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Noteworthy 25 from 2015
by the diskurso.com staff*
text by Jojo Soria de Veyra
The 2015 Lumad fight for indigeneity's space (Lumad lands in Mindanao, Mindanao Lumad evacuation camps, and Manilakbayan 2015)
photo grabbed from http://tonyocruz.com/?p=4805
You could say there is no reason for this to belong in this list, or should at least take the 25th spot instead of #1, if only because this is more of a geo-cultural battle than an art one. But, elementary, my dear, where does a people's art come from? And when a people is displaced from its habitat, could its culture/art remain unchanged? The Lumads' continuing struggle armed with mere words and raised hands, vs. bullets of paramilitary groups equipped by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to covet the former's space for the Philippine plutocratic class offering opportunities to multinational mining interests, which space-grabbing escalated in 2015 with the extinction of (as of this writing) 56 Lumad leaders, . . . is just too noteworthy as a cultural effort to be anything less than a #1 one to remember, being about the survival of a culture and art (and a people who happens to be the owner of that culture and art). We are siding with the World Bank's definition of indigeneity as having "close attachment to ancestral territories and to the natural resources in these areas"---thus, indigeneity, as producer of indigenous culture, cannot be removed from its space. . . . In contrast, we are dishonoring the Benigno Aquino III government's art of lying as we mention it as our #1 worst mother-art product of 2015, noting the abominable fiction it concocted for the nation's appreciation concerning the Lumad massacre story (this while the same government was countering the rhetoric of seafood- and oil-hungry China's own territorial aggression) and the hypocrisy it hid from the audience at the COP21 conference on climate change when it spoke about climate change mitigation (while it was still set to build coal plants for the mining industry in said Lumad spaces in Mindanao). [For further info, read this FPIF report titled "The Philippine People Are Under Attack from Washington — and Their Own Government"]
"Writers Adam David and Conchitina Cruz's Uno Morato bookshop-cum-bar and its traveling book bazaar sustained a better way of exposing indie publishers directly to their potential fan base and market."
The coffee table book Art After War: 1948-1969 (first of what promises to be a 5-volume series titled Philippine Artscape, published by The Modern Reader; currently sold at Tin-aw Art Gallery and artbooks.ph for ₱5,500; edited and with text by critic and curator Patrick Duarte Flores)
photo from artbooks.ph
From The Modern Reader's website: "Art After War: 1948-1969 represents the most interesting artworks that help define that period. It is an invaluable compendium, being the first of a series that charts the history of Philippine Art through elegant, well-crafted books." Interesting selection, yes, as it by itself questions the Manila-centrism and usual bias for modernism in earlier Philippine art history coverage of this period, as well as re-introduces artists and art genres that seem to have almost been forgotten by that coverage. Tin-aw's video documentation of editor-writer Flores' December 3 talk at the gallery about the book will later appear in our 2016 issue to serve as an alternative and perhaps longer foreword-of-sorts to the publication, implying through Flores' explanations the significance of his text and selection to Philippine art history, historiography, and criticism qua entry points for further discourse.
AlDub and the Kalyeserye segment (Eat Bulaga noontime show, GMA Network)
This is horrible pulp magazine romance material that has no place in a serious art magazine, you say. We agree. True, Kalyeserye, developed from the purportedly accidental AlDub pairing that occurred one July afternoon in the GMA Network noontime variety show Eat Bulaga, brought us nothing more than a sentimental redux of young romance and supercouple value (as well as Catholic and social-conservative family ideals) immersed in Chaplinesque comedy, in the split screen (which a Nestlé Bear Brand Adult Plus TV ad would promptly emulate with brilliance), and via the fun virtues of a video messaging app (which an O+ TV ad and a Hapee toothpaste promo would also pay tribute to with class). Then again, perhaps we might consider that the segment also quickly turned Dubsmash into a verb and made the TV serial a major element (the axis and the finale segment) of a mother variety show. Meanwhile, it was interesting to see the AlDub pair's corporate-nudged affair already informing the politics and social aesthetics around royalty-free song sampling, kitschy colors, the parody, the Miss Universe wave gesture (Yaya Dub's version of which would later be known as the Pabebe Wave), social media idolaters, a controversial Philippine Arena, and libraries-building, so much so that we couldn't avoid thinking . . . Peronism. Soon, also, the segment's other characters became so popular that they made cross-dressing look cool. The AlDub romance itself, real or fictional, is expected to progress through to 2016 independent of all the politics in the period, almost in spite of mother-show Eat Bulaga's associations with Romeo Jalosjos of TAPE Inc., with social-conservative senator Tito Sotto's finding fine company with the liberalism or libertinism in Joey de Leon's intermittent off-color humor, and with Yaya Dub's Facebook call for a stoppage to the killing of Lumads (a call the AFP would malign). Incidentally, the Lumads were also tagged as one of the beneficiaries of the AlDub libraries, in spite of the besieging of the ethnic groups' schools in their zones. Surely, surrounded by such social elements, and viewing the ratings phenomenon from an open albeit progressivist perspective, AlDub could still be seen as your Romeo and Juliet to the never-ending manufacture of conflicts. For as long as pulp magazine romance stuff are seen this way, both without and within politics and the politics of fiction, nothing can be out of place in any serious art magazine snobbish with a claim to seriousness, and perhaps the arrogance of TV's commercial triumphs can be momentarily forgiven.
Jonathan Benitez's Strangely, Familiar show (ArtGalileia Gallery)
Timeless | Jonathan Benitez | collage on paper | 8 x 11 inches | 2015
In his first Manila show, Puerto Princesa-based Benitez brought Palawan's anti-mining spirituality into surrealist and Pop glamour imagery and, above all, into the reborn collage. The statement through the collage also re-pushed the question of whether drawing skills must distract the audience from the message or the vision's frame of mind, apart from also iterating the collage process itself as cognitive action (slow and/or quick) and, consequently, heroic sculpture. Each of Benitez' collage work sold for a meager ₱10,000, keeping his art middle class. Meanwhile, in the same light that the Palawan artist freed fashion-magazine women from their self-hating missions in the name of narcissism by sending them to the surreal metaphysics of tribal-esque animism-cum-pantheism via the liberating magic and religion of collage itself, he also appropriated the plasticity of the acrylic paint for some same sort of transformation-cum-elevation, this time on canvas.
Mideo Cruz's Cyborg Republic show (Blanc Gallery)
Armed with the same lexicon that got him mal-understood by his imagined community in 2011 with a loud installation, Cruz this time took discount kids' toys into the political territory of a small, bricolage-inhabited republic of meditative symbology. The pieces were sold at varying affordable prices.
If Art Is a Hammer, a forum on political art and artivism (Concerned Artists of the Philippines and Planting Rice curatorial platform, organizers; Artery Art Space)
CAP and Planting Rice's If Art Is a Hammer forum brought art conversations to the general topic of how political art and artivism are faring today and what available spaces remain for the continuance of their battles.
Field Trip Project Asia: Philippines (Daisuke Takeya and Laya Boquiren, curators; UP Vargas Museum)
Field Trip Project Asia extracted randoseru backpacks (enigmatic and visceral items by themselves) from among surpluses for disposal at a 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami post-disaster relief warehouse and transformed these into conversation pieces for the global disaster relief and environmental awareness campaign. With the participation of eight Filipino artists, the Philippine leg of the traveling conversation also went up to "disaster in the making" Baguio and down to a Typhoon Haiyan-devastated village in eastern Leyte. Diskurso.com's interview with Field Trip's Philippine leg curators also appears in this issue.
The Bakawan Arts Festival (Manny Garibay, founder; Antares Gomez Bartolome, festival director; UP Diliman campus)
a tree installation or soft sculpture at the Ramirez & Ramirez-curated Off Site / Out of Sight little art fair within the campus-locused festival
Introducing a concept-in-the-making for this campus-venued arts festival---started by social realist painter Garibay's environmentalist desire and expanded by the overall festival directorship of Bartolome---finally turned out something that revolved around the topic of anti-corporate art, left anarchism, and the commons. The festival whispered the potential of its becoming a biennial, with a next one a year or so from now, not necessarily carrying the same political stances pushed in this first.
Manufacturer's Advice: Content May Vary (Alwin Reamillo, original concept from the 1990s De-Latang Pinoy show at Hiraya Gallery; Leo Abaya, curator; shown at the Tin-aw Art Gallery booth at Art Fair Philippines 2015, Ayala Center, and later at Tin-aw Art Gallery)
Anton Del Castillo | Bomb Cans | various media | variable size | 2015
Manufacturer's Advice revived the spirit of the Reamillo-conceptualized and Hiraya Gallery-instigated now-classic De-Latang Pinoy exhibition of 1996. The present version used anew consumer society's tin can as canvas or prime sculptural ingredient and created a supermarket fragment out of Tin-aw Art Gallery's 7-Elevenesque space to produce more technically savvy takes on the politics, geo-politics and economics of the last two decades.
The Sining Saysay semi-permanent exhibition (Gateway Gallery)
Historian Xiao Chua (right) talks to attendees of his touring lecture in front of a Simkin de Pio painting on the Austronesian migration at the Gateway Gallery Sining Saysay exhibition.
Gateway Gallery commissioned select painters to fill its entire space with visual guides to Philippine history and brought back history painting into art chats in the face of new historiographies.
Art+ magazine's Critical Platforms: The State of Art Criticism in the Philippines forum (UP Vargas Museum)
Photos grabbed from the Facebook page of Duffie Osental
Art+ got art criticism to talk about itself, its crucial state and its real role in a present that, in spite of being art-bullish, is apathetic towards criticism's jargon-filled analyses at the same time that it requires their intelligent presence as marketing bric-a-brac.
Laglagan Na (a YouTube short film by Brillante Mendoza, starring Juana Change [Mae Paner]) and the stretch-wrapped airport luggage
the stretch-wrapped luggage at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in 2015
Laglagan Na is a late-in-the year masterpiece of political satire over a not-so-funny problem that has been ignored as a consequence of being unacknowledged as real. The film cuts the thin line between satire's hyperbole and realism's pathos, with the only thing missing being the credits, an absence that cries for presence in such a piece of perfect satire.
Meanwhile, the stretch-wrapped airport luggage became one of the year's most interesting semiotic signifiers, loudly processing the pragmatics of its being a demonstration of distrust as well as the modality of its being an unbelievable advertisement for private business to enter a government-service institution due to a manufactured need.
Angel Velasco Shaw's Markets of Resistance happening (Baguio City)
A fragment of Kawayan de Guia's Liberty Torch sculpture, a main feature of the Markets of Resistance show and happening, waits at the gate to the late Santiago Bose's house. (Photo by Angel Velasco Shaw)
In cahoots with sympathetic Baguio artists, poets, and anthropologists, Markets showed---in various locations other than its main setup at a Baguio public market---the city's indigenous peoples' art and art trade in their unabridged, unexpurgated form and potential, all the while exposing the ill influence of cultures on these invaded and used peoples' values.
"Paano Gumawa ng Pastillas" and "Paano Gumawa ng Yema" (YouTube videos by Angelica Jane Yap aka Pastillas Girl)
Although Yap would later acknowledge that her pastillas recipe was authored by one Miel Francisco, she created the two videos that would appear like hate scenes from Like Water for Chocolate, the novel and movie. No cooking here, though, not much acting even, simply a documentation of catharsis through recipes, unintended erotica and a curse phrase played in front of a witness camera. Never mind that she got the cause of diabetes mellitus wrong. The end result of her angry but precise meant-to-be-private production? A celebration of pro-loyalty rage that gathered 1+ million views, simultaneous to an Internet-based counter-slut-shaming of her person.
Bob Black's visiting lectures in Manila (University of Santo Tomas' Thomas Aquinas Research Center Auditorium and University of the Philippines' Third World Studies Center)
The lectures' Facebook poster
Courtesy of the Filipino Freethinkers and the office-less Marindukanon Studies Center and Info Shop, Black held a series of lectures in Manila to treat small, curious audiences to a rare angle on the enslaving concept of "work" and the virtue of "productive play" (such as art-making) viewed from the logic of this stalwart of the American anarchist intelligentsia who at one time had also been drawn to the '50s-'70s Situationist movement.
Heneral Luna (Jerrold Tarog film)
a poster for the film
The surprising film of the year brought to the fore, with astute craftsmanship and skill, the almost-forgotten issue around the personas of revolutionaries Antonio Luna and Emilio Aguinaldo and other people of influence during the time of the Philippine-American War. It seemed, indeed, that the whole thing was conceptualized from an anti-globalization, anti-lumpenbourgeois historiographic view, in spite of the fact that it was co-produced by stalwarts of the wealthy Ortigas and Rocha clan with artistic leanings whose sympathies might have been for Luna's rightist penchant for brandishing Artikulo 1.
Off Site / Out of Sight (at the Bakawan Arts Festival, curated by Eileen Legaspi-Ramirez and Claro Ramirez; University of the Philippines Stud Farm)
a wall write-up at one exhibitor's booth
a not necessarily on-canvas painting on a not necessarily plastered wall at the UP Stud Farm
Given the opportunity offered by Manny Garibay's and Antares Bartolome's new campus-based arts festival to put up an alternative art fair of sorts within the event, Ramirez & Ramirez thought of doing their thing in a spot different from what a high-modernist building within the university might provide. Taking their cue from the festival's thrust, the couple's project came up with something highlighting the possibility of art and art-making sans a corporate world and a wealthy class for an audience.
Vincent Dioquino's first three self-assembled chapbooks
Photos by the poet
Dioquino could be said to be one of the most strident promoters of copylefting in poetic authorship in the country today, if one ever heard of someone else promoting more loudly copylefting's Marxist-cum-anarchist virtue hereabouts. And though his first copylefted chapbook released this year, Nameless Horizons, clearly consists of original poems in the modernist tradition thrown into the plate of the commons, his second, Tenderness, is an ambitious oeuvre of gender ventriloquism consisting of lines copied (being screenshots) from female bio-profile self-descriptions provided by an Internet cellphone app which he then fitted into the epic form. Tenderness' selection was constrained to women aged 18-28 years, within 100 miles (160.9344 kilometers) of the poet’s varying location, but it was a curation less for partaking of the technological phenomenon than for holding a mirror up to this phenomenon's presence in the present (consequently asking about its future). Dioquino writes in the preface: "...what figures do we need to burn in order to rediscover the ground?" . . . But the feather to the poet's cap that got him into our list was that third chapbook of his for the year, titled Kara Krus, which was a Mallarméan sestina in Filipino versified by vertical bars (|), the resultant of which verse-prose prosody highlights the book's conceptual paeans to Mallarmé's Un Coup de Dés Jamais N'Abolira Le Hasard almost at Symbolism's expense. It traverses the precarious meaning-and-understanding waters of the channel between writer and readers' grasp of the direction of words and phrases and goes back to the equally Mallarmé-esque-cum-Barthesian copylefting question concerning the matter of the author who may not matter. . . . (diskurso.com's interview with the poet also appears in this issue.)
Uno Morato's BLTX regular small press expos and Adam David's Repaso fiction chapbook
Writers Adam David and Conchitina Cruz's Uno Morato bookshop-cum-bar and its traveling book bazaar sustained a better way of exposing indie publishers directly to their potential fan base and market. Mostly self-publishing authors of short literature and comics art/literature, sometimes publishing as collectives, with most if not all of them young, the bazaar's participants were inspiring presences by themselves who only needed to be gathered, which the David-Cruz partnership did anew this year starting with BLTX 6 last January and ending with the simultaneous BLTX 9 expos in Baguio, Davao and Cubao last December 4. In case you don't know, BLTX stands for Better Living Through Xeroxography, the humor in "xeroxography" most likely a serious paean not only to its beginnings with minimum print requirement, but perhaps also to Filipino English. . . . The young authors launched by the expos include the anarchist poet Vince Dioquino, whose first three chapbooks this year met his own alternative readership; interestingly, Dioquino's quasi-conceptual books were copylefted, which would seem like a sneer to a later legal threat against David for an online work of his on "creative plagiarism". Creative plagiarism would also be the subject of a lecture by Cruz at BLTX 7 in UP Davao. . . . BLTX also served as venues for musician and artist performances; last December 4 at the Cubao BLTX event, the performance-art duo of choreographer Donna Miranda and poet Angelo V. Suarez distributed CDs containing their 2012 and 2014 performance piece "A video of ourselves making the video", perhaps as another conceptualist comment on one of the processes for art's completion. . . . Most notably, Uno Morato and BLTX also exposed the lie that all Filipino litt is indie and/or alternative. This is the new indie and alt.
Meanwhile, at BLTX 6, David also launched a fiction chapbook to start his year. Titled Repaso, it contains supposed fragments authored by one suicide named "Mona Lisa P. Cajucom" and supposedly edited by David. Fiction chapbook? Or should we say metafiction chapbook? Repaso has got all the ingredients of fine and interesting metafiction, but made more interesting by the fact that if metafiction---qua the postmodernist sort that looks at fiction-writing and -reading itself primarily---is a conscious or sub/unconscious effort to underscore the absence of readers not directly related to either fiction writing or fiction reading as a hobby, then Repaso jives very well with David and Cruz's project of establishing a regular book expo driven by self-publishing authors selling their books to each other almost. After all, metafiction and small press expos are both tribute and elegy to the almost-dead industry of fiction writing.
Orley Ypon's Bidlisiw show (AltroMondo Arte Contemporanea Gallery)
Thanks to accolades from the Art Renewal Center that brought the Cebu-based painter to the attention of art dealers, Boy David of AltroMondo being one of them, Ypon through this first Manila show brought back art audiences to the classical tradition of Juan Luna's realism, but informing his art (in a subtle, non-literal style of symbology) with open-ended contemporary allusions to current political and economic struggles, environmentalism, the bayanihan spirit, sexism, and homoerotica.
This year's uncontrollable re-entry (with renewed power) of the "putang-ina" and the "puñeta" into the public rhetoric of our for-so-long bourgeois-ized mass media
The art of cursing re-emerged in 2015, renewed as used in front of an equally cursing or cursing-amused public. In Davao City mayor and presidential aspirant Rodrigo Duterte's case to endear him to millions of cursers frustrated with government (thus, too, painting his kind of claimed working-class socialism and target voter), in Heneral Luna's case to endear him to the bourgeois-ized theater-goer who has been told to behave within the architecture of the lumpenbourgeois-gone-rich owner of the moviehouse, and in Pastillas Girl's case to endear her to the goddess of catharsis. It entered high-public rhetoric in 2015 when in other years it could only remain as the tool of counterpublics (counterpublics such as the squatters in Metro Manila today or the emergent Jesus movement in both the era of the "brood of vipers" and of that bitch Isis as worshipped in Rome). The reason why we considered the emergence of these cusswords in elite-public rhetoric as noteworthy aural and textual spectacles from that year is this: the mass and social media couldn't control them anymore and, above all, seemingly couldn't see the political realism (or sincerity in the disgust) behind their use. We think that failure to see the realism sad, thus our verdict to salute the Marxist, nationalist, or semi-traditionalist angas of the matriarchal "'tang-ina" and the hot "puñeta" as this year's outsider voices that became almost-norm mass media attitudes. We're endorsing this attitude, not necessarily the motives of their wearers.
Curating In Depth 2 symposia (Planting Rice curatorial platform, organizer; The Blackroom, De La Salle University College of St. Benilde School of Design and Arts)
a projected slide from one of the presentations at Curating in Depth 2
Kudos to Planting Rice for trying to inform the art community of curation's crucial role in staking art directions both for or against the State, with or without the State. If only the attendance had been bigger.
Art & Design Symposium @ Philippine Women's University (Angel Velasco Shaw, organizer)
The symposium's Facebook poster
Angel Velasco Shaw's other 2015 project reintroduced common grounds shared by designers and artists, perhaps as some are still insisting that basic or pure art is of and for itself whilst design is only for some other purpose, e.g. clothing purpose. Surely, given the usage of art nowadays, as in interior designers' middleman peddling of paintings to purchasing clients (not to mention art's exploitation by the auction house industry and art speculators), we may have a problem with that purist idea on art against practical design. In contrast, there may be pure unwritten manifestos within design, in the same way that rococo or art deco or Bauhaus architecture sort of were their own respective pure manifestos. Isn't techne qua action a part of art-ism, as is devotion to a particular material and its farming or production? Isn't nationalism in design an art statement in and upon the designer's production, especially when oblivious of the market? These questions and more. . . . And while the audience at the symposium may have largely consisted of PWU's art and humanities students, this could have been useful to a larger audience consisting of practicing critics and artists either weary of the commercialization of art (which doesn't have to be bad) or cynical towards any academization of design (which, in the age of semiotics, has been quite a breeze). Our coverage of two sessions of this event will appear in our 2016 issue.
Bob Nuestro's Urban Planning show (Quattrocento Gallery, The Shops at Serendra)
Photo by the artist
Nuestro re-states his view that current abstract painters need not all be disciples of the Malevich doctrine and may follow the example set by Constructivism's political bent, as in this show's case, which proposed that abstract art-making itself involves owning a sensibility basic to that which is sorely lacking in Philippine governance today: an urban-planning soul. Confessing that all abstraction begs decorative usage, he wishes his would also serve as mnemonics for a social and attitudinal purpose beyond the interior designer's planning for a new Starbucks shop.
Alwin Reamillo's Unhedged show (Tin-aw Art Gallery)
The show's title graphics on the gallery's main glass window featuring the main hedgehog characters' names mimicking a law-office door's letter graphics.
Left: Reamillo's setup over a lawn of shredded money. (Photo by Simkin de Pio) Right: Installation detail featuring Antonio Gramsci's image and a curled hedgehog in foreground | Alwin Reamillo | mixed media collage on constructed wooden box, shredded old currency, bamboo and wood construction, and pet hedgehog | 2015 (Photo by Reamillo)
After his Q1-2015 Manufacturer's Advice project with Tin-aw, Reamillo returned to the art gallery's space in August to build, with the aid of pet hedgehogs, an alluring metaphor for life in and outside a gated community, in the process assigning conservation biology concepts to human urban existence and culture within our "emerging economy". [d]
*diskurso.com core staff includes Jojo Soria de Veyra, Marcel Antonio and Simkin de Pio
Text © copyright 2015 by diskurso art magazine online. Photos by diskurso.com unless otherwise noted.
CURATOR LIAN LADIA'S NOTEWORTHY 6 FROM 2015 • CURATOR SIDDHARTA PEREZ'S NOTEWORTHY 7 FROM 2015
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