BY SWORD AND FIRE
UP Vargas Museum, Quezon City
By Sword and Fire strives to understand history as it examines the remnants of the Second World War, setting a narrative that levels the field between the past and the present. Here, Renz Baluyot provides and assemblage of his works together with photographs and objects from that period, including original memorabilia from the Vargas Museum Collection, in an attempt to begin a conversation from a perspective much different from how this part of our history has been usually told.
Drawing inspiration from a 2016 residency in the rural areas of Neyagawa in Osaka, Baluyot’s interest in World War II was fueled by a significant event while visiting the observation deck of Abeno Harukas where he met a man from Hiroshima in his 60s who bowed before him and asked forgiveness for the destruction caused by his countrymen during the Japanese occupation in the Philippines. The gesture left the artist bewildered, and thereon, he questioned himself with the idea of how an individual participates in claiming a part of history that he was absent from.
Returning to Manila, Baluyot probed further the subject with curiosity towards the relationship between Filipinos and the Japanese and the events during the war, including the role played by the late Jorge B. Vargas as ambassador to Japan during that time; the existing struggle to hold the United States government accountable in recognizing the rights of Filipino veterans who fought alongside the Americans; and the countless deaths of innocent individuals from both sides, the cities of Hiroshima and Manila were, then, simultaneously bombed and burned to the ground.
Borrowing the show’s title from Nick Joaquin’s A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino, Baluyot carefully presents the permanent marks of war while engaging us to realize our place in this fragment of our past navigating through a modern context that will hopefully relinquish our doubts in asserting our nation’s history.
By Sword and Fire (2017)
Installation view at the U.P. Vargas Museum