Elevators, Billboards, Plastic Surgery, and My Tita

“This is not just an elevator; it is a metaphor for life. Everyday people ride the elevator to move between levels of a building. But elevators are designed with the status of the people intended to use the elevator in mind. The extremes range from extravagant parlor-like compartments for the rich, to shabby almost forgotten platforms for the poor. With this installation, it is the intent of the artist to draw out the black and whites.

Society has placed a border around the so-called separation between the have and the have not. It is our duty as a people to question this imposed rule of thumb; to ask ourselves is it right for us to accept this permeable doctrine as truth. We are expected to not notice, to let it slide, after all it is only a ride in an elevator.”

from here

I remember an article written in defense of plastic surgery where a woman defends her implants by saying “They’re just breasts! It’s not like I’m having surgery on my soul!”
This hits a sensitive spot, considering the largest billboards where I live are dedicated to the glories of larger breasts, aquiline noses, porcelain skin, and high fashion. A billboard–especially one on Edsa–is a very public space. Unlike a magazine ad or a TV ad, it can’t choose its spectators, especially in a city that depends on millions of everyday, necessary journeys from end to end. I hate looking at the ridiculous amounts of space devoted to the Belo group, I hate looking at larger than life images of Celine Lopez and thinking that this is the backdrop for Metro Manila, that this in some aspect creates a context for where I live.

It’s too simple to say something is terribly wrong just by looking at things on a semiotic level. It’s one thing to say we’re fucked just because dichotomies exist between what’s on the ground and what looms overhead, and quite another to do something about it. But I can’t help but bring this back to thinking about how space has been utilized in this city because it’s the clearest example of how little we know about where we want to go. Some cities shoot straight up, eliminating their pasts with a wrecking ball while others fan out and brood over their history until they rot. The Manila skyline dips and rockets and plateaus yet never wholly reshapes itself.
So what does this have to do with elevators? Elevators are only really useful in tall buildings. We have lots of those but last year, after visiting my tita in one of them I thought it would be fun to use the stairs and trek down from the 14th floor all the way to the basement. When we got to the parking lot, the guard stopped us because he thought we had stolen something. Maybe I’m assuming too much, but it just goes to show who elevators are really meant for.

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Author: alicesarmiento

San Juan, Metro Manila

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