Immortality In An "Ephemeral" Art

(By: Reinerio Alba)

He also emphasized the need for our young artists to focus instead on their Filipino roots rather than adapt a European mode to which the Filipinos have long been exposed to.

Some of his memorable installation pieces are: "Archetypes," "A Cordillera Labyrinth" (a spiral labyrinth 45 m in diameter and 600 m in length made of bamboo and reeds) set up at the Cultural Center of the Philippines grounds in 1989, "Panhumuko" (an installation made of bamboo around an abandoned open well depicting man's surrender to the power of nature, coupled with a ritual-like performance that he executed in the refugee camp for Pinatubo victims where the Aetas themselves danced with him), his "Atang Ti Kararua" -1992 (three bamboo floats made of twigs carrying offerings for the souls of people who died in the Baguio earthquake) that was made to float down the entire length of the Central Park Lake in Manhattan, and his "Ego's Grave -1993" (a pit, which he dug for 17 days causing him to collapse during the first Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in Brisbane, Australia), along with other art installations, which took him to New York, Japan, Australia and Vietnam.

The only installation, which, unfortunately, Villanueva could no longer accomplish was the erection of 40-foot long copper needles at various sites worldwide. This was a project that resulted from the international competition for outdoor sculpture sponsored by a Japanese museum. The project's rationale of acupuncturing the world clinched for Villanueva a $50,000 cash prize funding then.

At its heart, all of Villanueva's installations, seen as "grand interpretations of common indigenous elements," are also, clearly, his expressed desire for life, a desire more keenly felt by him. It is the artist wanting to escape from the solitude of his death, from the wilderness of anonymity. But then again, anonymity should be the least of his worries - his ephemeral installations are most securely brightly afloat in the vibrant river of Philippine visual arts.

*Poet and essayist Reinerio Alba hails from Gumaca, Quezon. He was a fellow for poetry at the Silliman National Writers Workshop in Dumaguete City in 1993 and Iyas National Writers Workshop in 2002. He is currently the Web Site Writer/Editor for and contributes travel essays and articles on arts and culture to the country's dailies.