Kristina Lyon on “Platoporma” by Joey Cobcobo

“This work by Filipino artist, Joey Cobcobo, comprises ten monochromatic woodcut prints on handmade paper plates, encased in empty pizza cardboard boxes arranged in three rows.”

Kristina Lyon, FOM Docent for STPI

Each box has a different geometric cut-out window within which the printed round plates are partially visible. Each print has a different title that corresponds to a broken vow made by Filipino politicians. The plates were made with piña and saba fibres that are indigenous to the Philippines.

The use of piña for the plates is significant as it is used in formal attire (Barong Tagalog) by men throughout the country, and evokes the leaders and powerful businessmen that the artist is keen to hold accountable for corruption and despotism. Apart from the piña and saba fibres, the materials he uses are everyday and humble, including the unused pizza boxes held together by tape.

This work brings to my mind the Ten Commandments arranged in a church as if to be contemplated, and the stark reality of the broken vows made clear in the black and white of the printed images. The work matters a great deal in a country like the Philippines that has been let down by so many of its leaders. The pizza boxes with empty plates signify the empty promises made by politicians who will say anything to get elected.

The artist has been making this series of work over ten years and not much has improved in that time. It is a timely work as people lose their lives from extra-judicial killings or the lack of resources to battle COVID, and it is always the poor and marginalised that suffer the most.

It is a brave, heart-breaking work made even more poignant in that Cobcobo sells these works in an ordinary market in his hometown of Mandaluyoung, a suburb of Manila amongst the very people who are let down by the politicians who profess to help them – and who he is seeking justice for.

“Artists are our conscience. They force us to remember. They are our moral compass. They force us to look. And not turn away. They want us to act. What will you do?”

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