Photo essay for the Special Initiative “From Fear to Resilience: Visual Storytelling of COVID-19 in Southeast Asia” by SEA Junction and Partners.
|Title:||Queen Azenith Performance Breaks the Limits of COVID-19 Confinement in Metro Manila by Aze Ong
|Photographer||Norman A. Ramirez & Aze Ong|
|Place:||Quezon City, Metro Manila, The Philippines|
I am a Filipino contemporary artist. I use fibers to create immersive installations and performances. In 2019, I started the public art project “Queen” in New York during my residency at the Bliss on Bliss Art Projects. I wanted to hang my works on trees in the vicinity of the studio but the permit from the Parks and Forestry Department would not make it for the limited time I had. Forced to be resourceful, I came up with a “rolling sculpture” wherein I placed my artwork on an IV-pole and walked along with it in the streets of Queens and Manhattan. This first rolling sculpture was completed in Queens, the borough named after Queen Catherine of Braganza.
In the Philippines, I created two more rolling sculptures and walked them in the streets of Makati and Quezon City. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government enacted the enhanced community quarantine in the national capital region of Metro Manila and other parts of the country. Due to this lockdown, travelling or even walking in public spaces is not possible. Again, I had to be resourceful to continue my life passion.
Adjusting to the times, cancelled exhibits and performances shifted virtually. But the wish to perform in the real world remained. I exercised on the stationary bike to break my sedentary lifestyle and keep fit for new performances. During the lock-down I got immersed in recovering from some health stress, cooking and household chores. Purposely getting back to work, I started crocheting some small pieces. I created what I now call pre-Queen Azenith I and pre-Queen Azenith II, following a vague idea and working my way to the larger final wearable sculpture of another ‘queen’, which I called Queen Azenith. Now I was ready to perform again. Having used up all the available spaces in our house for art works and performances, Queen Azenith was to perform on the roof.
It took some exercise to go up the roof with the two pre-Queen Azenith and Queen Azenith in a white bag. Climbing up a ladder with the large heavy bag on my back reminded me of my mountain climbing days, ascending summits. My spouse preceded me and took photo of the climbing and the performance.
In my own way, I felt like I was on top of a mountain. I also felt the performance was like coping with COVID-19, accepting risk, but with planning, preparation and precautions. I had to be sure to be fit for this and I also wore ninja shoes (tobi shoes) to ensure I would not slip. My spouse was also ready to intervene if needed.
All went well and being on the roof and performing was a unique and recharging experience. Exerting effort to reach the peak and enjoying the view, I felt peace within myself and everything around: oneness with my surroundings. There was an insurmountable silence. After being confined to my home for weeks, being on the roof made me relive being one with the changing light of the descending sun and the empty, limitless, space. A renewed energy flew into my body. I channelled this to create movements for my performance acknowledging and honouring all the elements that encompass me. The beauty of tranquillity derived from all that exists around us, put me in trance that merged me with my artwork and made me forget the limitations of my surroundings.
These elements are in the name of the wearable sculpture and the performance: Queen Azenith: Queen is from the area in New York where it all started and also means a woman of power and strength. Azenith aside from being my name is the apex, summit or top. Queen Azenith performance on the roof made me feel I reached the peak, for an infinite moment of time freed from all confinement!
Feel with me the power of performing. Here are links of previous walks of Queen in the streets:
Here is the link to the current performance of Queen Azenith on the roof:
Aze Ong (b. 1977, Philippines) is a Filipino contemporary artist working with fiber whose artistic praxis ranges from installation to performance. Aze learned to crochet left-handed while taking classes at Assumption College where she attained bachelor of Communication major in Media Production. In 1999, she volunteered for the Associate Missionaries of the Assumption and taught at Xavier de Kibangay High School in Lantapan Bukidnon where most of her students belong to the Talaandig indigenous group, this continues to inspire her creative process.
Aze was a recipient of the 2016 Asian Cultural Council (ACC) Fellowship and has an extensive portfolio that includes exhibitions in important museums, galleries, and artist-run spaces in Manila, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Abu Dhabi, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Canada, Kenya and the United States. She recently had her artist residency at the Bliss on Bliss Art Projects in New York for her rolling sculpture entitled “Queen” she walked with in the streets of Queens and Manhattan. She also exhibited at the “Fabric of Being” Textile Art Installation Exhibition organized by SEA Junction in partnership with UNFPA at the ICPD25 Nairobi UN Summit last November. Her Instagram is @azeongliwanag.
Most of the photos for the Queen Azenith on the Roof performance were taken by Norman A. Ramirez. Aze’s spouse, art educator and Assistant Principal at the Jose Abad Santos Memorial School of the Philippine Women’s University (JAMSM PWU)
From Fear to Resilience: Visual Storytelling of COVID-19 in Southeast Asia is a special initiative of SEA Junction and its partners Beyond Food, GAATW and Bangkok Tribune to provide an alternative visual narrative of the pandemic in the region. We believe in the importance of reducing fear and promote informed policy and public discussion to show that COVID19 is also a tale of survival, resilience and solidarity. We are asking for short stories in the form of photo essays, short documentaries and illustrated art essays in any language of Southeast Asia (to be later translated into English) or in English.
See further: http://seajunction.org/special-initiatives/
Queen Azenith, performance in the time of Covid19