arts and paintings done by the students for the next two years. Magno vowed to improve the lives of the learners not only by providing quality education but also by filling their lives with art.
“Art should not be disqualified into a nonessential because it has been proven to help individuals cope away from stress or mental-related problems. As an educator, one must seek effective methods to help the lives of students. To do that, we must be holistic in our approach. Art is our ally in improving the health of our learners,” Magno said in a statement.
Mindanao Art 2020 is an avenue for young and old artists to become self-aware as they explore their feelings, emotions, and in between through art.