Dela Cruz photographed at home by Medal Elepaño​
Culture Art

In Daniel dela Cruz's Art Fair show, "art will be secondary"

For his centerpiece exhibit at Art Fair Philippines, the artist shines a light on mental health, and the debilitating and confusing cacophony of everyday life.
Nana Nadal | Feb 19 2019

For Art Fair Philippines 2019, Daniel dela Cruz aims to go beyond displaying his works. “The art is secondary, it is just part of the message,” declares the renowned metal sculptor who is advocating mental health awareness.

“Finding the Light” is his collaboration with Anxiety and Depression Support Philippines, #MentalHealthPH, Buhay Movement, Silakbo PH, Tala: Mental Wellness, and Boxless Society; backed by support from The Philippine Psychiatric Association and The Psychological Association of the Philippines.

The icons of social media apps and emoticons on the sculptures link the impact of the misuse and abuse of social media to mental health.

The show features more than 30 pieces by Dela Cruz which convey the relationship between social media and mental health. “I feel this needs to be addressed and I realized that this is a big opportunity to raise awareness.” he states. He zeroes in on the misuse and abuse of social media, and its effects. “It’s not wrong but it’s just that kids are now growing up without proper education about social media, there is no control, there is no regulation.”

 

Chaos and madness

It’s precisely this online noise which will greet visitors at the entrance of the 80-square meter exhibit space allotted Dela Cruz at The Link. There will be a crowd of resin human figures with mobile phones for heads blasting videos that talk about suicide, depression, fake news, cyberbullying, games addiction, social media envy, and deep web. “Imagine the feeling when you have all of them playing at the same time, each with different topics, ang gulo,” he says.

Recognizing the struggle of those afflicted with mental health problems, Dela Cruz created sculptures heavy with emotion. But the 80-square meter exhibit space is not just about suffering, the bigger part of the message is positive and hopeful.

Dela Cruz’ more familiar technique using mixed metal appears further along. Perched on pedestals and enclosed in lit glass cases, they stand out in the dark surroundings. “The artistic challenge was to get them to feel the emotion but at the same time, not to be gory or gross,” he reveals.

The sight of men and women in varying postures of struggle pierces the heart. “The heavy emotion is for people to take it seriously. It can’t be frivolous, I won’t reduce the suffering people are going through by doing something that is less than what they feel. This is probably not even scratching the surface,” he adds.

These sculptures represent seven topics that people are bombarded with online: suicide, depression, fake news, cyberbullying, games addiction, social media envy, and deep web.

Strewn inside the boxes and domes are symbols such as roses to show a person’s delicate nature, house of cards for fragility, and masks to represent the curated digital life we live. Broken mirrors make several appearances. “That’s the distorted reflection of ourselves through the looking glass of social media—'I’m not good enough.' 'I’m not beautiful enough,'” he explains.

 

Lead with kindness

Dela Cruz presents brilliant interpretations of how we are manipulated, how we are compelled to hide and often lose ourselves in the process. He makes strong statements about being trapped and locked up in the social media world.

For his sculptures, Dela Cruz uses everything from brass to stainless steel and copper, even iron sometimes. Each piece is unique, hand-made and assembled in a way that cannot be replicated. The details are tediously put together, such as the hair which is composed of individual strands of wire attached one at a time.

But in the same manner that the glass enclosures can be lifted, the interactive exhibition also communicates that there is a way out, that help is available. On one side of the space rolls a video produced by commercial director Sid Maderazo, flashing negative words morphing into positive. A corner focusing on education runs testimonials from those living with mental health conditions and those who have survived suicide attempts, along with mental health facts and figures.

All the sculptures are lit to symbolize hope. The glass enclosures represent pressure and isolation, which like the glass, can be lifted and removed. The box cases are one-way mirrors turned inwards resulting in the multiplication of images from the inside which reflects internal chaos.

Closing the experience is a giant wall meant to be filled with notes of kindness. “Leave a kind word,” the heading says. “We will be using black light so the more post-it notes people add, the brighter it becomes. Every kind word [will be] adding to the light,” describes Dela Cruz. It will be the last thing that visitors will see when they walk out. “It gives them a lot to think about but at the same time I wish it would give them hope”.

A portion of the proceeds will go to a project of the mental health advocacy groups. “To give the effort a bit of continuation and a reason to move forward, so it doesn’t just die with this,” he concludes.

The show’s intention is to reach out to those battling mental health problems and let them know that they are not alone, there is help available through professionals in The Philippine Psychiatric Association and The Psychological Association of the Philippines and mental health advocacy groups like Anxiety and Depression Support Philippines, #MentalHealthPH, Buhay Movement, Silakbo PH, Tala: Mental Wellness, and Boxless Society.

Finding the Light is on Facebook and Instagram, @findingthelightph. Art Fair Philippines 2019 will be from February 22 to 24 at The Link, Parkway Drive, Ayala Center, Makati City. For more information, log on to artfairphilippines.com.

 

Photographs by Medal Elepaño​

 

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