A Field of Questions (and Answers)
or, Interviewing Bakawan Arts Festival convenor Manny Garibay
text below by Jojo Soria de Veyra
interviews by the diskurso.com team
principal video photography by Simkin de Pio
photos by de Pio unless otherwise noted
the diskurso.com team co-star in the video chats here with Manny Garibay (see below). diskurso.com went to the interview venue intent on getting to the bottom of the "bakawan" concept, and we could say in all honesty that our cameras and microphones were not disappointed with the longish clarifications we got from the star-founder and convenor of this ongoing University of the Philippines Diliman-based "Bakawan Arts Festival".
Manny Garibay at the interview venue, UP Diliman's Art Circle Cafe
[photo by Marcel Antonio]
BAKAWAN is the Filipino word for mangrove, that tree/shrub or plant assemblage that in recent years has had a deep impact on people as a symbol for their environmental/climate-conscious needs for change and collective need to be freed from the greed of a few. The bakawan's or mangrove/mangal's latter signification is elicited mainly by a people's sense for the commons, those natural resources accessible to all members of society.
The Bakawan Arts Festival, opened in February 5 at the University of the Philippines Diliman campus, is the fruit of the tree of many thoughts, but especially the thoughts of its convenor, painter and sociologist Manny Garibay. The festival aims to work around that environmental as well as social sense---environmental awareness and peer-awareness---with ramifications that may lead thinking heads to such limits as blaming corporate interests and raising the black flag of left-anarchism. In the wake of the old leftisms, anarchism and the demand for direct democracy may be new conversation pieces themselves needing our attention, but the most visceral flag raised by the arts festival and the festival works scattered in so many spots inside the UP campus has been the flag of questions upon governments (and societies) that one cannot help but ask today.
The festival, while an arts festival dedicated to environmental concerns (thanks to its title), is also a call for community, for communion, supposedly around the idea of forming a village populated by individuals with a common mother-anxiety. And one of the sub-anxieties specifically addresses the need for the liberation of the artist and his craftsmanship, whether for a few days or forevermore, from the employment or conscription by corporate powers that be, from his habits as both a consumer and producer, and from the self qua competitor in a marketplace of artistry.
"'Of course yung aking background, left ang politics ko in the past; pero nakita ko kasi ang limitations ng insistence on certain strategies and forms, and then yung kanilang nagiging structure, it's a political program rather than an ideological program.'"
-- Manny Garibay in the YouTube video "Interview with Manny Garibay Part 2/3" (1:50)
Initially there were multi-artist paintings painted by painter-collectives (painters' groups or grouped painters), although painting was later waylaid by more art trade-allergic forms. Here was one of those paintings as it developed:
And here was the painting used for the Bakawan poster as it developed outdoors:
Here was the poster with the initial end-date. The end-date was later moved to March 14:
Later, painting (as a capitalist commodity) was waylaid, as we said, and another intriguing section of the festival sprouted, located in the U.P. Vargas Museum, featuring a commons library titled SwarmBibliotheque, a "commonspace" curated by Jong Pairez. It would turn out to be the festival section with the most activity, churning out a series of workshops and discussions by various groups on site almost everyday, with references to alternative Ustream radio broadcasts of both esthetic and political content by a station called RadyoItim that one could access on the Internet while off site.
Meanwhile, one of the most compelling sections of the festival is one titled "Off Site / Out of Sight," a multi-artist (and community-as-co-artists) exhibition curated by the husband-and-wife team of Claro "Chit" Ramirez and Eileen Legaspi. Using the remote UP veterinary medicine stud farm as its locus, with the nearby shanty town community there as primary audience, this festival sub-exhibition raised issues about 1) art society, 2) art practice and the rest of society, 3) the art market, 4) the artist in society, 5) society's embrace of art, and 6) sub-texts on "the remote," "the hidden-from-us," or "the things we continue to refuse to see".
Here are a few shots of that exhibition:
Here's more about the "Honesty Library" piece:
THERE are so many questions and so many answers posited by the Bakawan Arts Festival. And when it formally closes on March 14 (formally, we say, since there will still be Bakawan-related activities in April), the group will continue the project as a project more ambitious than its big idea for a festival. The festival itself hopes to become an alternative biennale, and expansion into the communities and the provinces from its U.P. Diliman campus base could be in the offing.
Listen in on the topics that our interview with Garibay tackled:
PART 1 OF 3: [click on the videos' "CC" button for the Filipino subtitles]
01:17 The artist and the environment; 01:36 The artist's position among peers; 02:13 The artist's need to find his real social role; 03:33 The artist's diminution into being just another brand; 05:15 Acknowledging corporate sources of endless consumerism; 05:47 Society itself as accomplice in this endless consumerism; 06:50 Anti-corporation environmentalism and the concept of the commons' being a movement; 08:08 The tall order of joining theory and practice; 08:56 The artist and the fringe; 12:11 The community as co-author; 13:40 Art for what the people hold sacred; 15:47 Artists and spaces the people hold sacred; 18:21 Artist collectives, democracy and the spirit of the majority; 21:23 The artist aware of his role in the environment
"...we thought of coming up with an art event that is committed primarily to raising awareness about the environmental issues."
PART 2 OF 3:
00:37 Bakawan beyond the arts festival; 02:32 Artists' direct democracy; 07:43 The Bakawan utopia; 16:25 Imagining a state beyond the plutocratic state; 19:51 Bankrolling the Bakawan vision; 22:38 Breaking the exclusivist habit; 23:29 The threat of parish pump politics; 25:28 The Bakawan vision and corporate support
"I come from that era where yung idea ng volunteerism is really to just give oneself into a commitment, a cause..."
PART 3 OF 3:
00:26 All things Bakawan; 04:49 Decentralizing Bakawan; 06:16 A Bakawan anarchist biennale? 10:56 The Bakawan "aesthetic"; 17:14 There is no one Bakawan vision; 18:08 The leadership issue; 19:20 A preferred off-campus, out-of-the-campus direction; 24:52 After-credits bonus: Garibay on art auctions
"Ang nirerecommend ng team is we do this every other year."
Jojo Soria de Veyra is the editor of diskurso. Marcel Antonio is a painter and the publisher of diskurso. Simkin de Pio is a painter and the managing editor of diskurso.
© copyright 2015 diskurso art magazine online. B&w photo of Manny Garibay © 2015 Marcel Antonio. All other photos © 2015 Simkin de Pio. All rights reserved. All videos are under Standard YouTube License.
© 2014-2016 diskurso art magazine online. all rights reserved.
diskurso is an independent, Philippines-based online magazine on art aiming to veer away from a present mental landscape replete with the customary peacock and weasel words that continue to service the art industry.