Notes on Roberto Chabet's Bakawan

Ray Albano's notes on Roberto Chabet's Bakawan (Mangrove), an installation exhibited in the Small Gallery of the Cultural Center of the Philippines from 3 - 18 December 1974.

Excerpt from Ringo Bunoan, Roberto Chabet: Bakawan, King Kong Art Projects Unlimited, 2012:

'Bakawan is the name of the local mangrove tree that thrives on the edge of land and sea. Their distinct branches turn downward to take root, forming a barricade of defence along our tropical coastlines and nurturing a complex and increasing fragile ecology. Bakawan used to be a common item in Filipino kitchens. The capacity of the wood to retain heat makes it very good for cooking. They used to be sold in large bundles in markets and were used for making charcoal.

For this work, Chabet used fifty-six pieces of raw and unpainted Bakawan and suspended them from the ceiling on a grid. The glass door was closed, so that viewers can only see the work from outside the gallery. The brief notes to the original exhibition listed four points about the work not to be missed:

1.     The room was evenly lit not by the room lights, but by fluorescent lights hidden from four corners.

2.     The handle of the door was removed to clear the vertical view of any horizontal line.

3.     Walls were painted stark white; even the hooks hanging the Bakawan pieces were painted to give maximum contrast between line and ground.

4.     The pieces are suspended on a grid.

The installation is a staged landscape, which we can only see through a closed glass door. This heightens the viewers’ experience, making us keenly aware about our place in relation to the work. Moreover, by framing and restricting the view of the work, Chabet collapsed dimensions and space into a singular picture plane, creating in the process a 'no place,' the artist’s sanctuary and protected reserve that seeks equilibrium and continuity amidst the forces that seek to destroy it.'

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Roberto CHABET



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Notes on Roberto Chabet's Bakawan