An unnerving gentility affronts. Diamonds, made of sugar from Hacienda Luisita mixed with resin, are displayed in glass jewelry cases. Two hundred breakable china bone pipes, recalling truncheons that beat senseless the revolting farmers, hover over the air. Terrariums are packed with earth watered with the blood of farmers killed while fighting for a raise on their measly P9.50 daily wage. Another jewelry box contains earth gathered from seven highly-militarized areas in Northern Mindanao. Sealing the horror with such quaint genteel charm should confound the terrors of the implied atrocities. But the piecemeal metaphors of each of Luna’s creations weave a unified space of the unsung. As in a shop, one is invited to weigh the value of these through meticulous inspection of details. Even with the misery glossed over, blood and bodies unseen, numbers invisible—there is a palpable trauma suffusing the space.
Trauma, according to Julia Kristeva, is the experience of the abject. Abjection “represents the collapse of all boundaries and meaning.” Death, for example, is abject because it confronts us with the inevitable acknowledgement of one’s own mortality. Seeking the abject in spaces stricken by poverty, war and calamities, the evolution of Luna’s recent spate of exhibitions reflect an increasing groundedness that reflect nausea and fear. Nausea and fear are not only brought by a recognition of death, but of the circumstances that brought death.
Luna has been actively participating in fact-finding missions on state brutalities, mainly offering art workshops as psychological and emotional therapy for the displaced, victimized, and the ones left behind. She operates by countering trauma with art, and then realizing art through trauma. Her willing plunge into areas of helplessness point to an identification with several layers of collapses in meanings that continue to redefine her artistic progression. This liminal space is rife with dialectics navigating between paradigms—her repeated experience of the confrontation of the Self and the Other in places of tragedies is simultaneous to a continuing erasure of the boundaries of art and advocacy, woman and society.
The trauma that weaves together Luna’s body of works is informed by that first experience of abjection—the separation from the maternal, the bloody, “splitting, fusing, merging, fragmenting” body—from wherein one is borne into helpless dependency. The struggle to construct a distinct identity, as a woman artist, has led to a complete opposite of the corporal female in Luna’s case, who has opted to translate the pains of birth and womanhood with visuals of antiseptic domesticity—from pristine eggs, to lace and ribbons, and other “pretty things.”
In Beat, Luna stays true to her credo, embellishing death and injustice with blasphemous decorum. Liberally juxtaposing the concept of maternal against the dominant image of precious fertile land where thousands of farmer families are dependent upon, she fuses age-old narratives into one tragic account—that separation from the maternal body has always been bloody. The conditions of the lands, wherein these exhibited earth and produce came from, has been rendered intolerable for further survival. The farmers were in the process of severance, slowly and surely acquiring a defined language with which they were beginning to use to question seemingly daily customary brutalities such as state-approved systems that support neoliberalist policies at the expense of basic human rights. They were answered with terror and cold-blooded massacre, a language Luna dared not replicate through images of blood, body, and bestiality. Instead, she
maps out the value of an otherwise nondescript land that the wronged have died for, and set this against the piled putrid precious in whose name the violence was waged. Horror, Luna cannot reiterate enough, has always been donned up.