Mr. Celdran is a visual artist, performance artist, writer, and activist from Manila, Philippines. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design (Painting 1996), he is known for producing works that use the City of Manila as its primary subject and as his primary stage.
Much like the Philippine capital where he lives, Mr. Celdran’s works are melange of styles and influences; He utilises various artistic processes to express his relationship with the city that surrounds him. His ideas are rooted in art history and expressed though paintings, installations, performance art pieces and interventions around the city itself.
His art has brought him around the world, sometimes with much controversy along the way. His works have been produced on the Off-Broadway stage in New York City as well as censored by the morality police in the United Arab Emirates. His obsession with Manila has resulted in jail time for “offending religious feelings” and the creation of the first ever Manila Biennale inside Intramuros, Manila’s 400 year old Spanish citadel.
“If These Walls Could Talk”, his most popular work, is a performative experience in the guise of a walking tour, It is a show that fuses historical narratives, video art, and immersive theater to enlighten viewers about Manila’s history between the 14th century until World War II. At 17 years, It is easily the longest running one man show in Manila. This work has been featured in various travel publications like “Travel and Leisure”and consistently featured as one of the top three things to do in Manila on “TripAdvisor.”
“Livin’ La Vida Imelda”, is a continuation of “If These Walls Could Talk”. This one hour and a half long monologue is an architectural and geopolitical adventure from post-war Manila until present day. “LLVI” has been produced in Toronto, Copenhagen, Penang in 2015, and at the Clurman Theater on NYC’s Theater Row in 2014. This performance work was marked only once by a sobering incident of censorship at Art Dubai back in 2012 where his show was shut down for supposedly “un-Islamic” content. The charges were cleared the same day.
But his most shocking work to date was “Damaso”, a performance piece at the Manila Cathedral back in 2010. This work combines the imagery of Philippine National Hero Jose Rizal and that of Father Damaso – the antagonist friar of Rizal’s novel, “Noli Me Tangere”, that has become synonymous to the historical abuse and impunity of the Catholic clergy. On September 29, 2010. Mr. Celdran dressed up as Jose Rizal, brandished a placard with the friar’s name, “Damaso” and raised it over his head in front of the altar while all the Bishops of the Catholic Bishops Conference were presiding over an ecumenical meeting. After incarceration and a two-year trial, Mr. Celdran was convicted of Article 133 of the Philippine Penal Code in 2014. He faces one year, one month, and eleven days in prison for “Offending Religious Feelings”.
Mr. Celdran has worked as a set designer, cartoonist, illustrator, collage artist, before finding his place as the self appointed spokesperson and resident artist of Intramuros. Currently, he is working on doing a video installation for “If These Walls Could Talk” for the Yamaguchi Centre for Arts and Media (Opens December 15) and on a work called “Guadalupe de Manila”, an assemblage of paint, magazine cut-outs, wood, and video projection.