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Philippine Star: May 17, 2008

By Salvo Fernandez


Impy Pilapil’s Interactive 12 Senses

In her latest show, Pilapil once again brings us on a journey. But the journey we embark upon this time is not the undersea adventure in glass; nor the solemn spiritual voyage through silent monolithic stone; nor is this like a guided tour through her mind like those of her inspiring masterpieces in steel.

This one is a first for the artist. In this exhibit the medium is not the most important foremost feature of the show. It is rather the audience; the people; the general public and their enthusiasm and delight in Interactive: The 12 Senses.

Set up in the Ateneo University Art Gallery grounds, this very massive installation is a virtual milestone in the university’s history, if not in the whole nation’s art chronicles.
These works have been built with only one purpose in mind: to encourage and elicit human interaction. Designed specifically to touch upon and inspire the senses we thought did not exist or chose to ignore.

The 12 Senses are very much like personal ‘windows’ to the world and each Pilapil piece in this exhibit is designed to touch upon two or more of these senses simultaneously.
Passing through the “Chime Halo” one can feel-- more than hear-- the actual experience as the bamboo chimes ring out organic tones and vibrations as they clash against each other in interaction.

The “Humming Stone” is similar, yet has a more individual-- almost solitary-- feel to the experience that comes with it. Breathing in and humming or singing into the hole carved from a singular block of marble makes your body vibrate as the sound emerges from your person and into the stone then back, as if echo-ing in your own personal cave.

Then of course there is the “Sungka” table, where long queue lines are literally formed by people who can hardly wait for their turn to play.

Adjacent to this is the “Wish Stone” perhaps the most popular of the introspective pieces. Here you may sense an encounter intertwined with the divine--since your wishes and good intentions written on the stone with a wet brush are lifted from the earth as they evaporate and are taken into heaven by cosmic forces.

The rough and smooth textures of “Sketching Stone” provides an interesting feel as the distinctive differences between the surfaces give a rather peculiar understanding between the fingers and the mind. Touching it with eyes closed will actually reveal more detail.

This sensory experience on a larger scale can be felt in the “Barefoot Trail”. A narrow path-like portion of the grounds was ‘landscaped’ to elicit different sensations and textures as one “walks it barefoot.” The optimal encounter with this installation is to go blindfolded with a friend or stranger guiding us through.

“Nautilus” like that of its namesake in the Jules Verne novel is in fact a vessel; but instead of taking us 20,000 leagues deep under the sea, it is designed to take us to a place closer to home--deep within ourselves. Inside this enclosure and away from prying eyes, the spiraling bamboo walls set astride a tall tree forms a tranquil space where time seems to stand still. An upward gaze into the green leaves and the sky beyond inspires a sense of inner peace.

At the center of this marvelous array of interaction is Pilapil’s “Mangrove”--like that found in the Washington Sycip Park in Makati--and equally as enigmatic. There is a sense of motherly refuge when one rests under the umbrella-like roots of this 30 foot sculpture. It may be the shape and its subliminal sense of shelter that makes it what it is.

These are but a few of the show’s noteworthy pieces... to describe them in greater detail would be to act as a “spoiler” to a great whodunit. This is best appreciated when felt, seen and experienced for ourselves.

Coming back after Opening Day, I was not at all surprised to see that the crowd had not thinned a bit. Almost a week after the show’s opening, guided tours conducted by visiting Experience Field Authority, Walter Siegfried Hahn, continued to draw in University students and staff, visitors and their children. Quoting one of Ateneo’s custodians sums up the impact that this show has on the people that have experienced it: “Bakit ka pa pupunta sa kung saan saan kasama ng mga bata? Dalhin ko na lang sila dito.” (Why bother going anywhere else with the kids? I’ll just bring them here).

Impy Pilapil’s Interactive: The 12 Senses opened February 22 and will run through till May of this year.


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