Strongly influenced by Francisco Goya’s “Los Desastres de la Guerra” (The Disasters of War), Renz Baluyot’s END is a solemn and a somber outline of our current national issues. A continuation of his 2017 one-man exhibition titled, HEADLINES, which focused on the decaying rule of law and its implementation in the country, END is a quiet and yet haunting depiction of an impending tyranny and of how the people appear to have been receiving it: deferential and undeterred by its looming consequences.
In this show, Baluyot presents a visual medley of familiar narratives, which seems to have taken over the country since the Duterte regime: impending dictatorship and the blatant return of the Marcoses to power; the continuous struggle for agrarian reform and the fight to recognize indigenous ancestral lands; failed promises of ending labor contractualization; alarming inflation rates; the government’s tax reform law (TRAIN); disturbing government deals with China; and evidently, extra-judicial killings. Despite these menaces, a high percentage of the public remains to be apologetic and sympathetic to the regime —perhaps, a result of preceding administrations’ favorable neo-liberal policies, which had previously ensured economic growth only to the country’s top one percent, leaving the marginalized sector behind.
END captures undeniable truths translating our fears and indifferences through images, materials, and techniques that Baluyot continues to employ in his works. Using rust-dye as a primary element in his visual narration of a decaying society, his works reveal a nation confused and exhausted from unending political turmoil where many have been reduced to becoming mere spectators of their own abuse: defenseless and vulnerable. The people were muddled with jarring notions of nationalism and pride, which are heavily brought by partisan and personality-based politics. Those who are in power can steer the wheel as they please as the people find themselves cornered in a state of pseudo-democracy choosing which boat they would like to sink with or which authority they decide to keep in power. Thus, forgetting that they, too, should question why the people don’t hold the power.
And so, in Goya’s The Disasters of War, there exists plate no. 18, exposing a dark and poignant illustration of dead bodies lying on the ground; some were killed by violence, the rest by starvation. A man and a woman stand in shock as they cover their faces, appalled by the stench of death. Goya’s inscription in the drawing tells its disturbing title “enterrar y callar” (bury them and keep quiet). In Baluyot’s END, the viewer may tread uncomfortably through the artist’s rundown of current events and may walk calmly and unaffected by these atrocities.
Somewhere around the gallery, the sound of gunshots will unpredictably emerge. And here, is the END.