Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Bridging the Spirits* Homage to the wisdom of Roberto Villanueva (1947-1995)

Roberto Villanueva was born in 1947 in Olongapo, Zambales, the Philippines. After graduating in 1973 with a Bachelor in Fine Arts from the University of Santo Tomas he taught at the Philippine Women's University. He began his artistic career as a surrealist, but was gradually drawn into the film medium. In 1983 he became a member of the Board of Directors of the United Filmmakers Organization. He has won several awards in documentary film.

When Roberto Villanueva moved to the northern highlands of Baguio in 1980 he was inspired to create art build from the basic materials of the environment. His art acquired a shamanic aura, the source of its powerful energy drawn from ancient but continuing community symbols, rituals and traditions among the animist ethnic groups. He won critical recognition for Archetypes: Cordillera Labyrinth set up on the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) grounds in the summer of 1989. Forty-five metres in diameter and 600 metres in length, the installation consisted of a spiral labyrinth made of bamboo and reeds. Its centre was covered with rocks from a river bed, creating a sacred space peopled with spirit figures from which life power emanates.

Another installation was Atang ti Kararua (Soul Offerings) consisting of three bamboo floats carrying offerings on a lake for the souls of those who perished in the big Baguio earthquake. The artists also conducted a ceremony with a shaman to pacify the spirit of Mount Pinatubo.

Roberto Villanueava tries to restore the communal function of art and the priminitve life force it originally possessed but which still survives in Cordillera mountain culture. He also seeks to recover and understand the animistic strain in the heart of Philippine culture.

In 1990 he was invited to New York as Artist-In-Residence of the New York State Council of the Arts and in 1992 won the CCP Thirteen Artists Award. there he performs his shamanic rituals wearing his traditional bahag on a freezing snow chanting in the streets,business districts monuments & subways of new york.

A recent work, Bridge Across Cultures, which the artist did in Saitama-ku, Japan, shows his preference for setting up water installations to symbolize migration routes linking different cultures. His work acquires an anthropological aspect, calling to mind the celebrated sea voyage of the Kon-Tiki across the Pacific.

With his use of organic materials and natural locations, together with community interaction, Roberto Villanueva creates an art that is integrated with the life of the people.

Check out his documentary showman shaman" by asiasis rica & egay navarro

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