His Excellency the King Willem Alexander of the Netherlands opened Sonsbeek 2016 two weekends ago in front of a sculpture by Louie Cordero, one of the artists participating in the art-in-the-park-style show held at Sonsbeek Park in the city of Arnhem. Louie brought with him his Happy Camper Pong, an unusually-shaped, exuberantly-colored pingpong table all decked out in jeepney paint. Filipino art-watchers would remember this debuting in the 2015 Art Fair Philippines. Cordero had a special guest the next day in the person of Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison who traveled an hour from his residence in Utrecht to grace the occasion—and try to play pingpong, of course. But after a few failed attempts at serving, the political refugee just gave up and said he already forgot how to play the game.
Sison was invited by the video artist Martha Atienza, who was also in Arnhem, at the request of Cordero and his manager Jeremy Guiab. After the ceremonies, the Pinoys just ended up having a meal in an Indonesian restaurant near the park. Cordero, perhaps most recognized for his Nardong Tae comics and action figure, is known to mix kitsch with gore in his works. His other piece at Sonsbeek 2016 is a “progerial” head which the festival website describes as a two-meter high, three-dimensional head made of foam and fiberglass but “missing its ‘skin’ on one side.” Like his pingpong table, this is also an interactive work: pieces of clay and gumball machines are provided for audiences to reconstruct the face as they place.
Last June 19, it was Mark Salvatus’s turn to put on a show at Sonsbeek—which traces its roots from 1949 as part of Holland’s efforts to recover from the wrath of World War II. Salvatus, known to take inspiration from the chaos of the urban landscape, created an artwork especially designed for the city’s cats to claw on. The artist came up with the idea after finding out that in 2009, the World Cat Congress took place in Arnhem. This information sparked a memory within the artist, of his mother tying books around the legs of tables to provide cats with something to scratch. Salvatus then collected books from Arnhem’s thrift shops and markets and did as his mother used to in the Salvatus home in Lucban, Quezon. “These books make the cat’s nails sharper, as books make our human mind sharper,” says the Sonsbeek 2016 website. “Mark sees books as a powerful means of disseminating or destroying ideas.”
You can watch the video here.