Sunday, November 28, 2010


Biya (The Long Shot) is an installation inspired by cockfighting in the Philippines. It gives us a peek at a mutated macho Filipino identity that shows nationalism in gambling and entertainment in violence. BIYA is a Hiligaynon term for a fighting cock that has a smaller bet than its opponent. The components are game fowl containers and a single channel video with sound.
The work was exhibited in Museo Negrense de La Salle, Bacolod City, VIVA EXCON 2008 Cebu, (video) Cinema Rehiyon 2009-Cultural Center of the Philippines, and Gallery Orange in 2010.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Like most artists, Manny Montelibano’s creative journey is deeply rooted in the land he calls home, Negros Occidental. Though born and based in Bacolod City, his growing up years were spent in extensive exposures to the countryside, notably in Ilog, Hinigaran and Kabankalan. It was in these places where his consciousness of the Negrosanon way of life took shape: the complicated, sometimes violent, conflicts and social issues between the landowner and the sacadas, the beauty and simplicity of rural living, the daily lives of plain farm workers mired in poverty but lived in dignity, the oppression wrought by the feudal system that is the hallmark of Negros. He saw this in all its stark, unblemished reality.

The greatness of an artist, it has been said, is in seeing truth and not blinking from it but instead absorbing it, no matter how painful or difficult the truth may be. Montelibano did not blink. He took it all in and used it to help shape his distinct world-view.

As a middle-class youth exposed to the harsh realities of a still-largely feudal society, Montelibano saw the stunning contrasts that existed in his home province where huge 19th century ancestral mansions co-existed with shanties and slums. This contrast shaped and to a certain extent defined Montelibano’s young artistic sensibilites. He became staunchly nationalistic, fiercely proud of his Negros heritage and yet constantly challenging the status quo that pervades his beloved Negros.

After graduating he became involved with two groups largely instrumental in the unleashing of his vast creative energies. In the early 1990’s, the Negros Summer Workshops, led by Peque Gallaga, invited him in to teach Film Production, a field he had long been involved in with his college friends Erik Matti, Tonipet Yulo and yours truly. Under the tutelage of Gallaga and Lore Reyes, Manny flourished as a film-maker.

It was also around this time, when he became an active member of the Black Artists of Asia. Egged on by founding members Charlie Co and Dennis Ascalon, he began experimenting with multi-media installations, an art form that, at that time, very few artists in the Visayan region dared to tackle. As part of BAA he became actively involved in community arts organizing, touring the Visayas as part of the biennial Visayan Islands Visual Arts Exhibit and Conference or VIVA-EXCON.

It was through his experience with these groups that Montelibano found his artistic voice. His short-film/video installation “My Way” garnered critical acclaim here and abroad and was shown in Open Art Space in Victoria Canada. His full-length film “Ligaw-Liahm” co-directed with Jay Abello was a finalist at the 2007 Cinemalaya Film Festival. His multi-media installation, “Birhaus” co-created with Peque Gallaga was chosen to be part of Sungdu-an, a nationwide exhibit at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, produced by the Visual Arts Committee of the National Commission for the Culture & Arts.

He has recently returned from an art exposure trip to Netherlands and Germany where he spent countless days in galleries and museums that featured classical as well as avant-garde works of art.

“Greater than Or Equal To”, Montelibano’s s third one-man show, heralds the coming-of-age of an artist whose works offer a refreshing look at Filipino culture and way-of-life as seen through the prism of a Negrosanon Truly, through the visual arts, Montelibano has found the perfect venue through which he can express his unique view of the world as it is. And what an amazingly interesting world it is that he shows us. Conflicted, complex, provocative and never-simplistic, Montelibano’s multi-media installations are bound to challenge audiences for years to come.


The Art of Perception

By Gabby Fernandez

Perceive - \pər-ˈsēv\, transitive verb 1: to attain awareness or

understanding 2: to become aware of through the senses

– Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2009 Edition

Montelibano’s latest installation, ≥∞ (Greater than or Equal to Infinity) is nothing short of an exploration of the processes that go into human perception. More specifically, it challenges the audience’s understanding of perception. Do we really perceive things as they are or do we merely assume to perceive them? Can we say that what we absorb through our senses truly reflect the actual stimuli, be it a sound, a scent or an image? After all, rarely do we experience stimuli for what they are. Rather, we process stimuli through our brain which then attaches to these various meanings, connotations and connections depending upon many factors such as age, race, culture, historical perspective, education, previous experiences and memories. For example, to generations of Filipinos who grew up in the early part of 20th century, a drawing of an apple would automatically mean the start of the alphabet, or A is for apple. But to this generation it merely means an unfinished logo of a Mac or an Ipod. When we perceive then how much do we owe to cultural and educational brainwashing and how much is ours as individuals? Furthermore, are we still capable of perceiving stimuli for what they are instead of perceiving them with meanings preconditioned by our experiences?

≥∞ (Greater than or Equal to Infinity) is a multi media (video and sound) installation that focuses on the alteration of an experience by modifying the elements of stimuli that go into perception and understanding.

Our lives are defined by experiences, and we interpret them through neurophysiological processes as seen from the prism of our existing knowledge. Everything we know, everything we have learned or experienced pass through our senses. This barrage of stimuli is processed automatically in light of many pre-determined factors: language, cultural signposts and education among others. But these mental impressions often come to us in a blur due to the speed of stimuli coming from different directions and sources. The essential parts are sometimes lost or misinterpreted. The onslaught of information and sensory input automatically results in “meaning” and logic but do we really experience the basic stimuli as it is, on its own terms? When a person talks for example, we process it as conversation, words and phrases that constitute “understanding” or logic. In the process, do we really experience it for what it is: basic units of sounds and aural stimuli? Are we even aware of the timbre, rhythm and pitch of a person’s voice when he talks?

Greater than or Equal to Infinity is an installation that stimulates some of your senses and challenge you to go deeper into the structure of information as interpreted by you and your personal history.

The installation is composed of multi-channel video projections and a progression of recorded sound loops played in real time and a progression of loops. This may seem normal enough. However, the difference is that these sounds are marred by pauses, repetition, varying speeds, to create a new sound that modifies perception. Thus this forces the audience to experience the sound at its most basic level: sound not as part of a context but sound merely as sound.

Birds chirping, moans, prayers, a telephone ringing, a person’s greeting, a Formula 1 car zooming past, a Jet flying overhead, a phrase from a speech of a dictator, a dying man’s last breath, a clock ticking, a heartbeat, and other such emotionally-loaded audio clips are edited into its wave form to capture a specific sound.

The video component will show the source of the sound but will be marked by the same disruptive treatment used in the sound component. The projections will show real time visuals going into decreasing speeds, falling into single frame loops and eventually turning into a negative image.

This combination will result in the visual and the aural sometimes matching but often going into different modes of disruption wherein the sound becomes divorced from the visual. In the process this compels the viewer to deal with the visual stimuli for what it is and not as part of a larger context. In other words, it is seeing for the sake of seeing, as opposed to seeing for the sake of understanding.

Furthermore as the visual becomes divorced from the sound, context is lost and the result is an experience that forces one to deal with the basic elements of the stimuli.

Clearly, Montelibano is a formalist, wielding the tools of video and sound and grappling with these media. This is not surprising given his extensive background in film. His interests lie not so much in subject matter or content but rather in exploring the various ways of manipulating the medium in pursuit of eliciting a reaction from the audience. There are no pretty pictures here though there is a certain jagged beauty to the whole experience. Neither is Montelibano after some social relevance in his work. Rather he goes deep into the heart of the matter: the essence of stimuli and how it is received. His installation is not meant to be a soothing experience either. It is meant to disturb, to agitate, to jar you even. In the process of this mental and sensorial shake-up, questions arise that confront long-held beliefs in the way one experiences life. Seen from this perspective, “Greater than or Equal to Infinity” is, at its basic level, a visual and auditory experience that challenges one’s comprehension of “reality”.

Gabby Fernandez is the Chairman of the Production Design Dept of the School of Design & Arts De La Salle-College of St. Benilde. He is also Festival Director of “Cinema Rehiyon”, the flagship project of the NCCA Committee on Cinema.