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Van Gogh would want his art in pictures – even in selfies

With the Filipinos’ natural flair for the “selfie” culture, it is understandable that some would pose with satisfied faces next to the art. It doesn’t mean that the appreciation has lessened, contrary to what some people would imply. 

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Photo from Bonifacio Global City Facebook page

“Van Gogh’s work on a digital art? I’d prefer going to the museum,” was what popped on the Twitter timeline right after the announcement of the famous 19th-century artist’s exhibit hails Manila. 

“Also for sure, puro pictures na naman ‘yan pang #content and honestly it doesn’t give respect to the artist.” the influencer adds in a pejorative Twitter thread.

Just a few weeks shy from the opening of the Van Gogh Alive Exhibit on October 26 at the One Bonifacio High Street, Taguig City, people took to social media their uncontainable excitement for the world-renowned “multi-sensory” experience. However, some people cut short this very excitement as they opined on how the famous artworks will serve as a mere background for pictures shared on Instagram. 

As aired by these opinions, those who go to the exhibit only bearing in mind how “Starry Night” would look good behind them deliberately defeats the exhibit’s purpose and instead tries to downplay Van Gogh for sheer mainstream content. Of course, it garnered several opposing statements, opening the gatekeeping discourse as the immediate question elevates: must art only be an elitist culture? 

If it hasn’t already been clear, Vincent Van Gogh’s works had left an indelible mark on this world, one which is not only impacted by his unparalleled artistry but also by the stories of tragedy and madness, a revolting formula which birthed some of history’s greatest works. Perhaps it is still part of Van Gogh’s tragic narrative that he was not able to know how well-appreciated his works are, most especially in a time where modernity is completely embedded in the societal fabric. 

But now, the world makes up for what it lacked centuries ago: an appreciative eye, more so through the lens of technology that combines the traditional and the digital experience. 

However, as technology permits for an immersive experience of centuries-old masterpieces, the society continues to find a way to create figurative barriers, cherry-picking the ones allowed to step foot in the museum when they try to limit the activities that should be done for the attendees of the exhibit. 

Of course, those who wish to go must also bear in mind that the purpose of the exhibit is to showcase Van Gogh’s works and let people see new perspectives on the tragic artist and his take on the post-impressionist wave, but it is not up to some people how one shows appreciation for art. With the Filipinos’ natural flair for the “selfie” culture, it is understandable that some would pose with satisfied faces next to the art. It doesn’t mean that the appreciation has lessened, contrary to what some people would imply. 

Some Thomasians had also taken their issue on gatekeeping as they try to weigh all the confluences of the issue. 

“Art is for everyone,” says Angelica Mercado, a Political Science student states firmly in an interview with TomasinoWeb. “To shame people and discuss that they don’t know Van Gogh’s life story is secluding or having a bubble wherein only a group of people who meet this standard should view his work.” 

She also adds how Van Gogh, as an artist, would want people from all aspects of life to view his work, given that when he was alive, he was robbed of the audience who can give the attention he rightfully deserves. Mercado also touched on the subject of people’s ways of showing appreciation. “At least people were there and they saw something, whatever the reasons are behind that, it’s okay because it still spreads the art.” 

Louie Ty, a Communications student also stated how gatekeeping misses the point of exhibits in the first place. She gave her opinions on how policing other people’s preferences in enjoying art do not honor the work of an artist. 

“It only serves to exclude and isolate, to make others feel like they’ve one-upped someone who is not aware of all the made-up rules that have become associated with the arts. It is an interactive exhibit and if the response that it elicits from people is that they want to take photos in front of it then that’s okay. Because as long as the person feels something, then the art has done its job,” Ty told TomasinoWeb. 

From the perspective of Industrial Design student Chelsey Lansang believes that people should not be quick to judge. “What if instead of looking at it negatively, why not look at the possibly [sic] positive outcome na baka naman when they get there, they get to see the true reason why those artworks are so mainstream and world-famous that is: the genius and indelible stroke of Van Gogh, his brilliant combination of contrasting and monochromatic colors, and his weirdly beautiful take on the forms of reality?” 

Gatekeeping and all other actions that invalidate people and their appreciation for art only create a divide that must’ve dissipated centuries ago. This same divide is what kept Van Gogh from showcasing his art to an audience who kept the standards of art on a figurative high horse that failed to welcome his artistic takes on reality. 

Truth is, the world is constantly changing, and so do the ways of showing appreciation. We can only hope that people will learn to adapt to these good changes, too. The Van Gogh Alive Exhibit will run until Dec. 8 at One Bonifacio High Street in Taguig City.

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Which UST street are you?

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Artwork by Tricia Jardin

Another year, another Buzzfeed-esque quiz that is based on purely subjective notions. This quiz can somehow garner questionable results as they can be entirely different from how one sees oneself, but still feel free to take a (good) three-minute break and validate which UST street completely molds your Thomasian existence. Enjoy! 

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‘Awit’ and the normalization of transphobia

With music as a tool for liberation, we must not let the likes of “Awit” to limit our minds, let alone poison our culture with prejudice.

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Screenshot from the album cover of the now deleted song "Awit" on Spotify.

Erich Gabriel Bongon, also known as Young Vito posted a video of himself on Twitter singing a preview of “Awit” last Dec. 5, 2019, a song he that composed with sexist undertones and transphobic lyrics. Netizens were quick to call out the rapper when the preview is posted, prompting him to delete the video and issue an “apology.”

What happened afterwards? Was he cancelled? Was he given career opportunities after the incident? Did he change his ways and most importantly, did he educate himself on gender rights?

Young Vito is known to have signed a recording contract with Viva Records. With the record label having full knowledge of the incident, Young Vito and Viva Records have enabled themselves to go further: to release the same song with the same infamous lyrics, capitalizing off its notoriety on social media.

Awitis just one of the many Filipino songs propagating harmful ideas that does not only target the transgender community, but also encourages the normalization of transphobia and a culture of hate in the country.

Young Vito’s “Awitis a trans woman, with the singer implying that the woman deceives men, that there is something wrong with them. 

The song’s album art depicts a trans women using a urinal, as if implying that they should use the male’s comfort room; a controversial choice due to the ongoing debate on trans peoples’ comfort room access.

After receiving flak, the rapper posted an apology on Twitter, at the same time refusing to delete his video and liking tweets saying that people are “too sensitive.” He deleted the video afterwards.

A few days later, the rapper signed a five-year contract with Viva Records. After that, the song is released on multiple streaming platforms last Jan. 17, 2020 under Viva Records, with Emmanuel “NEXXFRIDAY” Salen producing and providing the beat for the track.

Photo grabbed from Young Vito’s Instagram account @youngvitoph

“Despite the controversy surrounding the song, Awithas been turned into a full-blown bop…,” the caption of the now-deleted lyric video in Viva Records’ Youtube channel reads. 

The song is then deleted on Spotify one day after its release.

Awitis just one of the many Filipino songs with transphobic lyrics. Songs like Abra’s “Gayuma” and Kamikazee’s “Chiksilog” portray trans women as someone who deceive men with their looks, while also spreading the notion that trans women are still men even if they have already identify themselves as women. 

One may think that the lyrics of these songs are harmless but for the transgender community, it makes their lives more difficult than it is.

In a country where the trans community are ostracized, where even some members of the LGBTQ+ community preach transphobia, where the likes of Hermie Monterde are still discriminated in the workplace, where personalities such as BB Gandanghari and Jake Zyrus are mocked online, where women like Gretchen Diez are shunned and arrested for entering the comfort room, where people like Jennifer Laude and Jessa Remiendo are murdered for being transgender – these songs spread dangerous ideas to the public. 

These songs normalizes harmful prejudices embedded in our culture. It hinders the LGBTQ+ community, especially the trans community’s fight for equal rights. It makes the idea of targeted discrimination and hate crime acceptable, painting a harmful image on people’s minds that it is normal to mock transgenders with the help of a song.

Music has been used to break the status quo, teach important lessons, and in some cases, aid in bringing down tyrants. With music as a tool for liberation, we must not let the likes of “Awit” to limit our minds, let alone poison our culture with prejudice. 

If we want true progress, we must lose the chains of backwardness binding us, and we can start by taking small steps—starting with picking good songs to listen to.

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Kadenang Ginto is more complex than ever

The show may seem ordinary in the spectrum of teleseryes, but with the bouts of recognition and attention it harbors, shows like Kadenang Ginto may have the tendency to succumb to society’s patriarchal roots—a premise that has been the show’s subdued message from the very beginning.

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Photo from ABS-CBN News

Media and entertainment industries, especially in the Philippines, have undoubtedly created a number of teleseryes that got viewers hooked. Iconic lines from television shows made their way through social media, thus birthing an irreversible decade of video parodies, i.e. “Cassie, hindi ka muna papasok sa iskul” which came from the ABS-CBN afternoon prime show, Kadenang Ginto (directed by Jerry Lopez Sineneng and Avel Sunpongco). This particular boomerang created by the show serves as a primary example of the proliferation of teleseryes into the in-betweens of people’s mundane realities. 

Usually, Filipino TV formulas have just been restricted to cookie-cutter stories such as rich girl-poor girl rivalries, wife versus mistress conflicts, and other types of predictable stories with a recurring plotline—dramatically mirroring the struggles of which people could sympathize and in some cases, empathize with. 

Now, with the recent narratives of most materials, it is fitting to raise the question: do teleseryes, such as the case in point, subconsciously imply a patriarchal and capitalist society which can water down women’s roles as simply pawns of the men-splayed environment?

Dissecting the Initial Premise of the Show

The whole idea of the show displays a tangled story between Daniela Mondragon (played by Dimples Romana) and Romina Andrada (played by Beauty Gonzales). Romina, a glorified Secretary, marries the business tycoon and father of Daniela, Robert Mondragon (played by Albert Martinez).

Caused by jealousy, Daniela strived to emerge relevant by physically and emotionally belittling Romina to death, hoping that she could at least gain more relevance in the old Mondragon’s life. It gets more complicated when Daniela marries Romina’s past lover, Carlos (played by Adrian Alandy), who still has unresolved feelings for the latter.

While Daniela’s past actions remain important both in their family business and in the lives of the men involved, it seems questionable that all her intentions were for the sake of these men.

While it is also applauding that Daniela and Romina are their own persons who are fully responsible to stir changes necessary to keep the show going, one may question the end of not just the character’s intentions, but as well as the writers’ inclination to probe and provide a substantial arc for these characters.

It raises the question, especially during a period when a new character was introduced in the persona of Richard Yap, a rich businessman, who somehow became a catalyst on how the character of Romina can get back on track. 

Are the women in Philippine teleserye doomed to always be swept off their feet by some men to garner the easiest way out?

The show may seem ordinary in the spectrum of teleseryes presented by the network, but with the bouts of recognition and attention it harbors, shows like Kadenang Ginto may have the tendency to succumb to society’s patriarchal roots—a premise that has been the show’s subdued message from the very beginning.

Now (with the plot lines tangled and recurring), the characters and their progressions can be attested to hopeful major changes (thankfully), as lead female characters are taking matters on their hands especially with Romina Andrada-Mondragon gaining more control over her circumstances, a (seemingly progressive) march of silent revolution, veering away from the initial premises of the show – yet still bound to its original plot line.  

Trudging the Conventional

While the network’s teleseryes’ cookie-cutter and cardboard characterizations of women are proven formulas, fresh perspectives are always a welcome venture with the exploration of complex female characters. 

Writers and show producers must become more socially-reverberant that they not only choose to showcase shows that pay the rent. In the Philippines, it is slowly building its pace with independent films being at the forefront.

Unfortunately, most mainstream media consumers are still inclined with choosing the proven formulas so mass media practitioners also stick to what generates more audiences. What the consumers can do now is to try to become more adamant to good and progressive changes – utilize the everlasting “get out of your comfort zone” notion. 

Media, as compared to what it tries to cater to before, has certainly come a long way with the sprouts of powerful women characters here and there. Unfortunately, Philippine mainstream media and its consumers sat way comfortably in the reassurance of these boxed and usual beliefs.

It may possibly take a while for these teleseryes to do the same with their high intentions to generate money, even if the essential purpose of art to heighten and challenge the empathic tendencies of the people can definitely suffer.

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