Teeth of the Mouth: The Alter Egos of Russ Ligtas

Character design is an element I've only recently realized as part of my process in producing performance art. So far, there are six of them ranging from neutral to negative beings. These characters are specific aspects of me amplified either to exorcise demons they represent or to invoke the totems they embody:


have you seen my human?

Happy is color. That unique color inherent in every human born. Happy’s strings pull the ends of a mouth to form a genuine smile. The silver in its raiment reflect sparkles of illuminated eyes. Happy is also a song, a yawp of freedom echoing in the mountains.

On 6th of October 2009- Happy was born in room 229, a space subdivided into four studios for the Fine Arts students of the University of the Philippines. On that same night and place, “XO?” Performance Art Group was staging a show entitled Please Don’t Talk To The Natives. Happy was born a healthy glob of color in the second space to the left but was unfortunately given away by its birth parent –its human. Since then, Happy has been in search of its elusive counterpart, wandering the cities, splashing and sharing its colorful essence wherever its path leads.


I'd be happier if...

Roland is the only alter ego of an alter ego from the current roster. He is essentially Happy's human- the person Happy has been in search of. Although each person has a happy of his/her own, Roland is the main protaganist-antagonist in the HAPPY. show narrative.
He is a person who has lost most of his soul and his identity. He is hardwired to a system that erases natural impulses and instincts, imposes nonsensical needs, and fosters a culture of greed and apathy.

Roland lives a life of misery and atrophy. Lost in the oblivion of modern society, he is seen fighting ghosts and ruminating intensely on challenges he knows he has already lost. His continuing breath is his only hope and victory.


I leave you in peace, you leave me in pieces.

Mdm B. Niyaan began as an adaptation of John Luther Long’s character Madame Butterfly in an autobiographical piece for the collective performance show “XO? In LOVE”. Donning a black kimono, an androgynous almost expressionless mask and carrying a red parasol, Mdm B. Niyaan was the first alter-ego to be created in the current series of character-based performances. Her first appearance was with XO? Performance Art Group in a piece with Liyo Denorte as "the devil" accompanied by the late musician and fellow XO? member Winston Velez.

Now, Mdm B. Niyaan has evolved into an embodiment of the forsaken lover in us all. She is literally the "lady in waiting". Still in the skirt of her wedding gown, she waits and waits still, steadfast in her love as she slowly turns into a living ghost, lost in her own oblivion. She sings and dances of her absent love, and frequently relives her most painful and ecstatic moments in fits of violent reverie. Her memories are as palpable as sweat, something she can taste and smell and feel and can sting her eyes and make her cry even more.


It is as it is.

Lucid is clear about one thing, that certain things need to be clear- to everyone. Lucid operates with a white monobloc chair, a reminder of humanity’s ingenuity and folly- a very usefull invention that unfortunately is toxic to the planet and its inhabitants in the long run. When the chair is deployed, Lucid’s epiphanies begin and leaves with a challenge for all who were witness to that moment of clarity.
Lucid first came into being at the 2008 UP Mindworks Art Festival in a piece titled “The Mourning After”. In his first appearance, Lucid collected samples of terrestrial life in preparation for the complete melting of the polar ice caps endangering all coastal inhabitants. Lucid illuminates on important global issues reminding humanity of its role as earthlings and humans, supposedly the most intelligent creatures on the planet.


C’mere, I’ll take care of you.

Comfy first appeared in a performance piece titled “Who is it?” with collaborator Chai Fonacier wrapped in bandages and wearing a leash as Comfy’s “pet”. Comfy is the monster raised inside comfort zones. It gathers its strength from the need of things one must already grow over and is manifested in the form accumulated transitional objects, mostly stuffed toy animals.

Comfy is fluffy, soft, and colorful, very pleasing to the eyes and to the touch. But despite Comfy’s playful appearance, it remains a sly monster who’ll trick you into yielding to it with offerings of stagnating and paralyzing comfort.
Comfy wanders around in search of its next host.


See you when you get back.

Ghost is the self that is left in the bedrooms and houses of all regular people, the spirit that is absent in projected normalcy and imagined stability. It is the ghost of our private selves, the person we are that we come home to- the person we see in the mirror.

Ghost first appeared in a site-specific performance at art enthusiast Dr. Ted Gonzalez’ residence. It is seen coming out of a bedroom and into a balcony where it re-enacts how its body has murdered him, ultimately severing its head.

It has been sighted since in more intimate conventions haunting its body , reminding it of what it can do if it embraces it back.

photo credits:
Happy - Archie Uy/ Roland - Mecca Maranga / Mdm. B Niyaan - Janjan Ybanez
Lucid - Mecca Maranga / Comfy - Apiong Bagares / Ghost - contributed