Ugly face

By: Raymund Fernandez April 09,2016 - 09:13 PM

There is a wall along Escario St. famous in Cebu City for being some sort of freedom wall. Graffiti artists paint on the wall their art, layers upon layers of it. The art is continually changed and covered. It does not stay too long. It is part of a younger mind set among artists. It speaks of the transitory, the non-archival, the existential – art as history. And then, just last week somebody paints over this wall of freedom the ugliest face ever. Next to this face, as if to glorify the redundant, the unnecessary, and the stupid, the word “change.”

And so the wall now resembles and recalls an old practice among old politicians who put their names and faces over edifices, infrastructure, even garbage trucks, anything that may, in some twisted sort of way, be related to them. The act seemed to us as ugly as the faces plastered to illustrate the inherent ugliness of the act; such an ugliness as to give testament to one inexorable fact: context is always more important than content.

But since this wall is the freedom wall, then it follows that anything can be placed on it, anything can be placed over any painting that is already there: Which makes the wall itself a metaphor not just of freedom but of history. Freedom is complex. Its meaning is subjective, personal, even poetic. Not so, history, which is always more abject. True, it is subject to different readings. But every reading indicates always the reader’s bias. The more dispassionate the reading, the closer to truth the reading is.

And so we must retrace our recollection of this wall. Every layer of artwork reads like the pages of a very local history. We remember the time when this wall began.

The artist just painted words and names over it. The names were aliases. They were a code readable only by a small “tribal minority” of kids risking arrest to put themselves and their secret identities somewhere. It was an act really of pure innocent mischief to tell us how wonderful art is; the more so when it is pure, innocent, and yes — mischievous. It is fun.

And so we watched this wall grow. We learned to recognize the artists by their styles, their peculiar figurations. We learned over time how to decode the paintings.

And then an older man watching the art on this wall might feel good with himself seeing how he is still in touch with the young, the streets, the new. Otherwise, he would see how fame was still possible away from the virtual and digital world. This art was not digital, not trapped in the constructs of the social networks. It was as real as the wall itself. It gave art for free to everyone.

And now, this wall. What was it before the ugly politician’s face?

There was an invisible globe defined by works in strokes recalling the font, “Olde English.” Uncannily, this same sort of text was used in the old days when the names of school diplomas were written carefully by hand. The font-type used? Olde English.

The words on this street art were hard to decode. But one recalls immediately the word “struggle.” The juxtaposing of the concepts: text for diplomas and struggle seems immediately readable. A student had done this perhaps without realizing he or she is a student of history. He or she most certainly is a participant in it. There was another message right beside it. It was an invitation for us to “Keep the walls alive.”

It was a wonderful invitation. And so we reacted by thinking: “Yes! Keep right on doing it, young people!”

And then one morning we wake up to a new sign, a new message, the ugliest face ever to un-grace this wall. Which ugly face as we must imagine is ominous of the many steps we will have taken backwards in history if the man who owns the face should ever be elected president. The walls themselves tell exactly how many steps backwards by their aesthetics. It would be many steps backwards — from beautiful to ugly. Will this wall ever recover again? What about the country itself?

We dream somebody will soon come along to deface this face perhaps with the names of their chosen candidates — for some in yellow: “Mar & Leni” — If only to prove this is still the freedom wall. It would certainly reduce the ugliness somewhat.

But it would perhaps be too late. The wall has lost its purity and innocence. But now we know the difference between the beautiful and the ugly. We know now how to differentiate art from advertising, truth from propaganda, graffiti from vandalism. Will it be as easy to differentiate the acts of death squads from murder? Will they be shooting street-artists in the near future?

The wall tells us how easily freedom is lost. So that all we are left is a memory of how beautiful freedom was. In its place: this ugly face.

Read Next

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of Cebudailynews. We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

TAGS: art, Cebu, Cebu City, Escario Street, face, Graffiti, ugly

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.