Thursday Vargas: Watching The Watchmen

Posted on November 18, 2012

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 Watching the Watchmen by Ronald Ventura is an exhibit concerning the Cordillera’s ethnic bulol, relating it to contemporary times. The bulol is a huge part of the animistic culture of ancient Filipinos, and in the exhibit these bulol were shown with a different take – artistically manipulated with doodles and such.

What struck me the most about these bulol are their facial expressions. The artist has put so much detail into the faces that the bulol seem to take a life of its own. There is something about these expressions that imply life and vitality despite being a stationary work of art. There is something about their eyes that just pierce through the soul – it’s almost as if it communicates with the viewer.

When I look at works of art, sculptures especially, I always look into the facial expressions. Details, if it concerns inanimate objects rather than living things. I can look at a work of art as a whole, see the bigger picture. But when I focus on one tiny detail – a flicker of an eye, an upturned nose or a grimace – it could tell the artwork’s story in a whole new context.

In this case, it is the eyebrows that struck me the most. It’s like saying to the viewer, “hey, what are you looking at?” or “your shirt looks terrible” or something like that. Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is famous for that enigmatic smile. It is a smile that just knows – the kind of smile that knows something that you don’t. That’s the most striking thing about it. In this case, it is the glance that just knows – it is seeing something that you just don’t see.

This is my interpretation of the artwork, and the exhibit in general: we are watching the watchmen – the watchmen who watch our every move. They know things that we don’t know. The exhibit is a way for us to watch the watchmen.  These watchmen will continue to watch us as time passes and the world progresses.

More here:

Part 1

Part 2

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