The Politically Powerful, the Constructed Spectacle, the Audience as Subjects in Time-Space
By Clarissa Chikiamco
Locating Charles and Ray Eameses’ designs of multi-screen immersive architecture in the mid-20th century, the historian Beatriz Colomina describes:
‘This is the space of the media. The space of a newspaper or an illustrated magazine is a grid in which information is arranged and rearranged as it comes in: a space the reader navigates in his or her own way, at a glance, or by fully entering a particular story. The reader, viewer, consumer, constructs the space, participating actively in the design. It is a space where continuities are made through “cutting”. The same is true of the space of newsreels and television. The logic of the Eameses’ multi-screens is simply the logic of the mass media.’[i]
It is by this quotation that we can introduce Manny Montelibano’s exhibition Sorry for the Inconvenience. Comprising of six audio-visual projections thrown across walls and ceiling of Gallery NOVA, the single video installation focuses on various declamations of the politically powerful. Featuring speeches by Adolf Hitler, former Uganda President Idi Amin, current Japanese emperor Akihito and, in the Philippine context, celebrity Kris Aquino, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and a local priest, Montelibano’s Sorry for the Inconvenience presents the exposition of figures who, at their positions, wield mass media techniques in order to influence and ascertain authority.
Montelibano, who gathered most of the original videos online, essentially recasts the contours of public performance space through the videos’ manipulation, repetition and staging.[ii] Stripping the videos of color, he places them at a distance through recalling the early development of the media. Black-and-white immediately situates the videos at a time-space of historicity, a technique often still employed in the use of flashbacks in more popular fare. Here, the historical gaze is a political one, emphasizing a past and present trajectory of the audience who participate not simply as witnesses but as subjects. The current ones of the exhibition must actively navigate the staging of the audio-visual affront in a state of being perpetually addressed, their occasional shadows against the projections being visual intrusions—prompt reminders of their presence, their situatedness, within this milieu. Not merely documentary, however, the videos have interfering blitzes—that constant flickering—which recall the artist’s role, the artist’s mediation.
In this assault of intensification and with the breadth afforded by a multi-projection format, Montelibano highlights the construct of the constructed spectacle. In a resistance and a co-optation, he subsumes these personages’ methods to his own.[iii] The exhibition, which should not be misread as a call to judgment, concentrates on presenting a media landscape of powerful personalities, decentering each in the simultaneity and spillage of their speeches across each other.
While it is inconsequential to distinguish the audios clearly or to put much weight on their individual content, knowing though a little of the context of each may enhance its joint reading and the reasons for inclusions. Adolf Hitler, widely known as a master of propaganda and performance, is an evident choice for his tactics which gave him popular support in his leading of Germany. Idi Amin, the Uganda dictator from 1971-1979, shadowed his reign with such myths of cannibalism and developed an international media portrayal of buffoonery and peculiarity, said to perhaps be a political strategy of diffusing attention from the bloody offenses of his regime.[iv] While in a recent speech this year, Emperor Akihito appeared in his first televised address since succeeding to the throne in 1989, which was also the first televised address of a Japanese emperor in a time of crisis. The appearance, rare in the deliberate distance and veneration placed between the Japanese people and their emperor, was brought forth due to the level of devastation of the March 11 tsunami and concerns of leaking radiation from the nuclear power plant. Designed to assuage fears and deliver a message of hope, the exceptional event of the emperor’s appearance made this particular utilization of mass media especially potent.
Locally, Kris Aquino has no equal rival in her power and celebrity. Occupying the largest projection in the gallery and featuring her speech at the funeral of her mother, former President Cory Aquino, the enlarged video serves to accentuate the dominance of Kris’ presence in contemporary Philippine culture, where her image perennially dotes the television screen, the printed media and the Metro Manila billboard-scape. From her personal life to her professional hawking, Kris extends beyond actress and television host to the epitome of a media cult figure with her mass of devotees. GMA, in contrast, wields media as part and parcel of her political cunning. Projected on the gallery’s ceiling, the speech features her admission on national television of her voice being on wiretap of vote rigging in the 2004 elections. Though her brazen confession was an apology, the very public declaration is heavily symbolic of the confidence and control she maintained in her position, a presidency that she had managed to ride out till the end of its term last year.
In the last video, the only one personally shot by the artist, a priest in the small town of Hinigaran delivers his early Sunday homily. While perhaps the priest’s identity is not nationally known, the priest for Montelibano is demonstrative of the powerful role of Catholicism and the presence of its representatives in local media culture, where the most skilled have learned to develop and, crucially, to disseminate their commanding oratory performances. It was in partial reaction to being subjected to this priest’s Pentecost Sunday homily and observing how he wielded his influence to a spiritually-hungry audience that Montelibano felt spurred to develop an exhibition on figures of authority. Unfurling to eventually become an examination on the structures of communication, Montelibano stresses the strategies in which characters convey to the addressees, underscoring the growing political significance of the video medium in its online extension, replication, live feed and play-on-demand controls. The installation, finding strength in its concentration, departs from the small youtube screen in which most of the videos were found to a collective arrangement in space. This immersive environment implies the importance of reception, particularly it as a participatory overall sensory experience and not merely the auditory comprehension of a dictation.
‘Sorry for the Inconvenience’ is a signage often displayed when services to the public are suspended for its improvement, at the expense of minor to extremely bothersome circumstances. In the context of exhibition, the title points to the power of redirection, an advantage particularly at the hand of the privileged. Montelibano, illustrating the technological democratization in terms of access and, to some extent, distribution, re-channels their agendas into his own. Though the individual rhetoric is nearly incomprehensible, Sorry for the Inconvenience finds in its streaming of political spectacle a logic and coherence, a space of media in which it, and we, also occupy.
[i] In her essay, ‘Enclosed by Images: The Eameses’ Multimedia Architecture’ in Tanya Leighton, ed. Art and the Moving Image, London: Tate Publishing, p. 88.
[ii] I borrowed the terms of the contours of public performance space from Eric de Bruyn in her discussion of Marcel Broodthaers work. See Eric de Bruyn, ‘The Museum of Attractions: Marcel Broodthaers and the Section Cinéma’, in Tanya Leighton, ed. Art and the Moving Image, London: Tate Publishing, p. 113.
[iii] These are familiar tactics in Montelibano’s past work. In particular, there is the PO Section of his first solo exhibition PO Asa (Gallery Orange, 2008) in which he captured and manipulated the videos of various preachers delivering sermons on TV.
 In her essay, ‘Enclosed by Images: The Eameses’ Multimedia Architecture’ in Tanya Leighton, ed. Art and the Moving Image, London: Tate Publishing, p. 88.
 I borrowed the terms of the contours of public performance space from Eric de Bruyn in her discussion of Marcel Broodthaers work. See Eric de Bruyn, ‘The Museum of Attractions: Marcel Broodthaers and the Section Cinéma’, in Tanya Leighton, ed. Art and the Moving Image, London: Tate Publishing, p. 113.
 These are familiar tactics in Montelibano’s past work. In particular, there is the PO Section of his first solo exhibition PO Asa (Gallery Orange, 2008) in which he captured and manipulated the videos of various preachers delivering sermons on TV. As written in the obituaries of the Telegraph, ‘Throughout his disastrous reign, he encouraged the West to cultivate a dangerous ambivalence towards him. His genial grin, penchant for grandiose self-publicity and ludicrous public statements on international affairs led to his adoption as a comic figure. He was easily parodied, and was granted his own fictional weekly commentary in Punch. However, this fascination, verging on affection, for the grotesqueness of the individual occluded the singular plight of his nation.’ Telegraph (UK), ‘Obituaries: Idi Amin’, 18 August 2003, accessed 10 August 2011. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1439131/Idi-Amin.html
[iv] As written in the obituaries of the Telegraph, ‘Throughout his disastrous reign, he encouraged the West to cultivate a dangerous ambivalence towards him. His genial grin, penchant for grandiose self-publicity and ludicrous public statements on international affairs led to his adoption as a comic figure. He was easily parodied, and was granted his own fictional weekly commentary in Punch. However, this fascination, verging on affection, for the grotesqueness of the individual occluded the singular plight of his nation.’ Telegraph (UK), ‘Obituaries: Idi Amin’, 18 August 2003, accessed 10 August 2011. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1439131/Idi-Amin.html
End Frame Video Art Project 3, together with ,
Presents SORRY FOR THE INCONVENIENCE, an exhibition by Manny Montelibano,
Opening on 13 August 2011, Saturday, 6.30 pm.
Artist Talk on . Exhibition runs until
Visual Pond’s End Frame Video Art Project 3: Present, together with Gallery NOVA, presents Manny Montelibano’s Sorry for the Inconvenience, the latest exhibition of the 2011-2012 Philippine video art festival. The solo exhibition of Montelibano opens at Gallery NOVA on 13 August 2011, Saturday, at 6:30 pm with an artist talk on .
Examining the idea of aggravating disturbances amidst the thrust for the public good, Sorry for the Inconvenience stages an audio-visual affront on the rhetoric of the politically powerful. In a gathering, manipulation and collision of declamations, the exhibition suggests of the all-consuming nature of dominance, which comes at both the impact and expense of others.
The show forms the fourth solo exhibition of the Bacolod-based Montelibano, who has been practicing as an artist and showing at various venues in and the Visayas since 2002. Montelibano received his training through his experience as technical director at University of St. La Salle in and through a 2004 director’s apprenticeship under filmmaker Peque Gallaga. Crossing fields, Montelibano is a member of the Black Artists in Association Inc. and founded Bacollywood: The Visayan Film Festival. He also cofounded the production collective Produksyon Tramontina Inc. An active member of his community, he often shows in group exhibitions in his region. His other solo shows includeGreater than or Equal to Infinity (Gallery NOVA, 2010), Escabeche: Filipino Sweet and Sour (Galleria Duemila, 2009) and PO Asa (Gallery Orange, 2008).
Montelibano’s Sorry for the Inconvenience is the second offering of End Frame Video Art Project 3, following Tad Ermitaño’s exhibition last January. Curated by Clarissa Chikiamco, the theme of the third edition, Present, refers to the current project’s focus on selected Philippine contemporary artists’ practices in video art. Throughout the festival, each artist stages a show presenting new video work in various venues from 2011 to 2012. Other artists presenting for End Frame 3 include Claro Ramirez, Kiri Dalena, Yason Banal, Kaloy Olavides and Maria Taniguchi.
Sorry for the Inconvenience runs until Warehouse 12A, La Fuerza Compound 2241 Don Chino , is open Monday to Avenue, Makati Metro Manila . RSVP for the artist talk at tel. no. or +63917-5357955. For inquiries on Visual Pond projects and End Frame 3, call Rica Estrada at +63917-8170198 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Gallery NOVA, located at