If an apostle looks in…a monkey might look out
(a reading of Riel Hilario’s rebultos)
It is not but once argued that Hilario’s sculptures belong somewhere else other than art galleries. Perhaps it is a fair argument since rebulto, imahe or santo in Philippine communities are supposedly found on church niches, home altar, antique shop, or religious stores. In his series of shows, however, it was quiet apparent that the artist borrowed the medium and moved it a little farther away from its dogmatic religious context.
Rebultos in churches, altars or stores are as stoic as they come. The church santos remain in state of stoney, chalkey or woodey catatonia while faithful wipe them with perfumed kerchief. On the otherhand, Hilario’s rebultos with their buho body fitted with mobile appendages, begs the viewer to interact and wait for a reaction.
Moreover, a rebulto, imahe or santo becomes pious only if faithful prays to them. It is not the form per se, as enlightened Catholics in the land would profess. Therefore, extending the reading to other faiths, any image could be holy as long as devotion is attributed to them.
In this particular show Hilario’s inspiration–Georg Christoph Lichtenberg’s aphorism that reactions to art reveal the viewers state of mind–grants us the liberty to read his rebultos as discursive objects rather than ritual objects of a particular faith. But while Lichtenberg suggests that “if an apostle looks in, no monkey can look out” I argue that in this Hilario series if an apostle looks in, a monkey might look out.
Hilario obviously taps a different brand of spirituality. By taking the rebulto off retablos, Hilario subjected the rebultos into an infinite creative realm whether as a source or destination. To reiterate a point, Hilario’s rebulto’s invite the viewers to react to them by interact with the art pieces, spatially and physically. Reaction to the base form (rebulto de bulto), to the mobile appendages and to both could be as infinite as the number of viewers. Hence, an apostle might be a monkey after all.
Hilario is an atheist. But this does not exclude him to adhere to a certain faith or a certain form of relationship with either physical or ethereal spirits. Perhaps his faith is in human spirits, lived life, or on the sense of relationships. Regardless, the mere act of creating and the eagerness to be heard or seen through his art reveals that Hilario wanted to become part of or would like to show what he is made of, as a human, as an artist; whether it is an apostle or a monkey looking in.
By: Dayang Yraola