Thought Balloons: Art, Struggle and Lunacy

There is a certain undeniable awe when you first see Juan Luna’s Spolarium in person. They never seemed to portray the scale of it just right in books. Growing up, I always thought it was a regular ol’ painting. In reality it’s huge, it’s physically imposing. It felt similar to seeing the milky way on a clear night sky for the first time — a feeling of being humbled, a feeling of being small. Unlike the milky way, though, I couldn’t help but think, “this was made by a man.” Theoretically one can do it too, if one puts in years of learning technique. It is inspiring. It was one of the few times where felt I understood the true purpose of art — to invoke those feelings that make life worth living.

There is a particular scene in the movie Heneral Luna where they pay homage to the Spolarium. Right after the assassination of Antonio Luna they cut to a scene that mirrors his brother’s famous painting. It’s a beautiful shot and a fitting homage. The Spolarium, as Rizal put it “embodied the essense [sic] of our social, moral and political life: humanity in severe ordeal, humanity unredeemed, reason and idealism in open struggle with prejudice, fanaticism”

A century later, the struggle is still real. Struggles, like art are the spice of life. We are defined by how we face our struggles — personally and in the larger context, society. We often do not choose these struggles but we must face them head on.

Currently I’m listening to a podcast about the Roman slave wars, specifically about Spartacus. Incidentally, the main subject of the Spolarium are these Roman slave gladiators. The podcast is by historian Daniele Bolelli, and he has a quote that deals with the struggles of everyday life: have a “Defiant smile and a raised middle finger.” That’s all we can really do.

80s sexy star Pepsi Paloma left a suicide note, after her failed attempt at trying to get justice from her alleged rape by Vic Sotto, Joey De Leon and Richie d Horsie. It said “This is a crazy planets.” This event was the central theme in the Eraserheads song “Spolarium.”

This is indeed a crazy world and in order to combat this we must face life’s struggles with sort of lunacy. Sometimes the best approach is to charge the enemy like a crazy motherfucker, like Luna charging towards the Americans.