Street art that goes beyond art

Izah Morales
Art along Edsa also aims not only to clean the air but to present facts and make people think

ART WITH A MESSAGE. While the paint used in this street art helps clean the air, the art itself aims to make people think — in this case, about the harmful effects of smoking. All photos courtesy of Boysen

MANILA, Philippines – The street art seen along Edsa is meant to be more than a visual feast — each artwork aims to impart a message to the daily passers-by: that air pollution is a serious problem that must be addressed now.

In case you have not noticed them, these bright and eccentric street art can be seen along EDSA-Pasay, San Lorenzo Makati, Ortigas Interchange and the Cubao Underpass. 

These public art compositions are not meant to decorate the streets like the old murals; instead, they offer the commuter something to think about other than exhaustion and despair,” says Marian Roces, curator of Project Edsa. “The artworks are not meant to illustrate solutions to environmental problems, because these are meant to actually be solutions.” 

Tapio Snellman's artwork in the Cubao Underpass

She adds, “Each artwork is conceptualized to be akin to moving images, striking the eye only momentarily, but intriguingly — unlike paintings which are static.”

Local and international artists took part in the project using a special paint which aims to clean harmful and poisonous fumes emitted by vehicles plying Edsa.

Dutch-Indonesian and London-based artist Erika Tan is one of the artists who joined the project. 

Erika Tan's artwork in Pasay

“The ambition of the project which I was most interested in was the possibility of seeking to make an environmental impact on its location,” Tan tells Rappler. “I wanted to approach the work in the spirit of merging visuals and transformation.” 

Tan’s artwork shows graphs of air pollution levels in Metro Manila from 2006 to 2008, global carbon dioxide emission from fuel combustion from 1971 to 2002 and number of vehicle registrations. It can be seen in Pasay.

The architecture of the 13 pillars suddenly started resembling the graphs and bar charts I had been looking at in the WHO (World Health Organization) website,” says Tan.

Social realist painter and political cartoonist Jose Tence Ruiz

While Tan expressed her art through graphs, Filipino social realist painter and political cartoonist Jose Tence Ruiz presented marine-like creatures painted on the walls of San Lorenzo Village in Makati City. 

Roces relates that Ruiz’s artwork goes beyond the illustrations.

The work of Ruiz at the San Lorenzo wall is the artist’s understanding of Chaos Theory, which works with mathematical fractals — Edsa being a study in chaos itself,” says Roces. “Ruiz thought of composing images that are balanced between complete randomness and mathematical symmetry.”

Jose Tence Ruiz's artwork in San Lorenzo

Tan wants people to realize that everyone is affected by air pollution.

“We need to realize that we are all complicit in the situation,” says Tan. “It might not be the most heart warming of messages, but it is something we need to know about.” –


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