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Concrete Caution

His artworks stood out during the “Cultural Confluence” exhibit from September 2010 despite occupying the leftmost nook of the Art Center of SM City Cebu. This is because he has given Installation Art (an artistic genre of site-specific, three-dimensional works designed to transform the perception of a space) a Christian context.

Fr. Jason Dy, SJ, who goes by the moniker “Paring Jason,” said that the impetus of the project came from his work as physical plant administrator of the Sacred Heart Parish where he is currently the assistant parish priest.

“Somehow I’m able to practice my skills as a civil engineer — specifically a construction manager. Lately, I’ve been collaborating closely with architects, engineers and the construction staff,” Fr. J said.

“The found objects (shovel, boots, trowel, etc.) are things used during the construction of our road. The concrete rubbles are from the old road. Lately I’ve been interested in recycling old concrete rubble with embedded steels,” he added.

The boot box, labeled Caution No. 2, bore the title “Concrete Caution 2: Being Caught Flat-Footed. There’s a pair of rubber boots with warning tape inside the box frame. “This is an allusion to the experience of unpreparedness towards both the uncertainties and certainties of life like birth and death,” he explained.

Meanwhile, the shovel box (Caution No. 3) entitled “Concrete Caution 3: Digging One’s Own Grave” which mainly consisted of a shovel with warning tape inside a box frame “cautions the viewer of certain actions with negative consequences affecting not only himself but other people as well,” this was also learned.

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As for the bucket and trowel box or Caution No. 1, entitled “Concrete Caution 1: Building up a Façade”, it serves as a “reminder of what we build up here on earth and its eternal relevance or value”. In a box frame were placed a plastic bucket and a wooden trowel with warning tape.

According to him, the first project that he had with rubbles is the Stations of the Cross (now the collection of University of Cebu, care of Ms. Elizabeth Gan Go).

The Stations of the Cross consisted of abstract sculptures made from cement, barbed wire, electric cable, and other junk materials. This left many parishioners bewildered at how the works came to suggest the stages of Christ’s Passion, more accustomed to the tradition of religious art as a kind of visual aid to the faithful.

“For me, these rubbles are relics of the destroyed road or any structures of their ephemeral quality, however we designed them to last for a long time,” Fr. J went on.

He narrated that when a fellow artist saw the “Concrete Caution” installation, he told Fr. J that such reminded him of the horror of 9/11 which the construction materials represented in building the Twin Towers and used in clearing Ground Zero after the bombing. “It also cautioned him to be prepared for he doesn’t know the time and place the incident would happen again. I never thought that this installation could have an impact like that. I never ever conceived of that. I think that is the power of art. The artwork will have another layer of meaning beyond what the artist intends to communicate,” he further said.

The reaction came as a surprise because though Fr. J is a Christian artist (being a member of the Asian Christian Art Association), he makes it sure that his works are not outright imbued with Christian images. “I do not want to be ‘preachy’ in my works, but I desire to communicate spiritual realities of our human condition,” he pointed out.

Initially, it was the only intention of the “Concrete Caution” project to somehow investigate on the things we build and construct in this world, whether these are buildings or careers, and to question their immortal value. “As a religious artist, I summarize it with a scriptural question: ‘Where do we build our house, on sand or on rock?” (cf. Matthew 7:24-27 and Luke 6:47-49),” Fr. J stressed.

Such also came with a caution that not all the things we build lasts.

As for the warning sign tape zigzagging in the whole area in last September’s exhibit, he said that such alludes to earthquake cracks somehow “cautioning everybody that even the exhibit space and the artworks and the viewers do not really last.”

“The rocks with painted steel and the zigzagging black/yellow tape represent the rubbles and the cracks which befall when one is not cautious about these three things,” he continued.

“The concrete rubbles and found objects I salvaged during our church road construction are mediums that help me communicate my artistic and religious vision.”

“That’s my way of reminding viewers and artists to invest on things that will truly last.”

The “Concrete Caution Series” is now the permanent collection of Mr. Amado Go.

As for the recent mounting of the “Muted Voices Series”, which is a part of the “Mithing Sugbuanon” Exhibit at the lobby of the i3 Building (Asiatown IT Park in Lahug), Fr. J said that this project is a “work in progress.”

Moreover, he said that it was conceived a long time ago but that he was unable to find a better medium to communicate. “I have done these sketches and ink on paper transfers when I was in my fourth year at the Loyola School of Theology two years ago. Its inspiration came from my early college years at Xavier University, Cagayan de Oro City when I was a volunteer together with my Christian Life Community friends at Balay sa Gugma” – a foundation for streetchildren.”

He further shared that his three-year volunteer work there had a tremendous impact in his vocation and in his art. “I feel compassion towards these abandoned and neglected children at their young age. They are already exposed to brutality, vices and pain. Yet, they are a challenging lot. Just like in Balay sa Gugma, many institutions are helping them but the lure of the street’s carefree and loose life tempts them to jump off the fence of disciplined life in the shelters.”

“Despite this ambiguous stance towards them, there are success stories. One of them is Rodney from Balay sa Gugma. I heard from some of the former staff that through the help of German volunteers, he succeeded in life and is now a medical doctor. I hope we will meet someday and listen to his wonderful journey,” Fr. J added.

The impetus of working on “Muted Voices” again started when Fr. J had a first Friday Mass last December 2010 with the Grade 6 pupils of the Zapatera Elementary School. “During the homily, I asked them to write their hopes and prayers to God and bring them to the altar as part of our offertory procession. When I read them, I was moved by their sincere and simple hopes to God. Then, all things have fallen into place — the mixed media artworks on muted voices of hope finally saw completion.”

As a work in progress, Fr. J hopes to do a show just exhibiting faces of these children and their handwritten hopes.

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