Ground Zero, Ateneo de Zamboanga University
AM+DG 2016
Start of Installation: 18 July 2016

Silent Concert is an impromptu creative response of the Jesuit artist Jason Dy to the recent fire that razed Brebeuf Gym to the ground last 7 July 2016 and severely affected the other adjacent structures such as the College Building and the Sauras Building.

As a former regent at the Ateneo de Zamboanga (ADZU) High School in 2013-2015, Dy has an affinity to the gym and to the university band. Some of his students were band members and he heard their live performances as they played the school hymn Fly High or the city’s traditional song Zamboanga Hermosa. The gym had been a place where his students were inducted as leaders competed in sports with other classes, showcased their creative talents, and where their parents witnessed their growth as they participated in various co-curricular and extra-curricular activities.

This affinity is not limited only to the artist, but generally shared by the administrators, faculty, staff, alumni, and students alike since it was built in 1949. As how Fr. Karen San Juan, SJ, current president of ADZU characterized the gym in his appeal letter, “[i]t has been considered the home that formed and nurtured their Ateneo soul and identity.”

Collaborating with Mr. Mario Rodriguez, director of the ADZU Physical Plant Office, together with the physical plant team and contracted construction workers in the production of the work, Dy discussed with them the concept of the art installation. Though the brunt debris in the Ground Zero intimidated and overwhelmed him during his ocular site visit, he managed to wrestle with how to appropriate the materials into an in situ art installation.

Intuitively, Dy disregarded the initial idea of segregating them according to their texture, function, shape, material as well as sizes, and arranging them in a grid-like pattern on the cleared up and washed concrete flooring of the former gym. It would have resembled a scrapyard of raw materials for recycling and re-use. Conscious of how this burnt debris was constructed and assembled to provide spaces for incubating ideas, nurturing talents, and realizing potentials, he conceived a hybrid arrangement of three stylized concentric arcs that hinted at both a nest and an orchestra.

The first arc is the piled debris supported by varying heights of scaffolding reaching up to a height of ten feet. The cascading assortment consisted of charred wooden posts, warped corrugated GI sheets, rusting air conditioner units, twisted window metal grille, destroyed cooking stoves, burnt constitutional law reference books, tangled wires, exploded parts of the computer hardware and other burnt debris are woven together to resemble an unfinished nest that descends along with the carefully arranged parts of the corroding bronze music instruments. This arc provides a backdrop to the two smaller arcs, namely, the fan-like assembly of the reconstructed music stands that support themselves as well as the semi-circular row of distorted metal armchairs in the progression of rising or falling off onto the ground. Unlike the need for the public interaction to re-stand a fallen music stand toppled down by the occasional gust of wind, the armchairs are stable yet dynamic.  If these two smaller arches either pointed to the hard reality of utter destruction or the prospect of re-construction, the main arch proposes the cooperative paradigm of rebuilding the infrastructure reflective of the indestructible spirit of providing the quality site of learning, creativity and growth. As Fr. San Juan, SJ would put it in his homily during the Solidarity Mass the day after the fire broke out, “[w]e shall rebuild and we shall rebuild together.” Like the lined-up assortment of microphone and music stands, wobbly yet sturdy, installed near the main road, the efforts of fundraising may be a daunting task but through concerted efforts, the rebuilding of ground zero would not be far off. 

When asked by his former student regarding his motivation for creating this art installation, Dy answered indirectly, “even when the instruments are destroyed, the music lives on.” This re-echoes the voice of the ADZU president said, “[a]n icon was burned, but the Ateneo animo, or spirit, shall continue burning.” This art installation presents a stubborn insistence on creating meaning out of the fire rubbles that could either be just a cathartic expression of the unfortunate event or an affirmation of the indomitable communal spirit of igniting a passion for rebuilding from the embers and ashes.


To help in the fundraising campaign of the university, photographs of the installation and the distorted metal armchairs taken by Dy will be printed on silver paper, exhibited, and sold in collaboration with the ADZU Physical Plant, The Gallery of the Peninsula and Archipelago, and the Office of ADZU Communications Office. For more information, please contact Ms. Tricia Rubio Drapiza-Manulong, Mr. Mario Rodriguez or Ms. Leah Murillo Panaguiton. Special thanks to Fr. Karel San Juan, SJ, and the ADZU Jesuit Community.