Ateneo Art Gallery Opens New Installation of Tactile Fabric Canopies

July 3, 2024

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By 

Elle Yap

Portals, the new exhibit at the Ateneo Art Gallery that opened on June 29, delves deeper into our definitions of art. Held at the Ignacio B. Gimenez Amphitheater, the outdoor exhibit encourages visitors to interact with the installations of fabric canopies hung on metal bar structures. Ged Unson Merino and Aze Ong Ramirez, under their GedAze Project banner, crafted the canopies to respond to the rain, sunlight, and wind. 

A widescreen view of the fabric canopies in "Portals". Photo by Patricia Yap.
A widescreen view of the fabric canopies in “Portals”. Photo by Patricia Yap.

“We see the fabrics as something that will eventually deteriorate,” Merino said. “And I think it’s a natural process for everything. Our clothes, our jeans, our favorite shirts, they eventually wear and tear after laundry and everything. So it’s really, this is the whole cycle of things, the ephemeral part of everything. Everything breaks down.”

Struggles of an Artist

The exhibit opening included remarks from both the artists, where Ong shared her devotion to her art. She discussed the apprehensions that came about when she started out as an artist twenty years ago, before elaborating on the struggles she experienced since then.

Artists Ged Merino and Aze Ong during the opening remarks. Photo by Patricia Yap.
Artists Ged Merino and Aze Ong during the opening remarks. Photo by Patricia Yap.

“Crochet as a technique, weaving fiber into fabric, requires patience, time, and effort,” she shared. “As a crocheter, fourteen years in practice, every day [I am] crocheting, twenty-four hours without sleep sometimes. There are times where I use my hand so much that became numb or becomes numb and I couldn’t move anymore. I had to stop, I had to rest, and if massages don’t work, I think it’s time for me to go to physical therapy.”

Interactive Art Exhibit

The works delineate different portions for showcasing the tactility of nature and art. It uses diverse types of colorful, touch-friendly fabrics in distinct shapes. Most of the fabric canopies have holes or entry points one can look through, as well as squeaker toys and dangling materials one can touch. 

“This exhibit, you can interact [with it]. You can squeeze some of the toys there, you can find them out, and you can go in and out, and you can touch them,” Ong said.

One of the fabric canopies hanging for the "Portals" exhibit. Photo by Patricia Yap.
One of the fabric canopies hanging for the “Portals” exhibit. Photo by Patricia Yap.
Broad side view of some of the works presented. Photo by Patricia Yap.
Broad side view of some of the works presented. Photo by Patricia Yap.
A multi-colored work by Aze Ong and Ged Merino. Photo by Patricia Yap.
A multi-colored work by Aze Ong and Ged Merino. Photo by Patricia Yap.
Shredded portion of the fabric canopy. Photo by Patricia Yap.
Shredded portion of the fabric canopy. Photo by Patricia Yap.
Close-up view of the details of the fabric canopies made by Ged Merino and Aze Ong. Photo by Patricia Yap.
Close-up view of the details of the fabric canopies made by Ged Merino and Aze Ong. Photo by Patricia Yap.

Its setup at the amphitheater and the interactive element reminds one of a playground jungle gym. Portions of it, like the red spider-web or the giant crocheted work that appears like a slide, harken back to those childhood contraptions. Both the artists say that it was not intentional, but likely an outcome of creating an interactive exhibit of this scale. 

Side view of one of the fabric works. Photo by Patricia Yap.
Side view of one of the fabric works. Photo by Patricia Yap.
An open entry way to one of the works presented at the Ateneo Art Gallery. Photo by Patricia Yap.
An open entry way to one of the works presented at the Ateneo Art Gallery. Photo by Patricia Yap.
An open entry way to one of the works presented at the Ateneo Art Gallery. Photo by Patricia Yap.
An open entry way to one of the works presented at the Ateneo Art Gallery. Photo by Patricia Yap.
Side view of one of the fabric works. Photo by Patricia Yap.
Side view of one of the fabric works. Photo by Patricia Yap.
A giant hanging work in the exhibit. Photo by Patricia Yap.
A giant hanging work in the exhibit. Photo by Patricia Yap.
Red fabric canopies for the "Portals" exhibit. Photo by Patricia Yap.
Red fabric canopies for the “Portals” exhibit. Photo by Patricia Yap.

“It’s not intentional, but then I think that we worked with the space and what was allotted to us,” Ong said. “We can’t cross the paths, so I think that [the design was] the way where we can really maximize the space.”

Tapestry of Hope

The use of holes and how much of the fabric works slopes or ascends portrays the idea of “upward mobility,” according to Merino. The holes act as “portals,” so to speak, in how we view things today—pushing us away from looking back and more into looking forward to the future.

The holeless golden fabric canopy with inspiring words stitched into the work. Photo by Patricia Yap.
The holeless golden fabric canopy with inspiring words stitched into the work. Photo by Patricia Yap.

The only portion of the exhibit without holes or openings utilizes a golden fabric with encouraging words stitched on it. He sees this as an addition to create hope in our society today, as a reminder of where we’re going in the future.

Close-up view of the golden fabric canopies in "Portals." Photo by Patricia Yap.
Close-up view of the golden fabric canopies in “Portals.” Photo by Patricia Yap.
The golden fabric with words as presented in "Portals" at the Ateneo Art Gallery. Photo by Patricia Yap.
The golden fabric with words as presented in “Portals” at the Ateneo Art Gallery. Photo by Patricia Yap.
The golden fabric with words as presented in "Portals" at the Ateneo Art Gallery. Photo by Patricia Yap.
The golden fabric with words as presented in “Portals” at the Ateneo Art Gallery. Photo by Patricia Yap.

“They’re about revolution within the self. So, it’s ‘reawakened,’ ‘reinvigorate,’ ‘revolve,’” he said. “We envisioned the project as something for upward mobility. We’ve come from the pandemia where we’re all secluded and separated from everybody. We’re past pandemia, so we want viewers to look at it as a positive thing, that we passed that, that it’s healing, it’s the transformative.”

Ever Evolving Fabric Work

Portals will also allow crocheters to donate their works of up to two-by-two feet to the Ateneo Art Gallery. It reflects the artists’ desires to allow the work to evolve over time. The submitted works will be collected and stitched together by Ong before being included in the exhibit.

“I will be the one to put them together,” she said. “I’m doing that—that’s the artist intervention also, to present the works well. I’m a crocheter and I know how hard it is to crochet. […] So I know how precious their time is, their patience is, and I’d like to present it in a way that will really [be presentable as an art work].”

Some of the crocheters working together at the Ignacio B. Gimenez Amphitheater. Photo by Patricia Yap.
Some of the crocheters working together at the Ignacio B. Gimenez Amphitheater. Photo by Patricia Yap.
Crocheters in a circle together at the "Portals" exhibit. Photo by Patricia Yap.
Crocheters in a circle together at the “Portals” exhibit. Photo by Patricia Yap.
Crocheters in a circle together at the "Portals" exhibit. Photo by Patricia Yap.
Crocheters in a circle together at the “Portals” exhibit. Photo by Patricia Yap.

Different crocheters already submitted works for inclusion in the exhibit, many of them forming crocheting circles to add their work during the opening. Their enthusiasm permeated the air as many presented their works to others. 

As to how long the exhibit will last, neither the artists nor the gallery gave an end date for the exhibit. Merino sees it as a way of testing the tactile fabric canopies and its evolution within the Ateneo grounds. 

Ged Merino and Aze Ong at the opening reception of "Portals." Photo by Patricia Yap.
Ged Merino and Aze Ong at the opening reception of “Portals.” Photo by Patricia Yap.

“The first question we usually ask is, ‘how long will this last?’ So, here’s the experiment: it’s the outdoor [exhibit looking at] how long it will last,” he said.

“We will continue to refurbish it, though, because again, it’s part of [the experience]. We fix things at home, the roof leaks and we patch it up. It’s just part of what we do in our daily lives,” he later shared.

Related reading: ‘Transformation’: I Ching and Responding to the Intricacy of the World

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