A Drop of Red
"There is no document of civilization
that is not at the same time
a document of barbarism."
— Walter Benjamin, ON THE CONCEPT OF HISTORY
In May 2016, the Filipino people chose a new leader to rule the country, of which majority empathized and identified with. The million faces of disenfranchised, marginalized and poverty stricken masses found their voice of hope and change. The ‘change’ fueled by fear and hate swept the entire nation with the rising body count of people killed by the country’s campaign against illegal drug-trade, each casualty becomes just a part of a statistic; a number added to a thousand more; and a list of people we consider as enemy of the state. The war on drugs succinctly strips their targets off of their humanity and they cease to be someone’s neighbor, relative, or fellowmen – just another faceless bag of bones.
Hadrian Mendoza’s A Drop of Red serves as an allegory for the tribulations endured by the victims and families of extra-judicial killings. It opens up a dialogue to a society whose vision of progress is marred by propaganda of eliminating rather than rehabilitating its citizens. Mendoza’s series of works, in unflinching detail, provides a perspective overlooked by a society who condones such act of violence. His stoneware pieces are his call to action on human rights; aiming to appeal to our sense of justice; and confronting us with objects of fragility and reality.
In A Drop of Red, bulbous sculptures forming cloud like figures are hanged on the wall with dangling white and red yarns mimicking a downpour rain. The formation of figures, reminiscent of water vessels, into an image of rainfall mixed with gush of blood, hints of images from daily news of slain ‘alleged’ drug users and pushers their loved ones crying over their body. The imagery allows the viewers to imagine the bloodstained streets of the metro where dead bodies are usually found. As each street spectacle has become trivial, day-to-day occurrence, the blood red pigment becomes a part of the pavement, only to be washed away by the pouring rain. Mendoza’s poetic depiction of clouds and red and white rain jolts our social consciousness and gears us to examine the prevailing morals behind this state-sanctioned kind of ‘justice.’ It challenges our personal memories as passive spectators and forces us to re-examine it along with societies collective consciousness for human rights protection.
Blood Moon bears semblance to a 28-day calendar, with each square wall piece highlighted by a moon-shaped image. In this installation, Mendoza directly references the 28-day model for battling substance addiction, implying a non-violent solution to a social pandemic. Its title may be a nod to an end of times prophesy of the same name, where four successive lunar eclipse occurs signifying a succeeding apocalyptic omen, but the over-all imagery negotiates between choices and consequences. Through its installation we see that the end of the series surpasses the four lunar eclipses, represented by yellow-ochre glazed squares.
Mendoza’s Pusher draws a summary to the stigma brought about by the war on drugs as the head-shaped sculptures mounted on the wall are intended to depict the numerous victims of the campaign. It mirrors the reality that every victim is branded as a ‘pusher’ and a criminal, instead of seeing them as possible victims of drug use or mere innocent bystanders. In it, the ghastly and tense facial expressions create an arresting sight as the heads are spread out across the wall. Their collective gaze towards the rest of the space entangles a narrative with the viewers, pleading a case for introspection; casting a doubt on the justification of their fate.
A Drop of Red seamlessly appropriates the Philippine society’s current state on the war on drugs. In incorporating this theme to pottery, it recontextualizes the domesticity of materials/medium and provides a concrete symbolism on the fragility of human life. It taunts us to look back at our long history and our Filipino traditions that forged our nation. Mendoza’s exhibition reminds us that there is much to consider regarding possible solutions on our fight against drugs, and with all its heft and complexity, the inhumane and hasty killing is not one of them. •