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Philippine Daily Inquirer: April 06, 2008

By Augusto Villalon

 

Impy Pilapil’s Interactive Sculptures

MANILA, Philippines - A few years ago, Impy Pilapil exhibited large sculpture pieces, a sophisticated interplay of rough, elegant granite or pristine marble with the mirror smoothness of twisted bands and spheres of highly polished steel that bounced tightly focused reflections of the sky, foliage, and surrounding office buildings. The set-up offered little glimpses of the universe through sculptures serenely placed within the courtyard gardens of Greenbelt 3 in Makati.

Although the pieces interacted mostly with each other and not too much with the audience, it was nevertheless an arresting exhibition.

Now Pilapil goes a step farther. Unlike her last outdoor exhibit in Makati where her sculpture was placed pretty much out of reach from the audience who viewed her pieces, museum-like, from a distance, this time her “Interactive” sculpture exhibit currently at the Ateneo Art Gallery scatters (if the seemingly random placement can be called a “scattering”) a collection of large-scale sculpture in a grassy university quadrangle.

Pieces appearing to be casually distributed all over the mid-sized area are actually placed strategically, with each piece enticing student interaction.

Students respond to the sculpture first with curiosity, followed by tentative contact with the piece, until finally with delightful interaction to the artwork.

Everywhere in the Ateneo exhibit grounds, students are having fun. And why shouldn’t sculpture be fun?

It really is impossible to just sit back and look at the artwork. The interactive exhibition pulls participants in, encouraging people to see, touch, feel, hear, smell, and move with the sculpture.

For this exhibit, Pilapil created large artwork inspired by Rudolf Steiner’s concept of the 12 human senses, focusing on the viewer’s direct and physical participation, providing an experience of “wonderful feelings [that] you can resurrect and again enjoy anytime—whenever and wherever.”

Enjoyment is the key to this exhibition.

To start off, Pilapil lays out a procession of varied textures on the ground for a barefoot walking experience.

Her sculptures are not static. Many turn into places that are alternately large enough to walk through or into crawl spaces that compress people.

Pilapil’s large bamboo sculpture evokes the environment. The pliant material takes on forms derived from nature like the complex mangrove root structure, forests, and man-made mazes that tower over the exhibition area.

A maze of hanging bamboo sections changes perception—people lose themselves in the maze while enveloped by the sound of bamboo tubes chiming with the wind.

Very much like in its natural grove habitat, the gaily-covered bamboo within the structures carefully designed by the artist, stand in tall, almost transparent clusters, responding to every movement of nature.

Other sculptures are of solid stone cut into huge, minimally-worked slabs that invite touching, feeling, and even hearing.

Students can put their heads into a hole cut into large stone sculpture, unlikely sound boxes that distill the hum of the universe into each of the series of head-holes.

A long queue of students noisily wait for their turn to play “sungka” on a massive white marble table-height “sungkaan,” their noisy cheering making for an impromptu tournament.

A brush dipped in water writes wishes or an ethereal verse onto a large ‘Wish Stone’, visible only for a fleeting moment until the calligraphy evaporates away.

The impact of this exhibit is definitely not fleeting. Even if the memory evaporates away like calligraphy written with water, the experience remains vivid in the mind.

 

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