'Pièce de resistance': Toym Imao on how UP 'Barikada' turned into protest art overnight
The "Barikada" installation at the University of the Philippines Diliman campus
Toym Imao via Facebook

'Pièce de resistance': Toym Imao on how UP 'Barikada' turned into protest art overnight

Ratziel San Juan (Philstar.com) - January 27, 2021 - 4:40pm

MANILA, Philippines — Right when the University of the Philippines community demands to be heard, a timely art installation on-campus demands to be seen.

Towering red barricades stand undaunted at the Oblation Plaza of the UP Diliman campus in Quezon City.


#UPrising ! It's been a fulfilling weekend setting up these two installations in UP Diliman. Still, much work to be done...

Posted by Toym Leon Imao on Saturday, January 23, 2021


Known as “Barikada,” the project was assembled near the actual barricades set up by students in 1971 known as the Diliman Commune, just in time for the uprising’s 50th anniversary.

Surely enough, it also comes at the height of the controversial abrogation of the 1989 UP-DND Accord that prevents police and military from entering the university.

Philstar.com spoke with visual artist and teacher Toym Imao to understand the process and intentions behind his trending work.


"Barikada" was constructed with repurposed materials, namely old and condemned campus furniture, bamboo and components from past installations.

“Hindi po siya gawa sa 50 million peso na kaldero, 389 million na dolomite, o mula sa 15 billion na pondo ng PhilHealth (ay nasali),” Toym quipped.

He compared the color to roses, lipstick, firetrucks, as well apples on the mouth of lechon or that handed by Eve to Adam.

It took around 20 individuals only about three days on-site to finish the "Barikada." Construction, however, was a “little difficult” since the team had to observe health protocols and physical distancing throughout.

Toym said the more detailed components for the installation were started in their studio as early as last December.

“‘Barikada,’ with its bamboo components and hanging messages and stories embedded in the installation, is also a homage to the artist Jose Luis Yee or Junyee’s art installation Balag’ made of the same materials, and constructed during the year of the First Quarter Storm. That important work is technically the first art installation done in UP Diliman 50 years ago by an artist who is acknowledged as the pioneer of installation art in the Philippines,” the artist revealed.


"Barikada" is half of the two-part public art installation project "enKWENTrO: Mga Kwento ng Enkwentro" for this year's UP Diliman Arts and Culture Festival.

It was only recently decided that the other half, the "Desaparecidos" installation comprised by 43 individual sculptures bearing empty frames, be reinstalled to complement "Barikada at the Oblation Plaza.

“There were no changes to the original installation which saw its last display at halls of the Supreme Court on Human Rights Day 2018.  We first installed the artwork at the steps of Palma Hall in 2015,” Toym said.

"The reinstallation we feel is very timely since the sad narratives of the individuals who disappeared during the Marcos dictatorship were students who were abducted by state forces.”

Toym, a member of the UP College of Fine Arts faculty, said that “enKWENTrO” is the 2nd phase of a proposed three-year commemoration that started with “Nagbabadyang Unos” in 2020 and “Batas Militar” in 2022 for the 50th anniversary of the declaration of Proclamation 1081 placing the entire Philippines under Martial Law in 1972.


Posted by UP Diliman OICA on Monday, January 25, 2021


Jokingly tagged by the community as a "serial collaborator" for his role in public art undertakings around the campus, Toym personally pitched the idea of doing a suspended installation to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the First Quarter Storm. This is in cooperation with the university's Office for Initiatives in Culture and the Arts (OICA) that invited him to be part of the program.

Toym described the project's timing as "uncanny.”

“‘Barikada’ was planned since the start of the 1st quarter of 2020 before the pandemic and continued in the late 3rd quarter when lockdown restrictions were eased. We started with the actual installation preparations and mobilizing for the artwork last January 18 by securing the site and staking locations the following day,” he said.

“We were informed on the evening of our first day of preparations with the news that the UP-DND Accord was unilaterally abrogated by the state.”

‘Pièce de resistance’

Beyond the prestige and polish, the function of art becomes ever more clear given the university’s context, according to Toym.

“Art has always been a powerful medium for social commentary and a creative alternative to delivering essential messages relevant to the times,” he said.

“Barikada now not only represents a commemoration of the Diliman Commune but becomes an essential visual response to current developments concerning the university and state forces. Just overnight, it is transformed from an artwork that was meant to remind us of the past but has morphed into a protest art installation for the present, a pièce de resistance that accompanies the call to #DefendUP and academic freedom by the UP community of alumni, faculty, students and staff.”


Yung installation sa UP na ginagawa po namin ay yari sa mga repurposed materials gaya ng mga condemned UPD furniture,...

Posted by Toym Leon Imao on Monday, January 25, 2021

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