Arts and Culture

Marco Ortiga summons the storm

ARTMAGEDDON - Igan D’Bayan - The Philippine Star
Marco Ortiga summons the storm
Marco Ortiga and his “Bagyo” art installation for his Sunvault Art Residency at Anmon Resort Bintan, Indonesia

Marco Ortiga considers himself “more of a tinkerer than an artist.” But it is exactly that thirst for tinkering with objects, space and even time that makes great art come into fruition.

“I enjoy making stuff and figuring out how things work,” says Ortiga, who started out as a production designer right after college, designing and building sets for indie films (Tandem and Patintero: Ang Alamat ni Meng Patalo), adverts and music videos (Pupil, Sponge Cola, and Kjwan, among others). He currently works as an artist and industrial designer, creating architectural pieces and custom furniture out of metal.

For his latest project, Ortiga recreated rain.

Let me qualify that for you. Last February, Ortiga was selected as one of the artists-in-residence of the Sunvault Art Residency program at the desert-themed “glamping” resort called Anmon in Bintan Island, Indonesia. And for the exhibition on view until December, he created an art installation titled “Bagyo” consisting of over 50 custom-built rainsticks of different sizes rigged into a spiral pattern and connected to a manual crank system.

“That way, when a user cranks it, the rotating rainsticks will recreate a continuous sound of rain,” he explains. The man was inspired by the ominous, percussive soundtrack brought forth by heavy typhoons that regularly hit the Philippines.

A rainstick, originally used as a ceremonial instrument to call forth rain across the land, sounds soothing and relaxing. Its music is mantric. But, when woven together as a massive metal spiderweb of intersecting and intervening sounds, these rainsticks mimic the tempestuous nature of an apocalyptic downpour. 

The theme for the Sunvault Art Residency program is the merging of architectural design with environmental elements. The organizers, headed by curator Tengal, wanted pieces that were experiential and interactive for the viewer. Selected along with Ortiga were Jon Romero, Randie de Leon Tojos and Teoh Le Tuyen.

Jon Romero is a sound artist from the Philippines. His piece is called “Sound Bridge,” an interactive sound installation that produces musical inflections when touched by a person. The participant, upon touching the metal pipes of the bridge, serves as a conduit where the sound glides through the human body, exploring the connection between art, humanity and the surrounding environment.

Another Filipino artist is Randie de Leon Tojos, who created a Technicolored pinwheel seesaw called “Sea-saw Windmill.” Participants can sit on the seesaw as the windmill is powered, and when the sun hits the structure, the acrylic shapes “will cast colorful shadows on the sand.” The installation creates a sense of childlike playfulness that sparks ideas of balance, motion and harmony between people.

Teoh Le Tuyen is an artist from Vietnam. Her work is called “Reflection Point,” consisting of a box covered with mirrors, which forces viewers to not just view the surrounding beauty, but also themselves placed within the environment. The artwork poses questions about nature, life and our humanity. During the evening, red light emits from the inner part of the artwork, creating an almost interstellar-like structure in the desert.

Ten days working on a stormy installation on an island gave Marco an epiphany or two. “It was definitely a hustle to finish everything on time. I felt as if I were in a reality show. But everyone with some free time came in and helped me out, a reminder of the kind of community that art can bring. I learned a lot from the other artists. My background is in film production and fabrication, so it was interesting to see how others offered different points of view, and how it all came together in the end.”

The residency program was originally planned to transpire every six months, with the selected artists spending 10 days in the resort, building their art pieces to be exhibited until the next batch of artists arrive. But the pandemic has pressed pause on the residency program until 2021.

“Since the world has been put on hold, I have been given the chance to sit still and make something,” says Marco, who considers his father — gallery owner, art collector and custom-motorcycle enthusiast Sari Ortiga — a huge influence on him as a thinker and tinkerer. “(The piece) doesn’t really have to be anything extraordinary because nobody is going to see it anyway. So, I am also able to go back to some abandoned projects that were purely conceptualized just for fun. I guess it is something I never really got to do: to just tinker away.”

The artist imagines a post-COVID art scene where the Internet is king. “It will play such a big role in our future. Maybe it will be a new kind of medium altogether, the way street art has evolved. Who knows what it will look like or how it will be consumed? Is it a video? A GIF? A website? Only time will tell. And what role will art play in a post-pandemic world? For sure art will still be around but for what purpose?”

And these thoughts are swirling inside Marco Ortiga’s head like a confluence of storms.

* * *

For information on the Anmon’s desert art exhibition, visit www.sunvaultartresidency.com.


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