Contested Meanings - Commissioned Art, Public Spaces and the "Revive Manila" Program
Tessa Maria Guazon
Department of Art Studies, University of the Philippines-Dil
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Last modified: May 25, 2007
Presentation date: 06/11/2007 2:30 PM in ISCTE-II B201
My essay surveys sculpture pieces for three public parks (Plaza Miranda, Liwasang Bonifacio and the Baywalk area) commissioned by the city government in its implementation of the ‘Revive Manila’ program from 2000 to 2004. I wish to interrogate art’s role in urban development. Sculpture in public places would comprise one layer of the city’s representational aspect. It is also a site where dominant meanings of progress and culture are deployed. These meanings however, are actively produced and reinterpreted by park goers, visitors and urban residents. I wish to examine the gaps in official constructions of the city of Manila in the renewal program through the lenses of embodied experience and gender, specifically through art historian’s Griselda Pollock’s formulation of the ‘feminine’. By juxtaposing official meanings employed by the sculpture pieces with evidence of actual use and memories of place, I aim to show how dominant imagery related to urban life are continuously reconfigured in the spaces of everyday life. This is part of a larger study concerned with contested meanings and shared spaces in Manila, the same city where I live. As a student of art history, I am also interested in the many possibilities that can be mined from the resources inherent in art for the construction of meanings about public space and urban life. If public art commissions can be rethought and devised in ways that involve and empower as many ‘publics’ as possible, then perhaps art is one avenue where we can formulate ways to sustain the city’s polyphonic character.