Lockdown Art

Upon the onset of this pandemic, the artist’s faculty was in a jarring state of novelty and isolation. Veering away from conventional setups and the usual hubbub, he finds refuge in the hushed walls of a home, in the company of coffee, and the warmth of family. 

The webinar “Lockdown Art” with Mark Salvatus was the fourteenth session of V-Con 2. The speaker was supported by moderator Vincent Rose Sarnate and ExCon Director Mariano Montelibano.

Sarnate highlighted how the art community grappled with forms of confinement. It has been nearly 450 days since the national lockdown and artists have employed as much, or even more ways to thrive despite bounds. 

Art that demands physical spaces, mobility, and mass interaction gradually migrated to virtual platforms with an even deeper scope and wider reach. With gallery visits regulated and exhibitions prematurely closed, homes and studios were upgraded to galleries. In the new revolution of contemporary art, artists must employ practices that will outlast physical restraints, global health crises, or periods of creative lockdown.

Practicing artist and Load na Dito’s co-founder Mark Salvatus took works, projects and innovations in and beyond walls as he began citing impacts of the pandemic on his personal and professional life. Salvatus shared that his first few months of lockdown were stagnant. 

He dwelt on anxiety for a significant time, not sure whether to move forward or stay put. Such tendency led to reflection, into a much better option: going back for a bit. Salvatus mentioned “Salvage Projects.” 

The core idea of which is going back and picking things up. This is not new to him, as he worked primarily with found objects, and was interested in the binary meaning of making and creating some kind of nuance. 

Salvatus remarked that objects are a symbol and extension of our time and lives, as gadgets an extension of our hands, and shoes as that of our feet. Mundane things at home became his starting point.

The artist employed an equivocal approach, specific on absurdity, ambiguity, and difference in contexts. He advocates for the viewer’s organic growth in art appreciation and comprehension. Salvatus opted for an open visual language on liberal channels of communication, where the artist might mean one thing and the audience another but where there is an intellectual handshake happening whereby the work or object tells of something regardless of a standard visual denotation. 

From this angle, art will not have a single interpretation, but several diverse stories dependent on its viewers. The audience, along with the artist, takes an active part in the work.

Salvatus believes that activity is energy and that energy includes space. Working with installation art, he deduced that space, energy transference, and connection form the core of any work. Making art in the period of world health crisis shifts the value of space from the material to the physical, by which the line of art-making is drawn from the condition of the body and its surroundings. This is inherent in the autopilot tendency of the artist to concern himself with well-being first, then his body of works right after. 

Art, in precision, is part of survival. As Salvatus explicates this point, he briefly touched on how anxiety makes artists probe deeper into what art stands for. He talked about survival, introspection, humor, and play as annexes of life.

His recent project, a home exhibition, was in collaboration with his six-year-old son, Yoji. The pieces were installed in their home: on the walls, by the stairs, on the floor, or chairs. He kept his media intimate, with common objects like vegetables and product packages taking center stage. 

Yoji would promptly assess each of his father’s works, and Salvatus would upload photos of his son giving a thumbs up or down next to said installations. This Home Exhibition for Yoji was an offshoot of their shift to virtual dynamics. Yoji’s online classes started after the national lockdown was declared, and though Salvatus admits that children are digital natives, he thought of activities that could help his son see a world entirely different from the digital space, but is equally engrossing and extensive. The home becomes the microecology, a new form of creative interaction as it advances Yoji’s intuition and metacognition.

The discussion was tri-focal as it viewed Lockdown Art in three lenses: the artist, the work, and the viewer or audience. Seeing that the nature of the work is closely related to space, Salvatus defines an ideal art space within the context of the pandemic. 

He also gave a background on how games and media of interest can make art appealing and compelling to young viewers. Salvatus put stress on technological integration in his flagship, Load na Dito. Founded in 2016 with partner Mayumi Hirano, Mark Salvatus mentioned that said project is void of physical space and objective of links to surrounding elements and spaces. The concept of Load na Dito came from the mobile phone’s credit loading system, where the client personally selects the amount to be credited and the station or store to transact with. In a similar state, art initiative Load na Dito seeks to share and gain loads of input in creative discourse and performances regardless of scope, person, or location. The project spontaneously connect with all walks of life and inhabits all types of space, including the virtual and digital. 

Moderator Vincent Sarnate remarked that “VIVA ExCon is an advocate of recalibration. Salvatus’ dialogue on Lockdown Art proved that the latitude of practice and liberal nature of art will eventually supersede isolation.

One redefines space, as art’s universality stretches farther or comes closer at will, in clear opposition to rigidities of physical distance and corners of isolation. To wit, art can be offline, online, in, or beyond walls of convention. One rethinks notions of home as it evolves from a space of material shelter and repository of feelings to a refuge of concrete works and ecology of art appreciation. To take art outside the home, however, is of parallel concern. When the walls are closing in and there is no door in sight, the best way is through the roof. Reaching all the way up, elevating ways of coping, meeting people where they are. As art climbs to novel heights, the artists must trace and follow its steps.”

V-CON 2 on ‘Lockdown Art’ was conducted virtually last June 5, but is available for virtual viewing through the website* (Words by Vincent Rose Cassiopeia Sarnate).

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