Art, the day after
“Ficciones 3” by Igan D’bayan

Art, the day after

ARTMAGEDDON - Igan D’Bayan (The Philippine Star) - April 6, 2020 - 12:00am

It would be glorious, I tell you.

The day we get out of this Corona Virus shitstorm is the day we will truly savor beer, wine or whisky as well as the intoxicating company of loved ones. We will get our worn-out copies of “Kind of Blue” or “A Love Supreme” and listen to each holy, hallucinogenic note and be moved accordingly. (Well, whatever rocks your world, whether it is Billie Holiday or Billie Eilish.) Or finally read Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow and enjoy every minute of our sweet, bewitching bafflement. (What? Where are we? What is happening right now?) Poetry, surely, will ring truer. This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but with a whimper. (Lord, don’t take Jackson Browne just yet.) Or… I will show you fear in a handful of dust. (“Droplets” nowadays are even scarier.) But, for now, we just need — according to Dylan Thomas and echoed by Chickoy Pura of The Jerks — to keep on raging. To rage against.

Yes, we listen to records and read books these days during our (enforced, enhanced, extreme with Beta-Carotene) quarantine days but with a cloud of gathering gloom above our heads. When will all this end? Someone told me I can finally get some painting done. You know, those people who say art thrives in the bleakest of moments and it would take something of biblical proportions to nullify creativity are bullshitting. How could I set my mind on glazing surfaces, applying light and shadow, following the Golden Ratio when people are dying, businesses are closing down, people are panicking, politicians are politicking — and the future is becoming the dystopia of Contagion, Children of Men and Charlie Brooker. Recently, someone in NYC held up a sign that read, “I don’t like this episode of Black Mirror.” Is it the Earth’s final season with all the ridiculous Lost plot twists thrown in the mix? Who is writing this goddamn mess of a script? David Benioff and D.B. Weiss?

Maybe if I were the son of a real-estate magnate or a high-ranking customs broker with obscene amounts of money in the bank, I would be painting something to decorate your walls with. (In between going on “soul-searching” trips to Nepal or dabbling into DJ-ing.) If I were an auction star, heck, I would still be churning out monolithic faces of barrio lasses festooned with flowers and butterflies or petrified jiggly squirts of vomit-y abstracts. But I am a painter who tries to render the horror within me. And, these days, the level of fright is too damn high. I worry for my mother, my editor and for my girlfriend Avee. I look out the window of the house in the village that I live in and I see a ghost town. The village elders are fear-mongering. The virus is “airborne,” they proclaim, stay indoors at all times. If you want to walk your dog or jog, do it in the middle of the road away from our houses, they insist. How idiotic! What about the onrushing viral machines called vehicles?

I got booted out of the subdivision Facebook group along with several other nay-saying villagers for probably voicing “dissent.” (Which is the running gag even in the national government, it turns out.) Out came the pitchforks and torches quickly. The off-with-their-heads sort of thing. The village elders are ruthless in their retirement mansions with manicured gardens, fleet of cars and their army of household help. It was like the Salem Witch Trials or McCarthy witch-hunts run by panicky Boomers: If you don’t think like us, then you are against us. Can’t really blame them for wetting their pants, though. In the distance, sirens are singing. Not the sirens of Greek myths. But the ones ferrying the dead or dying.

This too shall pass, declare the influencers on social media, who then promptly post annoying TikTok videos and “Until Tomorrow” photos of themselves. (Those “embarrassing, might delete later” bullshit posts.)

Oh, how we measure out our lives these days with afternoons and 3-in-1 coffeespoons. For Avee, it is the number of times she was to wipe the blood off the floor because our beloved devil of a Doberman (Lucretia “Lucca” Diavola) is on her third week of menstruation. Avee is a “Dobermom” by day and dog-shop-inventory, Excel-app grappler by night. For other couples, being quarantined or locked down at home is the definition of tedium. Not for us; we enjoy just being together. We talk about the courageous doctors, nurses and other frontliners (shout-out to health workers everywhere). We talk about the ones who succumb and the ones who recover. We talk about the good work being done by Gang Badoy-Capati and Rock Ed. We talk about who currently is “The Most Hated In The Nation” on Twitter. We talk about how important art is despite being on the throes of the apocalypse.

A couple of nights ago, I was able to convince Avee to watch a zombie movie with me (a torturous proposition for her). It was heaven for me. Well, until Avee woke up in the middle of the night with a bloodcurdling scream. She probably dreamt of zombies or — in all likelihood — an infinity of Excel spreadsheets multiplying in front of her. Waiting to be tabulated. Que horror, que horror.

Nowadays, I sift through my vinyl racks imagining myself in Banana Record or Disk Union, looking for the Holy Grail(s) (currently, it is the ORG 45-RPM, double-LP pressing of “Heavy Weather” by Weather Report, the German “320” pressing of “Superunknown” by Soundgarden, and the ouija-board-bought-in-Jerusalem-inspired LP by The Mars Volta).

I miss the joy of digging with the promise of ramen and frosted Suntory beer afterwards; museum visits, gallery hops and walks in parks; attending live gigs; “sunsets and dooryards and sprinkled streets”; and the little things most of us take for granted. All the things we ever had, but just could not keep.

But for now we are here: today in this “hollow valley of dying stars.” Stay safe. See you soon, probably the day after. Behold a new and improved us, slouching out of our caves under the bluest, un-cloudy skies we have ever seen.

Sluggish shadows limbering to meet the dawn.

It would be glorious, I tell you.

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