"Damn, That Was a Long Road"*
an endless conversation with Angel Velasco Shaw
diskurso.com caught up with Ms. Shaw after months of trying to meet up with her for an interview, mainly about her politically-charged happening called Markets of Resistance
text below by Jojo Soria de Veyra
principal photography by Simkin de Pio and de Veyra
interview by de Veyra, Marcel Antonio and de Pio
a screenshot of Shaw's "When Absence Becomes Presence" video
THERE are artists and there are curators. Then there's Harald Szeeman, who's supposed to have turned curating into an artform, akin to the film director's art acting as anchor for the respective art of the individuals that comprise a film's entire crew.
Angel Velasco Shaw is an artist whose curatorial works (as part of her portfolio of artworks) usually take the form of art events, anthologies, and cinéma vérité videos that may either contain her own handiwork or not. Then, she refers to her projects of curatorship as artworks "displaying" absence (hers included) or the absent that she deems just as important as any of the visible presences, if not more important than them. In short, despite her penchant for gathering various artforms for an art happening, it would seem that she has equally reserved seats for a negative or absent Gesamtkunstwerk. She points to the process of realizing an event as the main art of her art, even going so far as to express disappointment at an audience's focus on her events' products. Among the details of her process art, she puts premium on the initial steps of "connecting" (with a community, a subject, artists, other participants, friends, new acquaintances, an averse human environment, funding agencies, governments). In short, her art is on the road, not really in the town arrived in.
Her recent project titled "Markets of Resistance", which was put up in Baguio in mid-2014, and put up again (as an approximation of the Baguio event) inside the Philippine Women's University campus (where she currently teaches) in mid-2015, is at once an expression of the multidisciplinary (interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary) roots of what she regards as art, a curated art show, an art festival, a happening, a systems art of sorts, a social sculpture, an economic and political protest, and---finally---an exhibition of a living historical record of where the now-absent past has found itself in the present.
"Shaw talked about . . . teaching her students how to connect and where she learned how to connect . . ."
Filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik's artists-run space in Baguio City, a part of the immersion stint of the eight students from PWU who went with Shaw to the northern Luzon city to put up "Markets of Resistance". Photo lifted from the Markets of Resistance Facebook community page
DISKURSO.COM finally caught up with Shaw at curatorial platform Planting Rice's Curating-in-Depth 2 symposia at the De La Salle–College of Saint Benilde School of Design and Arts last August 4 after months of trying to meet up with her for an interview, and we set the meeting for August 16, a Sunday. We met at a cafe in the Remedios Circle area in Malate where her apartment unit was only a short walk away, and in our almost-three-hour conversation prior to lunch, we happily covered a caravan of topics that was only cut by the call of the stomach.
You could say that the conversation was a journey by itself. And so, therefore, here are the videos, in case you want to ride along.
Here's Part 1 of 4 parts:
In this Part 1 video, within the first hour of the interview, Shaw talked about an upcoming anthology and website devoted to "Markets of Resistance" (00:30), her and Luis Francia's earlier anthology titled Vestiges of War: The Philippine-American War and the Aftermath of an Imperial Dream, 1899-1999 that jump-started her many subsequent directions (01:39), about art funding and funding organizations (05:02), exhibition outlets for her "Nailed" video piece (06:43), artists' problem with people comparing their later work to "that one piece" (09:47), co-optation by glamour and commerce and politics (11:00), and "Markets of Resistance" itself (13:35).
Now here's Part 2 of 4:
In this Part 2 video, also within the first hour of the interview, Shaw talked about teaching her Philippine Women's University students how to connect and where she learned how to connect (00:00), the difficulty of connecting with the Manila audience in "Markets of Resistance Redux" (14:45), putting up "Markets of Resistance" and exploring and representing issues behind it (15:56), the difference between the Native American experience and the Filipino indigenous peoples' experience (20:14), and about her art as a process art of connecting more than of producing and being as much a display of absence as it is of presence (23:17).
Now here's Part 3 of 4:
In this Part 3 video, we continue to watch her "When Absence Becomes Presence" cinéma vérité video piece on the Typhoon Yolanda catastrophe in Leyte (00:23). Then she answers our questions about whether certain details of her curated art events become her own rallying cry or carry some personal significance for her (15:01), about people zooming in on the barter element or otherwise on individual products of "Markets of Resistance" (19:53), and about the eternal war between intentions and readings (22:50). She would then essay on her awareness of the market of variables out there that could turn her proposed vision into an almost entirely new thing (27:30). Later, Shaw would answer our questions about possible heckles on her person as a neocolonial element (32:46) and about diskurso (40:25), and then she expressed concern about uploaded videos (41:04). Marcel would then ask her about her take on all kinds of resistance to her resistance (46:31), while Simkin asked her about the possibility of holding a sort of "supermarket of resistance" (50:13). Finally, she opens up on seeing the contradictions in her own position and in the world (54:44).
And now, here's the last video, the Part 4 video:
In this final video, Shaw talks about her hope for a possible proud cultural sense accompanying Third World financial needs (00:23), about the social realists well-peddled in the auction houses (08:23), "the ideal audience" and "the perfect response" (15:13), about how context changes (18:48), and---as if to place a metaphor for the continuation of her artistic journey---about her "Caravan: Trading Stories on the Road" project currently on its planning stage (21:25). Soon, after touching on the issue of fundraisers, we tackle the hardline and hardliners (25:26), then jump to the topic of art as either an attempt to deeply replicate real experience or to create plastic experience (32:51), to the topic of pigeonholing artistic replications or creations into shallow simplifications (34:55), and---finally---to her long journey, the recall of which was paved by this interview (41:52). . . .
So, okay. Angel Velasco Shaw's road travel has been long, indeed. But, hey, c'mon: her journey's developing cybernetics and systems theory won't be looking to stop exploring anytime soon. And, damn it, whether you like it or not, this won't be the last time we'll have with her these overlong conversations. [d]
The gate to the late painter Santiago Bose's house, also a part of Shaw's students' immersion stint. (Photo by Angel Velasco Shaw)
A fragment of Kawayan de Guia's Liberty Torch sculpture, a main feature of the Markets of Resistance show and happening. (Photo by Angel Velasco Shaw)
*quoting Shaw in her reference to our interview's having recalled all those years in her journey as an artist and cultural organizer (to be found in the third video of our interview).
Text © copyright 2015 by diskurso art magazine. All rights reserved. Screenshot photo and other photos here licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
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