Unapologetic ’Juan dala Krus’

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Arel Zambarrano and his mentor Angelo “Junjun” Duarte offer an apt embodiment of this dictum with two-man show “Juan dala Krus,” which opened at Museo Iloilo on Nov. 17, unapologetic in its exploration of the ills of Philippine society and the institutions that have enabled them: Two-faced churches, colonial mentality, and a largely patriarchal culture, among others. Art, Juan dala Krus, Museo de Iloilo, Community, Arel Zambarrano, Angelo “Junjun” Duarte, Society, Commentary, Exhibit,

IT WAS revolutionary German playwright Bertolt Brecht who said that art is not only a mirror held up to reality, but also a hammer with which to shape it.

Arel Zambarrano and his mentor Angelo “Junjun” Duarte offer an apt embodiment of this dictum with two-man show “Juan dala Krus,” which opened at Museo Iloilo on Nov. 17, unapologetic in its exploration of the ills of Philippine society and the institutions that have enabled them: Two-faced churches, colonial mentality, and a largely patriarchal culture, among others.

Through undaunted found object art installations, “Juan dala Krus” summons the archetypes we all know too well: The scapular-wearing mother buried in labada, the father who stumbles home drunk after a night of gambling, the self-righteous neighbors with their gossiping and rumor-mongering – while holding an unflinching mirror to the cruel fractured culture of our country that the masses have become content to accept as the norm: Widespread poverty, gender inequality, the "kapit patalim" mentality.

Arel Zambarrano and his mentor Angelo “Junjun” Duarte offer an apt embodiment of this dictum with two-man show “Juan dala Krus,” which opened at Museo Iloilo on Nov. 17, unapologetic in its exploration of the ills of Philippine society and the institutions that have enabled them: Two-faced churches, colonial mentality, and a largely patriarchal culture, among others. Art, Juan dala Krus, Museo de Iloilo, Community, Arel Zambarrano, Angelo “Junjun” Duarte, Society, Commentary, Exhibit,

“‘Juan dala Krus’, [can be interpreted] literally,” explains Zambarrano. “Si Juan [the Filipino everyman] naga dala krus. It’s the entire nation carrying this cross, [and most burdened] are those who are treated as the lowest rung in society, the suffering grassroots. They are the main inspiration of this show.”

Returning from a decade-long hiatus, Duarte presents a dour yet somewhat nostalgic picture of the Philippines’ recurring characters and backward traits in his comeback presentation. In “Bread Winners Diary,” he collects items that are often attributed to our nurturing matriarchs: diapers, an old carton of milk formula, a carmen charm, a prayer book – most telling is a box of light bulbs, as Filipinos have come to refer to mothers as the “ilaw ng tahana.”

By contrast, Duarte pokes fun at the male ego of alcoholic fathers in “Fit In Chart”, brandishing different bottles of liquor, below them the labels “macho image” and “big time image,” among others. Gender politics and the clash of the two sexes comes full circle in “Aguantista (Broken Time)” and “Hearts Apart,” mounting the tattered remains of a broken family – a mangled toy, a shattered picture frame, a bayong torn apart, a wooden cane, the insinuation of adultery – on an unforgiving white backdrop of paper doll silhouettes.

Arel Zambarrano and his mentor Angelo “Junjun” Duarte offer an apt embodiment of this dictum with two-man show “Juan dala Krus,” which opened at Museo Iloilo on Nov. 17, unapologetic in its exploration of the ills of Philippine society and the institutions that have enabled them: Two-faced churches, colonial mentality, and a largely patriarchal culture, among others. Art, Juan dala Krus, Museo de Iloilo, Community, Arel Zambarrano, Angelo “Junjun” Duarte, Society, Commentary, Exhibit,

Most eye-catching is Duarte’s “Tsismis (Rewind, Pause, Record, Fast Forward)” with its interlocked bird cages and unwound cassette tapes evoking the Philippine pastime of hearsay and backstabbing .
Zambarrano deals subtle digs to these same unsavory characters in his series of wall-mounted installations. With titles as gritty and defiant as “Sulod Dukot,” “Kunsintidor,” “Tirada ka Alpot,” and “Punso Pilato,” his macabre portraits are pierced by needles, partially burned by matchsticks, and written-over with harsh hand-painted script.
No-holds-barred, Zambarrano then goes for the jugular with his painting “Sometimes Inner Darkness Can Show You The Light,” depicting a man holding a knife behind his back – complemented by the installation “Welcome Criticism,” its crimson carpet littered with 911 sharpened blades in all, as the eerie music of Sugar Hiccup builds to a wailing crescendo in the background.

“[We] want to provoke our audience. The exhibit aims to impart insights and awareness on different social issues in shocking ways,” shares Zambarrano. “[We hope] the series of installation art will somehow move them, stimulate them, make them wonder and think deeply about what they’re seeing.”

Arel Zambarrano and his mentor Angelo “Junjun” Duarte offer an apt embodiment of this dictum with two-man show “Juan dala Krus,” which opened at Museo Iloilo on Nov. 17, unapologetic in its exploration of the ills of Philippine society and the institutions that have enabled them: Two-faced churches, colonial mentality, and a largely patriarchal culture, among others. Art, Juan dala Krus, Museo de Iloilo, Community, Arel Zambarrano, Angelo “Junjun” Duarte, Society, Commentary, Exhibit,

Zambarrano shares that Duarte has been a constant mentor to him since his years as a student at Iloilo Science and Technology University – then known as the Western Visayas College of Science and Technology – adding that “Juan dala Krus” has always been his “dream show” as it enabled him to work with someone who has inspired and influenced him so much.

“Duarte was my instructor during college. Ang concept nga ma two-man show kami and the title itself was conceptualized long before pa, sing ara pa ko sa classroom niya as a student,” relates Zambarrano, now the president of the Hubon Ilonggo artist collective.
“Juan dala Krus” opened to arguably one of the largest opening-night crowds for an Iloilo exhibit in recent history, drawing Ilonggos from all walks of life on Nov. 17.

“We invited our students, our parents, as well as common people like our construction workers to witness the show,” said Zambarrano. “We strongly advocate that art is for all, it’s not only for the ‘elite’ or ‘high-minded’ individuals.”

“Juan dala Krus” shines a glaring spotlight on Philippine society’s squalor and the struggles of its masses – the hordes stuffed into congested informal settlements and urban poor areas, the marginalized workers and farmers, all barely surviving “isang kayod, isang tuka.”

Arel Zambarrano and his mentor Angelo “Junjun” Duarte offer an apt embodiment of this dictum with two-man show “Juan dala Krus,” which opened at Museo Iloilo on Nov. 17, unapologetic in its exploration of the ills of Philippine society and the institutions that have enabled them: Two-faced churches, colonial mentality, and a largely patriarchal culture, among others. Art, Juan dala Krus, Museo de Iloilo, Community, Arel Zambarrano, Angelo “Junjun” Duarte, Society, Commentary, Exhibit,

But it seeks not just to reflect these cruel aspects for more Ilonggos to see. “Juan dala Krus” endeavors to serve as an eye-opener, or even a call to action, and hopefully hammer, shape, and sculpt a better tomorrow – after all, Jesus Christ himself was a carpenter – with more Filipinos becoming “mulat” and seeing the ills of our oppressive and unfair society.

“I think ang exhibit nga ini timely katama, to give a peculiar experience for the audience especially sa mga Ilonggo. Its purpose is to awaken [them to the harsh realities of our country],” concluded Zambarrano.


Photos courtesy of Eric Barbosa Jr. and ATMOS.PH.
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Arel Zambarrano and his mentor Angelo “Junjun” Duarte offer an apt embodiment of this dictum with two-man show “Juan dala Krus,” which opened at Museo Iloilo on Nov. 17, unapologetic in its exploration of the ills of Philippine society and the institutions that have enabled them: Two-faced churches, colonial mentality, and a largely patriarchal culture, among others. Art, Juan dala Krus, Museo de Iloilo, Community, Arel Zambarrano, Angelo “Junjun” Duarte, Society, Commentary, Exhibit,

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