The therapeutic value of art is perhaps one of its most meaningful qualities. For Anton Belardo, it’s clear this aspect matters most. The Filipino artist creates installations geared toward helping others work through their problems, and more recently, it’s become a way for her to heal herself as well. “A lot of my work revolves around mental health because it’s still a very taboo topic here in the Philippines; it’s just shoved aside,” she says. And the stats back her up: There are only 600 psychiatrists in the entire country. How could they possibly service a population of 111 million people?
On the second floor of Vinyl on Vinyl Gallery in Makati, someone’s bedroom seems to have replaced the exhibition space. This is the latest project by Belardo, working under the pseudonym Jellyfish Kisses. Titled Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, the exhibition features a canopy bed at its center. Scattered around the room and hanging on its walls are stuffed dolls, pillows, and balloons, all basking in the colorful glow of LED lights. A series of paintings wrap around the rest of the space. The dolls have a creepy but playful vibe—they’re demons and specters, but all plush and pastel. The paintings tell the story of a romantic encounter that eventually collapses, an incident that helped spark the whole installation.
在位于马卡蒂的 Vinyl on Vinyl 画廊二楼，不大的布展空间被装饰成卧室。这是 Anton的最新项目，名为《明天你是否依然爱我》（Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow）。帐篷床被支棱在展厅中央，四周和墙壁堆放着各种毛绒玩偶、枕头和气球，浸泡在五彩缤纷的 LED 灯光中，一些手绘的符号和表情填充于墙壁空白的地方。装置中出现的玩偶怪诞风趣——虽是恶魔和幽灵的化身，却都是毛绒材质，看起来并不具有攻击性。Anton 在作品中的绘画讲述了一场逐渐走向崩塌的爱情，成为整个艺术装置的创作主线。
The Philippines has undergone multiple rounds of strict lockdowns and an 18-month-long curfew in an attempt to keep COVID under control. Stuck at home during the first lockdown, Belardo started spiraling emotionally. “This new show is about the breakdown I had last year, which happened at the same time my romantic relationship was collapsing,” she explains. “I had isolated myself from everyone and went into my own bubble, which is represented by the bed in the installation. I became obsessed with certain memories in an attempt to console myself, portrayed in the paintings. Usually my shows are about helping other people heal, but this time I was inspired to focus on myself for the first time. The show is an expression of what happened to me but also a way for me to let go of everything.”
为了控制疫情，菲律宾实施了多轮严格的封锁和长达 18 个月的宵禁。在第一次封锁期间，被困于家中的 Anton 陷入了负面情绪的漩涡。她解释道：“此次展览讲述的是我去年的崩溃经历，那时候我刚刚失恋不久。我屏蔽掉所有人，困在自己的世界里。装置中的床便代表了自我的世界。我沉迷于某些记忆，试图来安慰自己，这些回忆也被我描绘成画。以往我的展览都是关于帮助别人获得治愈，但这一次、也是第一次，我将创作的重心投射在自己身上。展览讲述了发生在我身上的故事，同时也是帮助我放下一切的方式。”
Walking around the compound where the gallery is located, more evidence of the pandemic’s effects are visible in the form of shuttered storefronts. Even Black Market and XXXX, the progressive nightclubs that acted as anchor tenants for the area and popularized its transition into a mini creative district, have been closed down for the past year and a half. XXXX is closed permanently and the future of Black Market is uncertain. When they were still open, Belardo was a frequent patron and could be found partying late into the night. At XXXX, she even created an installation for the Elephant party, an LGBT and fetish club night. She also DJed that event, playing whatever struck her mood, ranging from industrial techno to disco and electro pop.
画廊所在的街区是由废弃仓库改造而成，现在受疫情影响，这里变得门庭冷落，就连之前最热门的夜店 Black Market 和 XXXX 也宣告永久性停摆。以前，Anton 是夜店的常客，常常在这附近玩到通宵达旦。她还曾在 XXXX 举办 LGBT 和恋物癖之夜 “Elephant”，创作艺术装置，并担任 DJ，从工业电子音乐、迪斯科到电子流行音乐，根据心情播放各种自己喜欢的音乐。
Belardo—who is a non-binary artist and identifies as both he and she, leaning slightly towards she—says life in Manila has changed since she was a kid. Her family was always very supportive of her decisions, but life outside the home was difficult growing up. “I’d be discriminated against a lot, like establishments wouldn’t let me enter because of the way I dressed,” she says. “When you’re young and being verbally abused or threatened while just walking down the street, it can affect you really badly.” But in recent years, people in the Philippines have grown more accepting, and she credits representation in mainstream media for helping with that. Shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race had a noticeably positive affect on her life. “People just started assuming I was a drag queen, even though I’m not really into that,” she shrugs. “Visibility in popular media really helps. Now it’s much easier, I’m so happy for the new generation here because they can really express themselves.”
作为一名非二元艺术家，可以以“他” 或 “她” 来称呼 Anton，但她更倾向于“她”。Anton 认为，现在马尼拉已经跟她小时候大相径庭。虽然家人一向很支持她，但在家庭之外，她的生活并不容易。 “我经常受到各种歧视，比如某些场所会因为我的着装而拒绝让我入内。年少的时候，来自路人的辱骂或威胁都对我造成严重的伤害。” 但近年来，菲律宾变得越来越包容，这得归功于 LGBTQ+ 群体在主流媒体上曝光度的增加。像《RuPaul’s Drag Race》（鲁保罗变装皇后秀）这样的节目为她的生活带来了很多的积极方面。“人们开始把我当作是变装皇后，虽然我其实对这方面没什么兴趣，”她耸了耸肩说道，“大众媒体的曝光确实有所帮助，现在的环境变得包容多了，我为这里的年轻一代感到高兴，因为他们可以更加真实地表达自己。”
Although Belardo’s fashion style matches the aesthetics of her art, her wardrobe choices aren’t performative, it’s just how she dresses on a regular day. “I was always bullied as a kid and admired the people who would dress flamboyantly and gave no fucks,” she says. “Now I get messages saying it’s nice to see someone bold and brave, and that it gives them confidence to be themselves. It makes me happy.”
Her fashion sense is nothing new. She got her start in the creative world working as a runway stylist, which she did for seven years. “My training was to make everything from scratch,” she says. “My boss didn’t use ready-made stuff, he’d just give me materials and I’d go crazy with them.” But it eventually didn’t feel satisfying enough, so she decided to make the leap into the art world where her ideas could take shape any way she saw fit.
Her first show, The Diary of Jellyfish Kisses: Chapter 1 – Bed Stains, which was also held at Vinyl on Vinyl, was another bedroom—she took the furnishings of her literal bedroom from home and reconstructed it inside the gallery. She associates the bedroom with intimacy, and through this recreation, she gave viewers a candid glimpse into her psyche. It was an interactive show, and viewers were invited to scribble their secrets onto a note and leave them on the bed. Having art be participatory has always been important to her.
“My shows can actually get really rowdy, even in the galleries,” Belardo laughs. At one karaoke-themed show, the crowd really got into the singing. A couple times, she says, it was so hectic that their sound system got unplugged, and they had to figure out what went wrong before the party could continue.
她的第一场展览《The Diary of Jellyfish Kisses: Chapter 1 – Bed Stains》（水母吻恋记：第一章，床上污渍）同样在 Vinyl on Vinyl 举办，现场也是一间卧室——她从家里搬来家具，再在画廊内重建。她将卧室视为亲密空间，通过重建自己的卧室，让观众瞥见真实的她。那是一个互动展，观众可以将自己的秘密写在纸条，然后留在床上。互动性的艺术对 Anton 来说很重要。“我的展览常常会变得嘈杂，即使是在画廊里也是这样，”Anton 笑着说道。在一场卡拉 OK 主题的展览中，观众还直接唱起歌来。她说，有好几次实在太吵了，他们的音响系统甚至被人拔掉，他们花了好些时间确定问题才得以继续派对。
In recent years, she’s become much more introspective. Her first show inspired by the pandemic was a video recording of her Zoom chats with strangers. “It was based on a previous show of mine, where audience members would sit with me in a dollhouse installation for a few minutes to discuss their problems,” she says. “I repurposed that as an online video chat for another show in Korea.” She says that mental health there seems similarly taboo and people who opened up to her said they’d never spoken about their issues before. During that first hard lockdown when Belardo was spiraling, one of her friends ended up using the idea back on her in private as a form of therapy. “We would call everyday, sometimes we wouldn’t hang up. Our longest call was almost a week.” Luckily she climbed out of that hole, took those depths of despair, and turned them into artwork.
近年来，Anton 时常自我反省。她受疫情启发的第一场展览，内容是她与陌生人在 Zoom 聊天的视频录像。她说：“其实是受到之前我的一个展览的启发。那次观众和我一起坐在玩具屋的艺术装置内，促膝谈论着我们在各自生活中遇到的问题。我重新利用这个概念，以在线视频聊天的形式完成了这次展览。” 此次展览在韩国举办，Anton 表示，韩国人的心理问题同样带有禁忌色彩，向她敞开心扉的人都承认自己以前从未与他人倾诉过这些问题。Anton 在第一次封锁期间遭遇情绪低落时，她的一位好友就用畅所欲言的方式陪她度过难关。“我们每天都会通话，有时甚至会一直不挂断电话。最长的一次通话甚至达到了一个星期。”幸运的是，她最终走出了这个情绪困境，并把曾经的绝望遭遇转化成艺术作品。