Wednesday, 10 April 2013

To build, to forge, to link, to remember, to relieve

To build, to forge, to link, to remember, to relieve

by Samdech Kirit Thanarat

At first, this writeup is again a part of topics regarding ContemporAntiquity and of bridging the past and the present. It may sound strange especially that this writer had spent time researching on how some countries tend to cling to its roots in midst of the march of time especially with modernity as its forefront.

However, in a fast-changing world may likely to say that few countries, communities tend to preserve, wholly or partly their heritage such as those of reforming, innovation and renovation while keeping its significance such as those of edifices conservationists trying to call for preservation and making it applicable for modern use such as those of the old Citibank building at Escolta for a Call Center. And to think that since there are people offering chances of conserving through innovation, may as well giving chances of reforming old but significant domestic architecture in pursuit of reviving a community nowadays bereft of identity and like others fell victim, a moving shadow marred by confusion and bewilderment.

And in relieving something significant encompasses everything not just in conserving, but also to forge and make things anew yet carries a soul that is deeply rooted in its heritage yet goes on with the march of time. Yes, it is difficult to create something anew but in looking both realities and learning would create new ideas different from what comes from the book or rather say imagination. Come to think of Hannes Meyer and Alexander Bogdanov, or even Jiang Qing and Van Molyvann, they look into realities, they reform domestic architecture, or even relieve existing art and experiment in order to create something that relates to the people and to the community.

Reaffirm through modernity

It's all but strange for others nowadays to reaffirm heritage as most preferred to join with the flow. Few, especially those who took history and culture also tried much to make something different such as using homegrown idea and hence making it improved and modern; that invokes the "soul" and appeals much to people's aspiration different from the typical idea like those of making something primarily to be sold.

However, clinging to domestic culture, and even making it modern and invoke the people's aspirations made others think of it as Romanticism, just because of asserting patriotic or a populist tendency such as social reality and tradition. In asserting nationalism, which had became a central theme of Romantic art as well as political philosophy, it had stress importance traditions, customs, even revisiting and developing local folklore, all out of realities people had faced and thus recorded according to their experiences as part of community's foundations other than a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, that until today with Globalization took place in it.

But in regards to today's century, with communities becoming modern, there may still people who tend to lean to age old ideas like Romanticism and having it applied to social reality such as poverty (thus making deviations different from the original meaning of Romanticism and leaning towards Realism); it may say that Romanticism may also have shifted "mindsets away from the Changlessness of the Metaphysical with its emphasis on process and becoming found in the realm of the historical"  (credits to someone who quoted it) while Conservatives had to innovate in facing changing times such as being modern yet with solid moral and cultural foundations deeply rooted serving as basis in a surviving society like Thailand or Indochina. 

That somehow made this writer think that Romanticism does not means getting much close to the past nor making an exaggeration as others tend to do so in expressing identity. But rather, a reaffirmation of preserving and relieving heritage and even making it closer to the people. If necessary by making it applicable to the signs of the time, without entirely submitting to the awkwardness of "modernism" that is rather, "wholesale westernization" of things without considering domestic culture.

And to think that wholesale westernization, a byproduct of globalization tends to make things "easier" for the west while making things difficult for the east unless their culture is as deeply rooted. Again, it's like being compelled to wear masks one after another yet the identity remained different from what should be, yes, there may be strains of self-identification but not as deeply rooted as evidenced by reducing it merely into an aesthetic display. Let's say the three stars and the sun had been used much for advertising purposes, but its meaning had been reduced to near nothing and often misunderstood by many compared to the Baybayin "Ka" that a person should been a radical in getting to know the roots of Filipino identity.

Let's take Scandinavia for example, that during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the so-called "National Romantic Style" was made to keep in touch with the times yet its foundations without reducing everything into an aesthetic display such as basing much on Norse and Mediaeval periods. Yes, it reflected both Patriotic sentiment and yearness for modernity as it reforms Domestic architecture and art to present as applicable to modern periods.
Yes, that kind of style would say that it was a reaction to widespread industrialism laid by the west as it renews interest into its very own culture such as those of the Eddas, Sagas, and Stave Churches. And in looking at early Norse and Mediaeval precedents in seeking style reflecting those of people's interest meant making something that whilst keeping heritage and identity also appeals to modernity such as National development. That, with the Stadshus at Sweden, Bergen Stasjon and Norges Tekniske Hogskole at Norway, and the Kalko church at Finland as evidences to a people expressing both patriotism and at the same time progressive social and political ideals that was, different from the usual interpretation of revisiting old architecture and preserving heritage as those of conservatism.

That somehow this means growth and innovation rather than renovation as it utilizes age-old ideas for modern day purpose such as gearing it to the needs of the people rather than merely invoking the past nor to impress the way King Ludwig did in Bavaria. 

To others, it may seemed to be monumental as it invokes identity and heritage, but then, edifices using that, or any other style would say that it rather utilizes both the use of common materials, knowledge and skill to improve, modernize something that is, significant. It cannot be entirely monumental as it revisits those that looked "past" nor ought to invoke those of "fear" and treated primarily as propaganda the way Hitler did. In Spain during Franco would say that his preference for Habsburg-era kitch end up acknowledging modern architecture in pursuit of having Spain modern and improved as the west looked upon his country as deeply rooted into its past such as Inquisition, Conservatism, and aloofness to modernity such as the Second republic had tried; but still, those attempts, although it invokes modernity would say that it rather made to curry foreign investment yet keeping greater strains of heritage as part of its cultural policy.

And in invoking the idea of identity, heritage side by side with modernity and innovation ought not so serve merely as propaganda or worse, as an effort for crowd control guised as unifying force for the people; yes, it can be unifying in a sense that it inspires, steers efforts in making genuine social development with people leaning, teaching, serving and developing the society that needs alot of renovation.

Personally, bridging both the past and present is somewhat difficult to deal with such as in writing. Yes, it can be classified much as a figment of imagination, a fictitious work of art, a daydream, and product of idealism as others also tried to deal with. That Architects like Roque RuaƱo and Leandro Locsin, Artists like Guillermo Tolentino and Fernando Amorsolo, or even Ben Cabrera and Romeo Lee tend to present culture as modern yet invoking its culture deeply yet not as exaggerated nor reduced to mere aesthetic as others did for the sake of publicity.

Revisiting their "illusions" and of "facing the impossible"

Once, this writer had made a writeup regarding a bunch of "young Nazis" who present as "modern" yet acting reminiscent of people from long ago such as Hitler and his group of men who made edifices to invoke fear and treat culture as propaganda. "The future belongs to dare the impossible" is what they call for, yet they rather kept on enjoying in a daydream full of fictitious illusions such as those done during two great bloody wars of the 20th century.
This writer had even assess them much as being a bunch of kids that think quite unrealistic such as in their facebook page years before. As he said:

" seems that these people are rather indulged in watching, reading science fiction and playing video games, coupled with wartime nostalgia that made them think that they would change the world easily in a single snap, all based from their illusions such as monument-like buildings, emphasising strong weaponry and perhaps, expansionism as a feature of greatness based from their aspirations."

Perhaps, comparing to the edifices of then "contemporary" past such as in Scandinavia, in  Soviet Russia and even Cambodia or Burma would say that theirs as exaggerated as to mock the legacy of past to the present. To think that they even wanted to create a Mausoleum for Andres Bonifacio yet there's the monument that supposedly made to place his relic at Caloocan? Realistically speaking, quite utopian to think such ideas or worse, to steer everything into the past what they think of it as "normal." Hitler's overtly parochial tendency and Himmler's mysticism undermines the idea what their National Socialism was compared to the realistic Strasser brothers although they invoke patriotic sentiment yet appeals to reality such as to curb poverty and spearhead development. Facing the impossible? With what? Sticks and stones, daggers and bolos while thinking about laser guns and missiles?

The issue on housing would say that it is much "real" compared to their monumental feats that is, an exaggeration of a past revisited. But then in a fast changing world their idea regarding mass housing as "obsolete". Come to think of Thailand, Malaysia, or Soekarno's Indonesia, they had to bridge the past and present, least by reforming domestic architecture and looking past examples as inspiration for modern and realistic edifices, that follows function so to speak.

Made with a purpose? Or made to Impress?

In fact, it is ironic to see people, places, all invoking Patriotic sentiment while at the same time thoroughly accepting wholesale westernization as "modern" such as those who cry for foreign control of properties, privatization and free trade, crying against oligarchs yet silent in regards to technocrats and foreigners willing to have control over properties or assets vital to domestic improvement, including culture such as mass media.
Obviously, if not for exaggerating, they would reduce the significance of being patriotic such as a Filipino, although modern in its appearance into a mere aesthetic display the way singers tend to copy and watering down meanings for sake of popularity. Come to think of Bamboo Manalac's "Tatsulok", it became popular, but its meaning behind, originally sung by Buklod meant radicalism such as inverting the social triangle dominated by the landed gentries and its foreign overlords, be called as "Class Struggle" so to speak, yet had been watered down would say that its real meaning had been nearly lost and few would understand in it; or perhaps let's say "singing for the sake of singing."
BLKD's rapping, in contrast, would say that he uses western music such as Hiphop or Rap as a form of social sentiment and not merely to impress people for he's a Rapper. Just like Ireland's Marxman, it advances real Filipino interest that is, radically different from the usual one that espouses nothing but for popularity's sake. Obviously, Rap, Rock or Reggae didn't made at first for sake, it rather conveys reality through songs such as life and not mere bragging rights nor erotic love as what being played nowadays, and to say that just because they are being sung in Filipino or any other language is that enough? Perhaps these been made for sake of publicity than a means to convey expression, a product of reality.

Same as those who use much "Three Stars and a Sun" and the Filipino colours, yet it had became used for aesthetic purposes with less understanding such as its rays as the rebellious provinces and the stars as Luzon Visayas and Mindanao; but most rather place it "for sake" just to say "this is the Philippines" and enough of it, plain and simple reduction to aesthetics so to speak compared by those who used the Baybayin and others and had it understood thoroughly what goes behind deeply about the glyphs, symbols, colours and the like and not been made, placed for sake.

So are the old Churches, houses, native crafts, work of art, all reduced to nothing but museum pieces Tourists, or bystanders ought to see. But come to think that other countries whose culture had been deeply rooted yet despite modernity its identity continues to flower, that all had to bridge the antiquated and the modern  such as China, Thailand or Indonesia. How about the Philippines then?

Perhaps, Ferdinand Marcos was right to say this:

"Faceless for centuries, the Filipino has worn a succession of masks imposed on him by alien intruders. No one really knows the depths of his confusion and bewilderment; no one can truly measure the intensity of his hurt and shame. A moving shadow, he drifts aimlessly, feeling unworthy of his own true self, he embraces other people's values and claims it to be his own.
To be a dynamic instrument of nation building and social reconstruction, he therefore seeks to recuperate his identity. He must get back to his roots, his culture. Necessarily, he must, for the culture of a people is their covenant. It is the distinguishing mark, the source of identity that sets them apart from other peoples. It provides them inner strength that shales he collective will of their body politic and the structure of their national society."

All thinking that as people getting contented to a canned culture laid by wholesale westernization and peddled by the few, its very own culture had been treated much as if primarily for promotions to Investors and Tourists than to espouse deep sense of National identity with a culture, although a fusion of east and west is as deeply rooted and thriving as should be?
The paintings of Fernando Amorsolo would say that it mirrors not just the beauty of a Filipina, but what a Filipina should be, such as a regal, passionate, strong willed the way the legendary Urduja had (contrary to those who spend time camwhoring and covering breasts, trying to impress as sexy), or Victorio Edades, with the paintings at Far Eastern University tend to fuse Filipino Identity with those of a progressive future such as tropical paradise with steamships; obviously, these works would say that it carries a message that heritage should been side by side with modernity and not been reduced to a mere aesthetic with a meaning that is, nearly watered down or reduced to being useless, serving as something a Nation thriving yet its patriotism is of a progressive kind with heritage serving as its foundations.
China for instance, it had to make its culture progressive the way Jiang Qing had used traditional Peking Opera and had it applicable to then modern settings such as "Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy" and "The Red Lantern." The Monumen Nasional at Indonesia, although modern in it's appearance pays tribute to the Majapahit with its Hindu significance such as the Yoni and Lingam. These would say that it espouses identity with a purpose such as inculcate patriotism and relieving heritage different from the usual "make this and that" whose real intention is to impress than to express that lies significant both to the creator and to the community itself.

Come to think of the Red Flag Canal in China. As to the Great Wall that meant defenses, the canal, although being made entirely by manual labor, meant mass initiative in pursuit of countering drought such as diverting river into the canal for irrigation; and the fact that the Great Leap Forward had shortcomings such as drought and low outputs in harvests, people's initiative made it happen to bring enough harvest in midst of events deemed "tragic" by western media.
Same as the Wuhan Yangtze River bridge, the concept of building a bridge spanning the entire river meant development in bringing goods and a practical means to cross from Hanyang to Wuchang; it can be considered monumental since it showed prestige in developing China from being a backward state bereft of development due to corruption as well as a fulfillment of age-old aspirations that requires crossing great rivers like the Yellow or Yangtze in pursuit of unity.

Illusions trying to realize (and see tremendous mess)

Such projects like bridges, buildings, any kind of infrastructure taken would say that it took months if not years out of practical discourse, and planning in order to realize; it can't be just a figment of imagination the way those who made edifices "just to impress" do.

Just like in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge.

More of idealistic than realistic in imposing policies, Khmer Rouge, or rather say it's leader, Pol Pot tends to imitate China's "Great Leap Forward" without emphasising reconstruction efforts in building Socialist Cambodia. He even present himself as "Maoist" while at the same time claiming to denying it as he present his own "Communism" as unique such as forcibly evacuating the people from the cities to the countryside not considering the need to reconstruct industry as possible. Obviously, it was entirely a product of idealism than looking at reality to do that kind of action "just because the people are hungry" and "had to be evacuated" and "learn farming", but the fact lies in Pol Pot and his clique's penchant for anti-intellectualism the way he downplays the role of the intellectuals as spies of imperialists than contributors to reconstruction.

Personally, this writer would say that just because of the efforts made by the Chinese such as the Red Flag Canal the Khmer Rouge tend to imitate the idea of building dams or irrigation canals in a manner such as these and hence be called as "people's initiative." But obviously, despite its objective such as intensify grain outputs such as making widespread irrigation canals in the spirit of "Super Great Leap Forward", it is rather made in pursuit of making things happen overnight without considering the role of each individual as contributor; very different from the Angkor period nor the early Sangkum era that developed good infrastructure such as those made by Van Molyvann.
Yes, it can be considerable that dams and canals had contributed enough in the "development" made by the Khmer Rouge in imitation to the Chinese example, but how about the factories and other related infrastucture damaged during the civil war as well as chances of rehabilitation such as those of the towns and cities the way China did during the early days as a Socialist state? The Chinese example what Pol Pot tried to imitate would say that it involves massive infrastructure projects that wasn't limited to making irrigation sites, dams and repairing of bridges and railroads. The building of factories and repairing engines for instance support the industrial component while prioritizing agriculture in order to feed and clothe the people. But still, Pol Pot's "idealism" of making things realize overnight had steered the nation into a mess, including the deaths of millions of people due to "overzealous" officials and threats of spies coming from CIA, KGB or Vietnam with the latter had to impose order and normalcy despite ridden by warfare years later.

Otherwise, it's somehow same as the one from above, trying to present as capable of doing the impossible such as making things overnight without making a sound program that is deeply rooted into the reality instead of a mere idea the way Van Molyvann's designs aren't made for sake of impression but with a purpose such as brise soleil for natural light and roofs that serve as collecting rainwater or Jiang Qing's use of Peking Opera yet using modern figures and based on then modern historical events.

Also to think that with Vietnam "trying to impose order", also meant rebuilding and trying to create a really sound "socialism" different from what was in 1975. Obviously, it took means to reopen temples, art academies, revive Cambodian culture same as trying to rehabilitate factories, repair canals, dams including those made during the Khmer Rouge. Yes, it took years for Heng Samrin and others to rehabilitate as well as those of Norodom Sihanouk, while people trying to rebuild lives and houses from the ashes of terror out of illusions trying to realize only to see tremendous mess such as dams and canals side by side with corpses rotting.
Worse, those illusions that failed doesn't inculcate moral and spiritual growth same as material that benefits the well being of both the individual and the community.

Still, "trying to forge" by reality and idea

It's all but strange for the writer to say things, events, everything in pursuit of ContemporAntiquity, like Guilliame Faye's ArcheoFuturism, would say that in creating new but deeply rooted culture, art, morality, all in pursuit of benefiting the well being of a living whole, takes weeks, months, years long no matter how complicate would be; as Hannes Meyer had tried to make Avant Garde closer to the people such as closely relating Bauhaus and Society, or Jiang Qing with Peking Opera and the Revolutionary aspirations of the people, it takes long time to make something that corresponds to heritage, modernity and reality to inculcate lesson and idea in it.
In a way how  Roque Ruano's creation, it wasn't been made to impress such  as having an edifice that withstand earthquakes, or a renaissance revival using concrete, the UST campus at Sampaloc was done at first in response to the growing number of students and at the same time in dire need of concrete improvement such as developing a new campus called modern yet deeply rooted in its old traditions that brought significance in it. As Ruano himself tend to bridge the two and also to say how heritage tends to grow and renovate, innovate and construct to march with time. Well, there are still people who made this and that, or rather say imitate much just to impress others, yet no matter how modern-like yet having no significance or purpose the way new edifices at Binondo being built on the demolished old houses that perhaps need refurbishment; or the obvious preference of developers to develop commercial complexes than to help make sound mass housing such as flats than typical "townhouses" that ate mostly lands that are arable.

Just like Quezon City that was originally made as a government center and a place where workers and the once dispossessed had a place to live and work. The picture from above is one example that the state tends to so such as building mass housing and make industrial complexes that carries industries stimulating production and provide employment instead of commercial complexes today. The fact that most developers, especially private ones made spontaneous, uncontrolled development that made mess guised as development. Well, how come facades of glass and steel side by side with shantytowns? QC may had been like those of Washington or even Pyongyang if people wanted a semblance of an orderly yet developed society rather than a messy one same as others that had been existing yet "developed" on the pretext of modernity.

Anyways, this kind of attempt, like others made by radicals who used art for society's sake and for genuine expression, are quite countercultural for the prevailing social order that supposedly tend to present sound, realistic and applicable to social conditions. Yes, it can be avant-garde the way Gropius or Bogdanov did in their contributions, experimental as can be, but it also tend to show people's aspirations different from those who made for sake, to impress, all without understanding or even make an exaggeration of something what is meant for them; or rather say they shove into everybody's throats no matter how sickening would be it's effects.

Yet still, despite the prevailing tone, few will always think how to dismantle what had became the norm, the more that degenerates man and society.


Thanks Miah Llanes for inspiring this writer to make this writeup. She may not directly involved in this, but somehow in spirit she showed support despite differences in preference, yes, she's a model, but to the writer's view she can be capable of being a good art patron and perhaps an artist willing. Anyways, cooking or events organizing can be an art the way this writer loves to do sketching, sculpture or photography. Just make it real and inspiring.

This writer had even listening to Redemption by Audiomachine to deal with this.