Is it art?

POINT OF VIEW - Br. Edmundo Fernandez - The Philippine Star

As a young Fine Arts student in UP in the early 80s, my understanding of art was turned upside down when one of my early professors said that art was anything and everything, anywhere and everywhere. He said and I quote: “Oh, it’s the shoes you wear and the ad on the bus and the chair you sit on right now.” For one whose idea of art was something hung on a wall or put on a pedestal, the mind shift was difficult and long and it took me years, decades in fact, to fully embrace what my professor said. Today, of course, I take on the same view that everything is art.

Take Olafur Eliasson, who puts rivers and rainbows into museum spaces or recreates the sun, yes the Sun, in large halls. Is it art?

Or the maverick Spanish chef Ferran Adria of El Bulli who created the culinary foam, now de rigueur in high-end restaurants. A culinary genius and innovator, he was one of the first to play with taste, perception and sense. Is it art? One of El Bulli’s legacies is that it becomes a training ground for young chefs who later on would become Michelin-starred.

Or Japan’s Shigeru Ban who extensively uses paper, including tubing to be used as posts to construct houses and structures. He constantly explores the use of paper as construction material by mixing them with paint and polyurethane. Is it art? In 2014, Shigeru Ban was awarded the highly coveted Pritzker Prize, the Nobel for Architecture.

Or Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction.” A film that begins with the end and ends with the beginning. And in between he weaves four stories marked by crime and gratuitous violence and interspersed with dialogue that is up there with the best in film history. Is it art? Pulp Fiction won the Palm D’Or in Cannes and Best Screenplay at the Oscars.

Or John Barnard, who designed the 1990 Formula 1 car, Ferrari 64½, an example of aerodynamic perfection. Is it art? It is one of the few cars and the only F1 car that is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

These are just examples of thousands who push the boundary of art and design. Artists, architects, engineers; chefs, film makers, designers across all disciplines; teachers, gardeners, cultural preservationists; programmers, doctors, writers. Name a discipline and art, design and creativity will always seep into their thinking and their practice.

This is what Benilde Open and De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde is all about – to push the boundaries of what we conceive as Design and Art. It is dedicated to shaping design and art sensibilities by championing innovative and collaborative projects within and outside the school.

Interestingly, what ties the 28 grantees are the ideas of collaboration and intersection. Collaboration among practioners and the intersection of thoughts, ideas, discipline. Some examples:

• Tour guides or what the project calls “unscripted walks” that bring together a team of artists and explorers with experience in psycho-geography, sound art, photography, performance, knitting, design, architecture and poetry who will guide the exploration.

• Integrating FSL Literature within the landscape of Philippine literary arts through creative signing workshop and an exhibition from five deaf literary fellows. This project seeks to blend craftsmanship with technology.

• A project that aims to evoke the intricate relationship between the universe and earthly gardens, exploring it through the unique perspective of bees.

These are just three of the 28 that an international panel of jurors have judged as worthy ideas to be funded and to bring to fruition.

Our government has set its sights on positioning the Philippines as the number one creative economy in ASEAN by 2030. This has been formalized by the recent enactment of the Philippine Creative Industries Act, accompanied by the establishment of the Creative Industries Council under the Department of Trade and Industry. I’d like to think that De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde is an institution that nurtures creativity, so we are keen to make significant contributions toward this national endeavor.

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Remarks delivered by Br. Edmundo Fernandez, president of De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde Manila and Antipolo during the Benilde Open Design+Art media launch. He is a visual artist with residencies in France and Japan.

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