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Uploaded August 20, 2015
STARRED MESSAGES: Curating-in-Depth 2
The Cures of Curators
a diskurso.com coverage of the second day of the Curating-in-Depth 2 symposia at the Blackbox, De La Salle-College of St. Benilde School of Design and Arts, 4 August 2015
text by Jojo Soria de Veyra
principal photography by Simkin de Pio and de Veyra
the symposia poster
CURATING. Collecting, organizing, and displaying cultural information. Filtering the relevant from the compound of irrelevance.
Curating is not about being the star. But curating is also about the power to zoom in on a star as well as the influence to forget another.
What else goes with the powerful territory or otherwise repressed headache of curating? What responsibilities to society do curators carry? Which powers must curators serve?
This year, the Philippines' Planting Rice curatorial platform networked with some curatorial groups from abroad, first with SCCA Ljubljana, then with others through the Creative Encounters program of the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) and its partners, Arts Network Asia (ANA) and Trans Europe Halles (TEH). The cooperation came up with the vision to hold a travelling seminar that would incubate what is hoped would be a long-running exchange between curators and art scholars worldwide, with the aim of answering those questions that continue to face the field as it examines its depth as well as depths it can further itself towards. Hosted by the De La Salle–College of Saint Benilde School of Design and Arts and running from August 3-5 this year, the symposia in Manila were called Curating-in-Depth 2, being the second stage of this trans-national series of travelling exchanges.
Here are some of the lectures that diskurso witnessed:
Look! Up in the SCCA! A Whiteboard Burst on the Horizon!
Dušan Dovč of the Slovenian art NGO called SCCA-Ljubljana opened his talk with quick reports on serio-comic tendencies in Slovenian creative thrusts. Those tendencies somehow made us ask questions about how a country's shape and geography impact on its creativity or what bearing government data and other manifestations of government and governance have on this creativity.
Dovč soon jumped into the meat of his talk, which essentially painted a picture of mainly state-funded "art production" in Slovenia and of Slovenian art-based NGOs still leaning on state subsidies while reaching deeper and deeper into their own pockets and scampering abroad for whatever public and private funding they could scratch. His presentation also crucially put a glaring Slovenian reality on the table: there's an absent art market in Slovenia.
Which certainly would make you ask why artists and art workers in many corners of the world would venture into such rarely profitable efforts as art-making and art promotion, despite our quick awareness of that query's being now a corny and laughable classic reiteration. It's a question that we still cannot throw out of our windows, though, if only because our memories would just as quickly zoom in on an almost insane, astounding reality involving people still busying themselves everyday in this field of human activity, whether located in such parts as the Philippines where there is stiff competition for the very limited trophies of success or small spots of the world like the chicken-shaped country of Slovenia.
But almost as if to prove the seriousness of such ventures even in places where there's an absence of a promising horizon--ventures that governments would nonetheless curiously continue to support in varying degrees, ventures that may indeed swing from the serio-comic to the mirroring of the utterly tragic--, Dovč closed his talk with a brief enumeration of the efforts his own NGO, SCCA-Ljubljana, is now presently writing on its whiteboard.
What this enumeration implies in our minds today is the promise of a shift from a Slovenian art culture of state-leaning to one of entrepreneurial independence. We think that that in itself answers questions about how a state's economy and politics impact on its people's creativity, and, hopefully, on its masses' appreciation of those types of bursts.
Watch the talk.
"Watch the talk."
What Was Cooler Than Cool in 2014 Baguio.
Middle of last year, Fil-Am multidisciplinary artist Angel Velasco Shaw combined art, narrative art, anthropology, history, and politics--as is her wont--to form what would all at once be 1) a documented story of eight students on an immersion trip, 2) a happening, 3) a systems art project of sorts, 4) a dynamic social sculpture, 5) a mini-art festival, and 6) what could be a subliminal political and economic protest.
For all its being art, Markets of Resistance was also an ambitious curatorial undertaking, replete with struggles logistical and relational, struggles familiar to many curators. And this is why Shaw was invited to participate in this series of symposiums.
Practically an art fair for indigenous peoples of Baguio, set in a public market, Markets created a focal point in its barter trade element (an element one could almost easily declare as a resistance against the currency-based [or currency-blind, currency-obsessed] trading in the art world, perhaps even against bitcoin-based trading that's all the rage in Greek shops these days). But, for Shaw, the barter element was not an economic protest but a tunnel into knowing the other, the artist, the indigenous culture. Some got that.
Markets, however, didn't have a singular message, and Shaw is kindred to those enamored with open texts. Even up to today, the gathering contexts and contradictions remain a part of her flexible thesis.
Let us listen now to Shaw herself as she bares her soul, that very soul that propelled one of the most ambitious and heart-rending alternative shows of 2014 that spilled over into 2015.
And, by the way, diskurso fans, our interview with Ms. Shaw will be coming out soon.
How do you curate freedom of ideas?
In Thailand, Narawan Kyo Pathomvat opened a library on contemporary issues. Called The Reading Room, it's ambitious enough that it's located in a country in turmoil operating under an onion-skinned monarchic system, but it also operates as an organizer of symposiums and happenings on contemporary issues within its own zone as well as without.
Pathomvat is a vocal critic of what's going on in her country and with some of her own people, advocating an ideal democracy where such goings-on are mitigated, if not eliminated.
We see her actions and project as the utter manifestation of content curatorship that aims to serve the individual, as against serving the state. Likewise, hers is content curatorship that seeks independence from the state, perhaps for being in one far removed from the European arrangement wherein state-subsidized art can still be critical of the state.
Here's her bold and totally inspiring presentation:
A Nation and State's Putting Premium on Its People's Art.
Why would a nation's government care for the promotion and health of its people's contemporary art? Is there a problem in that question itself? Is not government and its nation supposed to be inseparable entities, one being a part of the other? Is that question only valid in states where the government is ruled by, say, a plutocracy or an onion-skinned monarchy or a military elite that doesn't count itself as one with the people?
These are the questions that would enter the mind of the average Filipino audience as he is confronted by Simona Žvanut's report on World of Art, Slovenia's school for would-be curators and critics of contemporary art. Although established by the NGO called SCCA-Ljubljana in cooperation with several art galleries of contemporary art in Slovenia, we must remember that many NGOs and private institutions in that country, like many countries in Europe, still get an ample amount of subsidy from the state. 65% of SCCA-Ljubljana's overall fund derives from state subsidy for the arts.
And Slovenia, like many states in Europe (if not all of the states in Europe), also has a ministry of culture, whereas the Philippines has nothing more than a commission on culture. And we're not talking here of a government department interested in supporting propaganda art as happy as art performances the Thai junta willingly supports and conscripts. We're talking here about state-funded art by the people, for the people, so to speak, art which may be for or against the present condition in the state they are from.
This difference between the European art-subsidy situation and the Asian situation creates meanings and ramifications that would fit another three-day series of symposia, but it's already quite the glaring implication in Žvanut's report on World of Art at Curating-in-Depth 2 that the culture (much less the contemporary art) of such peoples as the Filipino people is not a priority among their elite. Is it perhaps because the elite lumpenbourgeois class of such cultures has a culture quite different from their average citizens' culture of the past and present? Maybe. And if so, then that figures.
But, anyway, we're digressing too far. And as that altogether different symposia on this problematic has yet to see the light of day, let us in the meantime salivate to the tone of Žvanut's inspiring report on her school.
But before we watch the video, one final question: I wonder, is there a Philippine art NGO out there similar to SCCA-Ljubljana that's also thinking of putting up a school like World of Art? Or would that Philippine NGO be more interested in putting up a school for would-be auctioneers?
And here's the omnibus Questions and Answers portion of that day's program. Enjoy watching.
CURATING. Sure it has its powerful territory. Even when it lands itself in a zone of repression and headaches. But one thing for certain. It can be both a general's weapon and an aid organization's relief box. It is itself a career of choices, one of which choices may pick to serve one satisfying cause over another. [ d ]
text (c) 2015 Jojo Soria de Veyra and diskurso art magazine. All rights reserved.
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