Silverlens presents this special exhibition by artist Martha Atienza that mines the artist’s relationship with island life, water, and social rot. A procession of men in bastardized costumes from the religious to the iconic, from Roman centurion: skirts to Manny Pacquiao’s boxing gloves. They are fully submerged, in a trance, pushing themselves slowly against the water and its uncontrollable current. At the head is a man dressed as the Santo Nino, and carrying doppelgänger statue. The Santo Nino is the child Jesus and Patron of the islands. The man raises the miraculous statue repeatedly, slowly, leading the march. This is an underwater Ati-atihan, an ancient animistic festival and procession, Christianized by colonial influence.
Every year, Atienza films the Ati-atihan and adds footage to combine the colorful fiesta as entertainment in contrast to images of more pressing social issues. Natural and political violence has become part of the procession. The Ati-atihan has been transformed into an annual record of victories and disasters, dreams and protests.
Martha Atienza has been known to produce works that not only represent the community but also serve the community. She has initiated screening programs that involve active participation and workshops that allow the exchange of ideas between the members of the community. Video has become her chosen medium in establishing close ties with the people of Bantayan Island, her hometown. For Atienza, her works are projects where the youth can take over and continue to share knowledge, and where art can become an open source for ideas and can give voice for those rarely heard.
One of the pressing issues in Bantayan Island is the damage that the fishing industry puts on marine life. The life between reefs have slowly dwindled away due to illegal practices in fishing and diving. Atienza, who has continually immersed herself within the practices of the community has come to understand far better the underlying conditions it stems from, which are impoverishment and unawareness. This has propelled her to approach the matter differently, with hopes to engage the people involved through small increments, rather than alienating them with bulks of righteous know-how.
“The problem we face, not only on Bantayan Island, not only in the Philippines but around the world, is climate change. To address this is of utmost importance. So we have as our main problems: people destroying (nature) through illegal activities and nature itself. * – Martha Atienza
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