Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 20 May 2019

Art in the Philippines: An intricate city crafted of cardboard springs up in Manila

Isabel and Alfredo Aquilizan's exhibition highlights the importance of a humble material

'Here, There, Everywhere: Project Another Country' by the Aquilizans. Courtesy At Maculangan of Pioneer Studios.
'Here, There, Everywhere: Project Another Country' by the Aquilizans. Courtesy At Maculangan of Pioneer Studios.

A twisting maze of tiny buildings crafted from discarded cardboard boxes is the heart of an eye-catching art piece in the Philippines highlighting the humble material's value to millions of people.

In a nation where nearly a quarter of the population lives on less than $2 per day, cardboard is a cheap and abundant material used for shelter, bedding and furniture.

While the installation was originally made in and patterned on the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu, the Filipino artists behind the work told AFP the use of cardboard packs more meaning in Manila.

Installation and detail shots of the work of Isabel and Alfredo Aquilizan. Courtesy At Maculangan of Pioneer Studios
Installation and detail shots of the work of Isabel and Alfredo Aquilizan. Courtesy At Maculangan of Pioneer Studios

"The cardboard is very much important in the Philippines. In other places, it's discarded, it's garbage," said Isabel Aquilizan, who conceived of the piece along with her husband Alfredo.

"Here, we use it for everything. We construct with it, it becomes your bed, it becomes your house, it becomes everything," she added.

A hole at the centre of the mixed-media installation allows visitors to stand at eye-level with details of the cardboard metropolis like roof-mounted satellite dishes, street signs and trees.

The art piece in the Philippines highlights cardboard's value to millions of people. Courtesy At Maculangan of Pioneer Studios.
The art piece in the Philippines highlights cardboard's value to millions of people. Courtesy At Maculangan of Pioneer Studios.

"I was very much overwhelmed with the details and the simple use of the material," said architecture student Ebi Villa during a visit to the exhibition at De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde in Manila.

The work, called Here, There, Everywhere: Project Another Country, is the latest piece from the Aquilizans and it probes questions of migration and dislocation.

Millions of Filipinos live and work abroad, including the Australia-based Aquilizans, and remittances from the nation's overseas workers are a pillar of the economy.

The piece, commissioned by a Chinese organisation, was created through the help of volunteers in China who underwent workshops by the artists on cardboard art-making.

"Cardboard is a strategy for us to, in a way, connect, because it's an ordinary material," Alfredo Aquilizan told AFP.

"It's unassuming, wherein when you give someone a cardboard in a workshop, they start making it (art)," he added.

Updated: April 30, 2019 03:22 PM

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