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Special Features | National

Infinite space inside this small shanty at the UP Sunken Garden: You have to see it to believe it

Spectators take a selfie outside Mark Justiniani's "The Settlement". Photo by Bernard Testa, InterAksyon.
The online news portal of TV5

The Sunken Garden of the University of the Philippines Diliman is now home to a shanty, into which passersby are very much welcome.

This is "The Settlement", an installation created by artist Mark Justiniani, and which had recently been transferred from outside the Ayala Museum in Makati to coincide with Art Fair Philippines 2017.

Inside is a room full of mirrors, as well as sculptures of workers' tools, bread, a manananggal, Andres Bonifacio, and the Aguinaldo hall of Malacañang Palace, where the Cabinet convenes. The floor is made of glass, under which are more mirrors, giving the spectator a feeling of hovering over nothingness, infinitely.

By throwing in elements from Philippine history, coupled with glass and mirrors, Justiniani has made a space where students can reflect: "Where are we now?".

Artist Mark Justiniani at the Sunken Garden of the University of the Philippines Diliman, with his installation, "The Settlement", in the background. Photo by Bernard Testa, InterAksyon.

"There is a conflict between two types ng power. At the right is Malacanang. Historically, I placed Bonifacio at the left, and through the mirrors had him cross over to the opposite side. I placed his ghost and the torn cedulas in the Aguinaldo hall of Malacanang. Thing like that. We cross over, like an intersection. We need to cross the bridge to what seems like a promise, which is actually just an illusion. Only the first few steps are real," Justiniani told InterAksyon on Thursday, the second day of the exhibit.

"The Settlement" is part of "Looking for Juan", the public art program of the Center for Art, New Ventures and Sustainable Development (CANVAS). Each year they collaborate with artists to use art as a way to tackle certain social issues.

For 2017, CANVAS executive director Gigo Alampay had this prompt for Justiniani: "Say something about Martial Law."

College of Fine Arts professor Rommel Joson believes The Settlement is a microcosm of the Philippines. 

"You are in the center of the layers of history. There's Balanginga (massacre), the bombs, World War II. There are so many symbols. And all art is like that. My take on it is... The Settlement is a time capsule of the Philippines' history," he said.

A spectator takes a photo inside "The Settlement" by Mark Justiniani. Photo by Bernard Testa, InterAksyon.

One of those who had experienced the work of art for herself was student Blush Pauline Bergante. She was fascinated at how the installation was so small from the outside, but seemed so large inside.

"It's cool!" she said. The Business Economics major found out about it through Twitter, which plays its own part in the country's history.

Justiniani hopes that young art aficionados like her can find lessons from the past in what he has created.

"The Settlement" is open to the public every day from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. until March 10.

Read more about it here:

Curious passersby seek to enter Mark Justiniani's "The Settlement". Photo by Bernard Testa, InterAksyon.