Supreme pick: Oca Villamiel’s ‘Mga Damong Ligaw’
Carina Santos (The Philippine Star) - January 24, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Light & Space Contemporary is an art gallery that’s a little out of the way for most people. A sleek building nestled against the suburban sprawl of West Fairview, it kind of sticks out like a sore thumb. Even for a Quezon City native like myself, the drive to the gallery on a Saturday afternoon seems far, but I promise you, traversing the length of Commonwealth Avenue is worth it — even just to see Oca Villamiel’s installation, “Mga Damong Ligaw.”

Mga Damong Ligaw,” or “wild weeds,” is a straggling landscape of bovine horns, a painstaking collection of nine years worth of castoffs. It features thousands of discarded horns, tumbling over each other, a sight that immediately grips you because of the sheer bigness of the piece. It is a massive work, spanning the floor area of a warehouse-like space, spilling over to the pathways outside.

The mass of bullhorns — gathered from native cows and carabaos — represents something unimaginable, or at least, something that is less imagined. Although the entirety of “Mga Damong Ligaw” was created over a span of nine years, there is still something very breathtaking, humbling and, at turns, shameful, about what lies beyond this mountain graveyard. A friend commented on the “massacre” that went on behind this work. Granted, Villamiel did not kill any animals whose horns these belong to — merely collected what they had left behind — but it speaks volumes about the kind of carnage that goes on day to day, unseen by most.

SHEDDING LIGHT

What we do see are the byproducts, sanitized for mass consumption. This work confronts the process by which these objects we interact with daily are extracted. It sheds light on what is usually hidden from view. “Mga Damong Ligaw” is a powerful visual commentary on the true state of our nation: rife with consumerism, corruption, violence, and poverty.

Curious, too, is the choice of title. “Mga Damong Ligaw” translates to “wild weeds,” the native grass that grows in the Philippine countryside. At first glance, Villamiel’s installation mimics the nature of the grass — its behavior and appearance. The title of the exhibit also pertains to the “state of being misguided,” a term that is used to describe one who has lost his way.

In Lisa Ito’s exhibition notes for Villamiel’s installation, “Unwanted Invasion,” she writes, “This work is a quiet distillation of anguish, at a time when pain itself has become canned, and orchestrated.” Indeed, “Mga Damong Ligaw” comes across as a work that’s big and loud due to its scale, but the underlying themes and commentary are only brought to light upon further reflection and observation. It delivers quite a punch to the gut once you get past the awe of such a grand display and focus on what it is trying to say.

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“Mga Damong Ligaw” is on display until March 15 at Light & Space Contemporary, located at 53 Fairlane St., West Fairview, Quezon City. The gallery is open from Monday to Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and on Sundays by appointment only.

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Tweet the author @presidents.

COMMONWEALTH AVENUE DAMONG LIGAW LEFT QUEZON CITY VILLAMIEL WEST FAIRVIEW
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