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Philippine Daily Inquirer: May 17, 2008

By Katrina A. Holigores


Hands On Art

MANILA, Philippines—When you were a kid, you probably heard the words “don’t touch!” yelled at you in panic as you went rushing towards some objet d’ art that to you looked heaven-sent from Toys R Us.

Something that would have cost more than all your limbs combined when auctioned off in Sotheby’s was to you nothing more than something you just wanted to get your hands on and throw against a wall (or a cousin).

Come on, you were probably 5 or 6 (or even younger) and art appreciation made no sense. The stigma though of untouchable art stays with us into adulthood. It seems to become even worse when we realize how much art, especially good art, costs. We’re not just talking about paintings of course, but anything and everything that will look at home in a museum or the creepy neighbor next door’s house.

What if you could find a playground of art? Imagine instead of swings, slides, and a sandbox you would get to actually interact with art, and truly have fun and not get a spanking afterwards.

Impy Pilapil’s Outdoor Sculpture Exhibit at the Ateneo is a great way to kill a couple of hours alone or with a bunch of friends. But choose wisely and bring buddies who are out to have fun and are open to experiment. If all they want to do is sit and stare, direct them to the nearest cinema. Because in this exhibit, you’re about to get your hands a little dirty.

The cool thing I’ve learned about installation art is that anything goes. Size, shape, form, texture, color, or meaning. Perhaps the only rule should be that if it’s bigger than you, it better be sturdy enough never to come crashing down to crush you to death. Anyway, no danger of that happening here, I was assured by managing curator of the Ateneo Art Gallery, Yael Buencamino.

The first piece I saw was called “The Mangrove” and for a moment there I could imagine how it must have been, lying in my crib as a newborn staring up at a shiny, bright, multicolored mobile. Yes, even at my age, I can still think (and act) like an infant.

There were other pieces that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on. The first was a wish stone made out of marble. With a paintbrush dipped in water, you could write out your heart’s desires on this slab of stone. Whether or not your wish comes true remains to be seen but it sure is fun having to write it out. And with the hot sun or some gentle winds, even your most secret intention slowly disappears—never (you hope) to be revealed to anyone else.

For a sensorial experience (and to work out some trust issues), have a friend guide you over the “Barefoot Trail” with your eyes closed. Feel different sensations greet your bare feet as you slowly walk over portions of wood, sand, porcelain, glass, granite, and pebbles.

The giant “Chime Halo” made out of solid bamboo makes for a rather noisy but melodious game of hide and seek if you wish. Do your own thing beat wise on the inside and ask someone else to strum out a tune on the outside. Don’t forget to look up while inside—every aspect of this exhibit is meticulously crafted, infusing man-made structures with God-given ones.

You can spend several hours feeling like a child again: Try out your musical skills at the colorful foam orchestra of “The Music Chamber,” a rainbow labyrinth of guitar-shaped instruments that require a good shake for a tune.

Play sungka (another massive marble slab accompanied by marble stools) or sit down in my personal favorite the “Nautilus” to take it all in.

This exhibit is certainly not one you can rush through, but rather one that requires the regaining of your childhood curiosity and wonder to thoroughly enjoy the art of play. Feel young again and this time, feel free to touch everything.

In fact, you will be encouraged to.


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