Creative Mediations of the City: Contemporary Public Art as Compass of Metro Manila’s Urban Conditions


In this article, public art is proposed as creative agency mobilized to form urban imaginaries. These alternate visions are largely facilitated by artists and art collectives using urban communities as performative grounds. These projects promote a view of art as an effective channel for ‘recentering’ — the identification of a multitude of centers that endlessly fracture and shift, very much resembling the nature of cities themselves. An alternate vision of the city through cartography informed by contrast, temporality and ephemerality is proposed alongside dominant representations of the city. Works by artists Alma Quinto, Mark Salvatus and Wire Tuazon are representative examples of such strategies. Diverse in tactics and platforms, defined by site‐specific mediations, the projects facilitated by these artists reveal the uneven conditions that beset Metro Manila and its outlying areas. Quinto’s altered Urban Plan/Duyan is the result of her engagement with women in an informal settler community in San Andres Bukid, Manila, while Salvatus’s web‐based Neo‐Urban Planner is an astute observation of the obsessive yet futile ordering of people and space by the state. Tuazon’s Amphibian installation is a commentary on the encroachment of multinational interests in local communities. These interventions are foils to state‐ and private‐led urban development schemes. Their strength lies in their direct engagement with the sphere of public dialogue and self‐determination. These artistic practices and strategies are shaped by community interaction, revealing that meanings residing in urban forms are relentlessly negotiated by the numerous actors that inhabit the city.