Transcendent Reverberations: Becoming Weightless, Leaving Husks

Luna Jose

I examine the skeleton in front of me from a safe distance.
Careful not to succumb to the temptation of occupying it.

I stare at it and see its stiles protrude like wings, still premature but already worn out. Instead of cushion, the springs held a pile of driftwood — where it came from, which waters carried it, I don’t know. But now it sits quite comfortably, matching the rest of the armature. Another pile lay on the ground like firewood waiting to be fed to the flames. From here, I can see the heads that stick out from the outlines glitter under the sun’s touch.

From here, my body will not come to experience what it’s like to nestle in the empty seat before me. Ironically, the mass of the physical would be too much for that skeleton to bear.

On the other hand,
I can envision myself yielding.
Like a ghost that has been isolated from her shell, I bestow a part of myself through an imagined presence. I will not have to worry about gravity as I am weightless, nor should I concern myself about being pricked by driftwood since I am but a breath.

The finer details I couldn’t see where I once stood now arise. I see the pins, and their alternating colors of black, white, and gold. Some larger than the others, but all come together to radiate a sort of idiosyncrasy to the otherwise old and ravaged seat, which brings to mind ruins from distant places, from distant times.

Should I stop myself now that I have taken a step away from the limits of my husk?

I permit myself to drift farther as I sit more comfortably.

I remember photos from the world wars clipped in history books — of old Manila’s establishments bombed and torn down by the Japanese. It was a thriving city whose life and culture reverberated in the hearts of its inhabitants until it was gone; and all they heard were bullets clammoring “Asia for Asians!” as the sky turned black.

I recount paintings of the ilustrados. The landscapes of their times, the house windows made of white capiz shells that glimmer in the morning, and oh, their ideas of liberty for the country! There was a growing enlightenment in the land that endured centuries of abuse by friars whose hymns and sermons of holiness twisted the suffering Christ to be a model for the people to acquiesce in their so-called predestined strife on earth.

I recollect narratives of ancient gold bartered between villagers and sea-merchants. During that bygone era, women told stories and people listened. They were raconteurs, priestesses, and prophets. They were mediators that were believed to travel between the unseen realm and the terrestrial land mass their bodies walked on.

From where I am,
in time and place,
I am a ripple of a long-standing tugging between waves
of powers,
ideas,
traditions.

My encounter with Noel Ed De Leon’s “Voodoo: a calling of spirits, rituals, and beliefs” stand among the other peculiar moments I have had with art. It was during the 1,976 Objects exhibit in Vargas Museum that I was halted in my steps to look more carefully than usual at an assemblage. It took several turns and circles before a total surrender to the object took place; that is, to take the role of occupant, rather than spectator.

Of course, much of the experience transpired in an alternative, intangible realm that is separate from the laws of physics our bodies are bound by. Once yielded, our bodies turn to shells and husks, and like a ghost, our thoughts begin to drift to many places and times. De Leon offers us a seat to this experience, but one that has been ripped off of the comfort and rest it offers the carnal. By placing driftwood, he stimulates thoughts of wandering, of being carried away when we engage our imagination; but it is also by this that he invites us to transcend limits and become weightless entities. The chair becomes an instrument of some form of voodoo, of crossing over between time, space, and matter.

On the flipside,
De Leon also captures for us through this work the three elements that mold us: spirits, rituals and beliefs. And while they sound religious and spiritual, they also take secular forms: powers, authorities, institutions, cultural norms and practices, ideologies, etc. The dialectic we have with these systems have already been since the moment we came out of our mother’s wombs. Young and unaware, we have already been prematurely engaged in voodoo.

All images courtesy of Gianna Bitancor.

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