Thursday, October 02, 2008

Revelation of Secrets & the Aesthetics of ‘Syjuco Tres Marias’

"The things we keep secret are always bigger and more frightening in the darkness than they are in the light of day."
– Elspeth Allcott
Published in 
Manila Bulletin, Pages F1-2, Lifestyle Section, September 8, 2008

In the corpus of aesthetic language, the disclosure of secret is the poetic revelation of truth through visual, literary and performing arts. As a poetic revelation, aesthetics uses visual imageries to reveal what is hidden based on the artist’s personal encounter of reality within a particular society.

This revelatory process is autobiographical by nature because art or any work of art, for that matter, is always personal – either representative of the artist’s reality or the reality of his or her environment. However, before the reality can be processed and translated into art, it has to percolate from the artist’s psyche and experience.

Inherently, the creator is personally involved in the process of art making so that, when a particular work of art is finally revealed, it becomes the “incarnate” of Truth from the artist’s perspective to be understood and deciphered by a historical society where art is created and addressed to.

In her first collection of poems titled “A Secret Life”, Maxine R. Syjuco is like a spider that lures her reader to tiptoe into the web of her secret world. She passionately weaves the vignette of her thoughts and feelings in-between verses, flutters and spins her delicate “voice” with grace and elegance, until the reader is gradually trapped within the complex web of her poetic creations. Dense and abstruse in form and substance, Maxine’s collection of poems possesses the characteristics of John Berryman’s lyricism, Sylvia Plath’s bold and elliptical lines, Anne Sexton’s sardonic voice, and Robert Lowell’s complex and autobiographical style of writing.

The 1950s and 1960s are described as the beginning of popular culture, the gradual collapse of cultural values and beliefs, the pluralism of social and political ideologies, and the advent of a technological and consumerist society. It was also the time where existentialism was gaining its momentum from such prominent literary figures like Jean Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Albert Camus.

The same era that “confessional poetry” emerged from the influential American poets such as Robert Lowell, identified as the father of confessional poetry, Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton (both students of Lowell), and John Berryman that would later change the history of American poetry.

In the local literary scene of post po-mo “confessional poetry”, Maxine’s voice emerges as the dialectical representation of her generation. Her poetry addresses some salient issues, which are eminent in the post po-mo society, i.e., the dislocation of hierarchy of values and the susceptibility of human psyche amid the “created realities” offered by popular culture.

The poems “Dear Mr. Prick”, “How to Murder a Naked Woman,” and “Red Light District: Lost Rules of Usage” are looming pictures that mimicked the sensationalized staging of realities in mass media.

Other poems like “How to Murder a Mocking Bird,” “Caution: Falling Debris,” “That Men Are Creatures,” and “Mrs. Stitcher” are derisive protests on traditional values and beliefs, whose beneficiary-victims are, most often, the children and the submissive wives of a conservative Filipino society.

Her poems, per se, are not self-revelatory confession of personal anguish and torment, which are inherent of Lowell, Sexton, and Plath’s poetry, but more on Berryman’s subtle and lyrical characterization of different personas, addressing the Freudian’s “Id,” “Ego,” and “Superego”.

Using the “I” in most of her poems, Maxine has always emerged as the heroine of her oedipal narrative, a subtle dissent from the symbol of authority and traditional system of thoughts. Similarly, the poems “To Sartre,” “I Am in Love with Galileo,” “Chewing Chopin,” “Dear Seurat,” “Jackson Pollock and I,” and “Who Shot Bukowski?” are transferential reverberations of her academic studies, a satiric gripe against the prominent figures in Humanities.

Another salient element in her poetry is the use of familial imagery, exploring Jungian’s theory on personal and collective unconscious. In “Mrs. Stitcher”, for instance, there is the displacement of the imagery of “context”, blurring the lines between symbol and the actual derivation of reality.

In another poem “Caution: Falling Debris”, it opens: “My father was a drunken carpenter/ who liked to build fires. / He built three great fires in his lifetime, / all in all, at least, that’s what I remember.” Then, in the fourth paragraph, the father was trapped, figuratively, by his own fire “until he became a silhouette” including his daughter and wife “where recycling was not cheap”.

Gothic, witty, irreverent and, at times, laden with dark humor, Maxine has woven a new kind of poetry reflective of her generation. Her eccentric use of words and imageries creates a poignantly strange linguistic expression, which is unique to her voice: Freudian, surreal and existential.

“A Secret Life” is slated for launch in September at Mag:net Bonifacio High Street. A second launch will be held in October in Indonesia with her father Cesare A.X. Syjuco and Alfred A. Yuson, among the Filipino representative poets at Ubud Writer’s Festival in Bali.

Another aesthetic revelation that was unveiled by one of the “Syjuco Tres Marias” last August 8, 2008 at Mag:net Café, Bonifacio High Street, is Michelline Syjuco’s collection of sculpted jewelry on metal titled “Armadillon”.

It features the artist’s handmade jewelry designs, which are made of unique and intricately sculpted and soldered metals, embedded with spikes, bullets, clenched pearls, gemstones and fragments of rocks from outer space.

Guest of honor National Artist Napoleon Abueva and other notable guests the poet and columnist Alfred A. Yuson, art critic-artist Cid Reyes, and restaurant mogul Raymond Reyes, among others, graced the opening of the event. Landscape and interior designer Al Sibal curated the show.

The opening of Michelline’s exhibit was a historic evening – “The ocho-ocho weekend that was” – as described by Alfred Yuson in his column “Kripotkin”, because of so many events that were unveiled that Friday (08-08-08) in the local art scene, needless to mention the opening of Beijing Olympics in China.

Packed with sardine-like crowd inside the Mag:net Café, the event was highlighted with the fashion show of “Armadillon” collection. Fashion models include Trix and Maxine Syjuco, Arianne Tonda, Cami & Chinky Hiquiana, Iza Elises, Natasha Rodriquez and this writer, the only thorn among the roses.

It was followed with live performances of poetry, music and performance art by the usual members of the Electric Underground Collective: Cesare A.X. Syjuco & Jean Marie Syjuco, The Syjuco Sisters, Eghai Roxas, Yanna Acosta & Project Ganymede, Alfred Yuson, Bailan & Ukay-Ukay bands, Bob Balingit & The Wuds, Alan Rivera, Danny Sillada & Mangayaw band, Mannet Villariba, Lirio Salvador & Elemento, Mitch Garcia, Art Casanova, Ian Madrigal, The Slave Drum, Parking in Mogadishu, to name a few.

The “Armadillon” collection is the debut exhibit of Michelline Syjuco, the eldest sisters of the “Syjuco Tres Marias”, daughters of avant-garde artists Cesare A.X. Syjuco and Jean Marie Syjuco. The exhibit is extended up to the month of September at Mag:net Café, Bonifacio High Street.

As an offshoot of visual art, performance art subverts the form and structure of conventional art making by using material devices and bodily movements in presenting the imagery of reality during the performance.

Contrary to performing arts like dance, theater and musical, live art performance is a dynamic and unrehearsed presentation of symbolic images through live actions in front of the audience.

In her recent performance at the opening of her sister’s (Michelline Syjuco) jewelry collection at Mag:net Café, Trix Syjuco stunned the audience with her riveting feat in “Black Bride”. Clad with black wedding dress while her collaborator, acting as a priest-bridegroom (this writer), is wearing a white cassock and satin scarf with eye-shades covering his face.

The contrasting images are hauntingly surreal; the priest, instead of sanctifying the sacrament of matrimony, was going to marry the bride. In the same vein, the bride’s black wedding dress, a traditional symbolic color for a widowed wife in mourning, amplifies the gothic and bizarre imagery of the performance.

The tension heightens when the bridegroom (the priest) and the bride reenact a bodily sensual encounter in a dance-like movement. Then, the latter, as if awakened from demonic spell, chastises the bride by wrapping her body and face with plastic sheet. The bride, to complete the ritual, sprinkles her head with black and white powder and pours out the holy water on her body.

Passionate, primal and, at times, perturbing, Trix Syjuco’s performances break the wall of her mild-mannered archetypal “self” without subverting the form and content of her live art presentation. Her performances like “I Fell in Love with a Killer”, “Plastik” and “Black Bride”, to name a few, inherently follow a trail of existential angst, disillusionment, and embittered human relationships.

Her subtle use of imageries and devices is intelligently delivered in a dialectic manner, purging and liberating the harrowing quest of her inner persona as a woman and as an artist and, at the same time, creating a succulent seedbed to grow and nurture her aesthetics.

 © Danny Castillones Sillada