#Revisit | [Transcript] Gabriel Barredo on "Opera" (2015)

Every week, we’ll be sharing a video, notes, or images from our past exhibitions in a series we’re calling #revisit. This week, we’re taking a look at the late Gabriel Barredo’s theatrical exhibition, Opera.


Shown in Silverlens in 2015, Gabriel Barredo’s Opera invites us to view the body itself, asking us to confront the mortality of the corpse, to contemplate upon its passing and emphasize if not make sense of its beauty. Opera is a wholly immersive experience composed of kinetic sculptures, sound, and light. Watch the artist talk about Opera on YouTube.

Video transcript

Gabriel Barredo: It’s been a while. I’ve been trying to think of the right title for this show. One day, I woke up and I— “Opera” in Tagalog is to “open”, “cut”. I found out that “opera” is also a body of works— rather, “opera” is theater. I want to be surrounded by this whole thing— you know? Not limiting myself to whether it includes looking down, looking up— it’s everywhere.

As you can see, it’s very theatrical. When its total, the overall effect… you walk in, and it’s not just staring at work. It’s not limited to just a flat painting on the wall; it could be a lot more. It almost like, it embraces you. It gives you that feeling. This one is totally different, it’s more literal— I mean, you’re involved with the whole set up. For me, it’s important that I get that total— when I say total effect, the music, the lighting, the elements— they all belong together. And without that effect, I don’t think I would be able to capture what I’m trying to say.

The reality of life and death, I mean, it’s so obvious that, you know, we’re all going to get there. For some strange reason, I’ve collected medical stuff for many, many years. I’ve always wanted to create a medical-like setting. Not knowing exactly how it’s going to turn out but I just had this fascination for these things.

I have this forte for using found objects because early on, I couldn’t afford to buy the right materials. So, I improvise and it works for me. I mean there are objects that are there, existing, and it’s just a matter of stretching— you know, changing them. Sometimes we underestimate a particular medium. You know it could be anything— it could be Styrofoam, and I could melt that and make it look like it’s marble. You know, not just ‘as junk’. I would torch it and literally you wouldn’t know that I picked it up from trash.

I’ve always had music connected to the show. George Crumb, 1972— my god, it was fantastic. And so I listened to a lot of his music. And yet to this day, it sounds very modern. So, this is it, this is the guy I want to use.

People want to see it as individual pieces— I don’t see it as that. It’s a whole thing— well, to me, I think the process is more interesting than an actual finished work. There’s a lot of… emotiona,l a thing, the drama that goes into it. Again, it’s so theatrical.

Allowing myself, I guess, to let it all out. You know, [gestures] that’s quite an experience. You know it’s painful, but yet, at the same time, it’s a release in a way and they all belong together.

You look at it from a distance you think it’s this sound, this board, you know there’s that element of surprise. You only realize their face when you stare at it going “What is it?” Then all of a sudden you get— “Oh my god. They’re all screaming faces.” I guess, maybe, the “Screaming Faces” represents what we all have to go through in life. It’s an endless scream, you know.

That is actually a chair. The syringes are like halos. That is meant to be sat on. That’s why I lifted it, yeah, and then as you sit on it, the thing moves, you know. The things we do to ourselves— the medical stuff— implanting, all of those things. Men becoming women, women becoming men, Frankenstein lives on.

Obviously, somebody is at the center of the operating table. That particular figure, I was looking for the right person. I went through so many clutches to find this right person, and she was there. She was used for pornography— child pornography. They got rid of her when she was 18, and then she became pregnant with a policeman. He dumped her, and then she ended up in a club as a stripper and still getting messed up. But yet, the innocence is still there. But she was not jaded, she was really sweet still. I thought, I thought she was the perfect model for this particular sculpture.

You know those things behind it, I call them the dying swans. They’re on a timer, and each one dies after a few seconds. Maybe it’s like us…you know? We’re flapping and then suddenly we’re just so damn tired and it’s over. And you know, you survive, you suffer, you suffer before you eventually die. It’s endless suffering naman talaga eh. If we don’t see it that way, then you’re not seeing the right thing.