A City’s Mind

I typically write on Tuesdays and take from the pace each Tuesday sets in motion.
I near the tail end of a review, because the world of imagination beckons. I often share my fascination with Manila through an examination of urban contexts and artistic practice, specifically what the latter offers to altering life conditions in the former for the better. The following is excerpt from a journal article. It specifically records a project I was involved in and considers the threatened nature that life has become in Manila’s impoverished districts.
Agham Tao Volume 19 was published in October 2010
Invisible States, Peripheral Sites: Artistic Negotiations of the Urban
Cities and their inherent rhythms are simultaneous backdrops and agents to lives unfolding. These birthed conditions are often grounded in contradictions, often compelling and threateningly overwhelming. Lives in cities are shaped by the dualities arising from pleasure and fear, hope and despair, excitements and anxieties. These contradictions are echoed and articulated by spatial forms, urban imaginaries and life ways subsequently produced. These uneven forms and formations inhabit both imagination and real life spaces that result.
Alongside these exist, discourses and imaginaries that attempt and thwart the real repercussions of power structures. Beyond mere backdrop or site to social formations and collective action, the city and the forces that make can be restructured as active agent in the making of emergent and critical practices. In this essay, I propose public art through its rethinking of issues relevant to public life as one such practice. While public art’s efficacy is assumed negligible and difficult to measure, I argue for its episodic engagements and interpretations of shared concerns as possibility of re-visioning the city – art’s own mode in redefining and ‘remaking’ urban life conditions.
Artistic process is proposed as altered vision and in the specific context of the Urban Plan/Duyan project later discussed, a mode of ‘surfacing’ and of making visible by way of consciousness-shaping and fostering of collective action the real life conditions of Metro Manila’s impoverished communities.
Tacit to this argument are possibilities art offers for shaping consciousness, the formation of critical audiences and fueling collective action. I chose Alma Quinto’s work because it realized a landscape of networks through collaboration. Urban Plan/Duyan engaged many tiered publics, taking advantage of long standing relations alongside chance element of ephemeral engagements and making room for prolonged inquiry of hazards of urban living. While Alma Quinto initiated the collective engagements that helped materialize later versions of  her urban plan, collaborative practice significantly defined her artistic roles as catalyst and ethnographer. Public art and its redefinitions of art, artistic roles and authorship destabilize modernist notions of an insulated and highly individualized art making, a crucial repositioning of the artist within social life and her cultural sphere.


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