Missing the Crowd: The works of Martin Genodepa was opened February 16 and it will be on show until April 9, 2021 at the University of the Philippines Visayas Main Building Front Quadrangle, Iloilo City Campus.
The public opening of Martin Genodepa’s recent works reflects its title which is “Memorial Park: Missing the Crowd 2021” for it was an intimate “crowding” of people composed of UP Visayas academics, personnel, and Ilonggo artists.
A well-respected professor, curator, sculptor and artist in the Visayas art sector, Genodepa described the collection as a doodle-like representation of a small mass or gathering, with figures closely huddled or in dynamic interaction.
The missing crowd
Crowding, with its positive and negative values, he narrated, has been prohibited in the time of the pandemic and it has changed the nature of social interaction of people.
Considering the fact that one of the major health protocol emphasizes physical distancing, the imposition dissociated people with people in communities that they belong, even within a family. It thereby discouraged exchange of conversations, physical interaction, and it reduced social connection.
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The assembly of two to three persons that naturally form a crowd proved unpopular, if not risky or hazardous, for it meant potential transmission of a deadly virus.
The Coronavirus has assigned crowding to memory.
In the age of social media, however, fragments of crowd life is stimulated by the algorithm who now moderates the timeline of pre-pandemic memory that were shaped by personal experiences of unconstrained social interaction in the form of throwback photos and memory reminders of social events that people participated in.
Crowding had ultimately become a virtual event and it introduced an era of cold social interaction like a steel rod used by Genodepa in this public art installation.
The “Memorial Park: Missing the Crowd 2021” indeed depicts an eerie reminder of life under the pandemic – a memorial park atmosphere composed of a multitude of people, a lifeless crowd to say the least, but whose pleasant memory and crowding cheers are held by loved ones.
Socially interacting metal pieces
The pieces of fabricated steel rods assembled by Genodepa and mounted on a steel plate with each stand suggesting two to three silhouette of people shaped a crowd.
It summoned back to memory the words immortalized by Greek philosopher Aristotle when he said that “man is by nature a social animal” – that, we – human beings, are social animals. It revived the significance of social interaction as an essential ingredient for a healthy social life and existence.
“Women and men in the crowd meet and mingle, Yet with itself every soul standeth single.”- Alice Cary*
The 16-piece sculptural work of Genodepa suggested the tendency to be obscure or visible – depending on the time of the day and the angle from which it is viewed. In fact, it was assembled to invite interaction with the viewer who may insert herself or himself within the installation to relive the memory of being in a crowd whether that is on an art exhibit opening, a concert, or a festival.
The soft late afternoon breeze likewise activated movement of the pieces proposing that the faceless set are conversing among themselves or were merely waiting to enter the UP Visayas Gallery to see artworks or to enjoy the newly-restored main building and its internal gardens.
The metal crowd outside may have whispered in glee while the artist who made them were sharing a hearty laughter inside the gallery with a set of people who were enjoying a glass of wine and exchanging physical gestures and real conversation behind a facemask and a face shield.
The exhibit was opened with two sets of crowd: the one outside were plenty while the group inside were a handful. It nevertheless shared an image of crowding under the new normal and that what makes Genodepa’s “Memorial Park: Missing the Crowd 2021” relevant to the living.
The installation “Memorial Park: Missing the Crowd 2021” is a public art project made possible by a UP Visayas Creative Work Grant from the Office of the Vice-Chancellor for Research and Extension.
*The words quoted from Alice Cary is lifted from the Facebook post of Martin Genodepa. dated February 16, 2021.