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Transformative, unseen art finds a home in Benilde Open

By Andrea Panaligan, The Philippine STAR Published May 24, 2024 5:00 am

“Art is anywhere and everywhere. It’s the shoes you wear, the ad on the bus, and the chair you sit on right now,” says Brother Edmundo “Dodo” Fernandez FSC, president of De La Salle College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB), quoting one of his old professors.

He continues, “For one whose idea of art then was something hung on a wall or put on a pedestal, the mind shift was difficult and long. It took years, decades in fact, to fully embrace what my professor said. Today, of course, I embrace and take on the same view that everything is art.”

Pioneering initiative Benilde Open Design and Art runs from May 23 to June 30 with art exhibits centered on the curious mind.

Br. Dodo was introducing us to the inaugural Benilde Open Design and Art, a design exhibit in celebration of DLS-CSB’s 35th year with a thematic focus on the curious mindset.

The initiative spotlights the unseen work of artists, designers, craft makers and all kinds of creative practitioners. Finalists received a P300,000 grant to complete an existing unfinished work or a new concept. Out of 324 proposals, 10 were selected with an additional one special mention who received full funding from a private donor.

“Curious: Spotlight on Filipino Sign Language Literature” by Michael Vea, one of the Benilde Open finalists, blends sign language storytelling with cinematic techniques.

Exhibits of the selected proposals are open to the public from May 23 until June 30, 2024 at several spaces in DLS-CSB Design + Arts Campus, Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (MCAD) Manila, and Hub of Innovation for Inclusion (HIFI).

Aaron Kaiser Garcia’s “Re-move: Unraveling truths behind the spectacle of indigenous exposition through the contemporary performance lens” will be part of Benilde Open.

The resulting artwork varies in medium, from dance and sculpture to puppetry, but all offer distinct attempts at understanding the world to explore new ways of moving forward. The theme of curiosity goes beyond invention and design to tap into something more fundamental. It offers the artists the space to explore and ask questions, and through the exhibit, extends the same privilege to the public too.

Along with the Benilde Open, 17 student proposals will be exhibited as part of Best of Benilde, platforming school projects that speculate on the future of their industry—spanning sustainability and movement, the intersection of craft and technology, and the exploration of digital or virtual domains.

Benilde Open convenors (clockwise from left) Gabby Lichauco, Ayi Magpayo, Rita Nazareno, Edmundo Fernandez FSC, Joselina Cruz, and Dindin Araneta. 

MCAD Manila also opens “Heidi Bucher: and pull yesterday into today,” showcasing the oeuvre of renowned Swiss artist Heidi Bucher, after its successful outings at Art Sonje Center in Seoul, Korea and the Red Brick Museum in Beijing, China.

Bucher’s practice has become renowned for resisting categorization, encouraging the capacity of art to speak across disciplines and challenge our ideas of art—an apt complement to the Benilde Open. Production Design students from DLS-CSB and MCAD, in collaboration with The Estate of Heidi Bucher, reproduced Bucher’s wearable sculptures from “Bodyshells and Bodywrappings.” A series of performances by the Bachelor in Performing Arts, Major in Dance program students wearing the sculpture will occur throughout the show. This portion of the Benilde Open is open until Aug. 18.

Public programs, including workshops and fireside chats on creative courage, grant proposal writing and more will be available from June 1 to 30, 2024. Weekly guided tours to the Benilde Open, Best of Benilde, and “Heidi Bucher: and pull yesterday into today” are offered free to the public. E-jeeps will be shuttling viewers between the venues.

This pioneering initiative is in synergy with De La Salle University and the Embassy of Switzerland. All selections for Benilde Open and Best of Benilde were made by a committee of distinguished practitioners from local and international creative industries: Jonathan Gander, PhD, head of the School of Creative Industries LASALLE College of the Arts, University of Arts Singapore; Alexie Glass-Kantor, curator, advocate for the arts, and the executive director of Artspace, Sydney; Mara Hermano, vice president for Institutional Research and Planning in Boston College; Paul Pfeiffer, internationally acclaimed multidisciplinary artist; Erwin Romulo, multi-awarded writer, editor, music producer and composer, and creative consultant; Pauline Suaco-Juan, former executive director of Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) Philippines; and Ikko Yokoyama, lead curator of Design and Architecture, M+ Hong Kong.

The program is convened by Dindin Araneta, arts manager; Br. Dodo Fernandez FSC, visual artist; Joselina Cruz, contemporary art curator; Gabby Lichauco, industrial designer; Ayi Magpayo, producer; and Rita Nazareno, designer.