LAWAS comprises three public art projects for the 2018 UP Diliman Festival of Culture and the Arts. Pleiades, Pusod and Pagpamulak explore the intricate process of dwelling the body. All three are located at visible and accessible areas inside the sprawling Diliman campus.
The intimate registers of the senses, faith and the sacred feminine, and play through vision are expressed in art pieces by Agnes Arellano, Mark Justiniani, and Lee Paje. They probe the limits of the body, often imagined a vessel or a contained space. How can art whether installation, sculpture, or site specific forms become extensions of the human body through experience? Art that incorporates multi-dimensionality in its engagement of body and space becomes a technological cipher by which the human form is reworked and imagined, beyond containment and towards amplification.
Artist Agnes Arellano gathers her goddesses in a grove. Pleiades are cast stone goddesses, four of seven of the open star cluster most visible to the naked eye. The works follow the artist’s lifelong search for the sacred feminine. Through them, she hopes to rekindle the age old values of nurturing, generosity, and compassion.
Lee Paje constructs a playground of intimate forms in her Pagpamulak project. It means ‘to blossom’ in the vernacular. It takes from a 2011 series where vagina-shaped chocolates were filled with tapuy or rice wine and were eaten during the exhibition. Viewers will be invited to not only sit and lie on but also play with the stylised sculptures that mimic the body’s intimate parts.
Mark Justiniani installs Pusod at the UP Lagoon. The reflective disk rests on earth and reflects the skies above. It is likened to an orbit in a frozen moment, a well of clouds becomes close to eye and touch during the day, while a deep crater is revealed at sun down. The structure is a navel, an invisible umbilical cord between the heaven and earth.
LAWAS is curated by UP Department of Art Studies faculty Tessa Maria Guazon and Cecilia De la Paz. The works will be publicly launched11 April 2018 and will be on view until end August 2018. A series of events will be organized during June, July and August.
I am co-curating the public art component of the 2018 UP Diliman Festival of Culture and the Arts.
We will launch three art projects in the sprawling grounds of the University of the Philippines Diliman campus this April 11, 2018. Works by artists Mark Justiniani, Lee Paje, and Agnes Arellano will be on view from April to August 2018.
It has been a cycle of two-month intervals for museum projects since 2017. All have been challenging and exciting!
Traversals/Trajectories: Expansive localities was initial project for the Philippine Contemporary Art Network (PCAN) I traveled to Ilocos province, Dumaguete, Bacolod, and Baguio. I met many young artists who told me about projects they are currently doing, and more important, about issues that matter to them.
It was a conscious decision to have an intergenerational mix of artists in the exhibition and for the works to converse with each other. It was important to work with women artists, to have works both new and old, and to revise iterations of works to respond strongly to the exhibition context. We made use of the Vargas Museum’s well lit space. I took the terrazzo flooring as inspiration for the graphic component of the exhibition.
Here are a few exhibition views, more information at the PCAN site:
Traversals/Trajectories: Expansive localities is the exhibition I am curating for the initial project of the Philippine Contemporary Art Network. It opens at the Vargas Museum 8 December 2017, 4PM and will be on view until 27 January 2018.
More information on the Philippine Contemporary Art Network:
UP Vargas Museum opens Place of Region in the Contemporary, the first project of the Philippine Contemporary Art Network (PCAN) built through three nodes in a network: Knowledge Production and Circulation; Exhibition and Curatorial Analysis; Public Engagement and Artistic Formation. The project endeavors to activate a network to coordinate a range of interventions in contemporary art in the Philippines and to cast a sharper profile for it on an inter-local and trans-regional scale. It is keen to confront the requirements of research and discourse; curate art and subject the curatorial gesture to critique; and propose modes of catalyzing the public sphere of art and in the process harness the energies of its agents.
Patrick D. Flores, director of PCAN, introduces the project Place of Region in the Contemporary with an anthology of artist-curator Raymundo Albano’s texts, alongside his poetry and curatorial and graphic design. It addresses the concerns of Albano in the intersecting fields of the creative, the critical, the cultural, and the curatorial. It is to these that Albano speaks: the discourse and practice of art making and instilling it with presence in the world of ideas, exhibitions, and the particularities of lived life.
Roberto G. Paulino coordinates the Knowledge Production and Circulation component of PCAN. For Place of Region in the Contemporary, Paulino initiates an archival research on Philippine artists Jess Ayco (1916-1982), Santiago Bose (1949-2002), Abdulmari Imao (1936-2014), and Junyee (Luis Yee Jr) (born 1942). Born or based in the regions of Bacolod, Baguio, Jolo, and Los Baños, the artists represent the disparate conditions and production in Philippine modern and contemporary art.
The Exhibition and Curatorial Analysis node of PCAN is coordinated by Tessa Maria Guazon. An exhibition is presented to explore ideas of the region and the different “practices of placeness” in Philippine contemporary art by tracing numerous strains of place making in the works of artists from different localities across the Philippines. Collateral activities are organized with the exhibition, including a discussion platform to examine impulses underlying the curatorial —those that frame and activate localities in their assertion of claims to place against an overarching globality.
Within the frame of Public Engagement and Artistic Formation, coordinator Renan Laru-an outlines the ground for accumulating and reviewing resources (institutions/infrastructures) and references (actors/agents) for the research direction of PCAN. Initially, it elects three ecologies of practices: Los Baños through the Philippine High School for the Arts and the International Rice Research Institute; Siliman University as an interface to liberal (arts) education in Southern Philippines; Aga Khan Museum of Islamic Art at Mindanao State University through the journal archives of the Institute of Islamic Studies at University of the Philippines, Diliman.
This is my section for the exhibition Tropical Cyclone, currently on view at the Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts at the National Taiwan University of the Arts in Taipei. It expands my research and curatorial work about place, locality, of finding and losing one’s way in the world.
Curating in a context that is unfamiliar and entirely new is always an exciting prospect, but how does one navigate the unknown without falling prey to romanticising or essentialising? How does one ferry ideas from a river of thoughts to a wider sea of notions and further articulate consonance, contradictions and divides? More so, how do works of art that came into being in a shared context converse with these ideas?
Knowing very little about Taiwan, I clung to the precious thought that I just came from a residency in Fukuoka, Japan which is very close to Taiwan. Conceptualising and writing for the exhibition was propelled by images: of Taiwan’s mountain ranges from a 1920 account and their powerful hold on the beholder, of different cartographic locations of the island nation which some say appear like a tobacco leaf or sweet potato from above, and my first impression from before my flight from Manila to Taipei landed. These images beguile and haunt, marking a place in one’s mind.
The following are portions of the catalogue essay and my presentation at the 2017 Asian Contemporary Art Forum at the National Taiwan University of the Arts, photos courtesy of the NTUA Bulletin:
A 1920 account of a journey to Taiwan described the landscape as beribboned with magnificent mountain ranges. Sailing along the west coast on a bamboo raft, one sees “a pageant of mountain scenery that will haunt the memory for many a day” (Kirjasoff 1920, 247). The scenery is described in a spectrum of color, the mountains a screen through which Ilha Formosa as the Portuguese called the island, can be viewed with avid fascination. This unbroken chain of beauty is a view that haunts. A Presbyterian missionary locates Taiwan in the Tropic of Cancer referencing materials on Formosa written during Dutch rule. Dutch colonial sources also noted the mountains of Taiwan- ‘beautiful plains and large meadows along the coast’ further emphasizing there is no island as conveniently sited for trade: lying as it does with China to the west, Japan to the north, and the Philippines to the south (Campbell rp. 1967, 1). Other sources claim that Taiwan appears like a sweet potato or tobacco leaf from above.
I write with an image of Taoyuan airport inside my head, lodged in mind’s eye before our final descent to Taipei: its blinkering lights cast a subdued glow, not too bright to be garish nor too dim to be forlorn. The rainy season has began and this glimmer is filtered into a gossamer veil of light, ceaseless rain, rendering the city’s apartment buildings into impressions of heights against dark skies. Yet from this vantage or even that from city trains, little can be gleaned about lives behind those shuttered apartment windows.
One’s understanding of place, however limited or strained begins with images. Images of places best capture a longing. It can be a view that ‘haunts’ memory as the 1920 account above. It can also be the configurations of a site, perimeters that become measures of containment or expansion. The depth and breath of an island is measured too, for its commercial viability. A view from the skies relies on parallels and similarities- images of like places. What kind of memory haunts? What narratives arise from it? What notions of place and time do they bring to the fore?
These and related questions shed light on the works I chose for my section of the exhibition: those by Liu Yu and Jian Yi-Hong interrogate belonging through conditions of homelessness and difference. Pieces by Au Sow Yee, Wu Chi Yu, and Lee Jo-Mei explore trails along a river, a tunnel or cave, inside rooms, through corridors of memory or the labyrinthine paths of imagination. Their works reference real places or their spectres, our experiences of enchantment, of losing and finding our way. On the other hand, a work from the museum’s permanent collection encapsulates a moment of exhilaration and joy in the monochrome registers of a photographic print. It documents a place in Taiwan, perhaps a farming or a fishing village, adolescents silhouetted against the horizon, their forms dimmed by the bright background with one of them adroitly flipping in the air.
We may be besieged by a longing for place and the desire to belong. Yet what does the real world demand of art in a time plagued by despair, when serial eviction may have become the dominant condition of being for many? What does it mean to survey the sea in a crowded dinghy, without shore in sight? What form of haunting takes over when one is cast adrift, forlornly afloat in turbulent waters? Surely, not the kind of beauty that the leisure traveller conjures. These and other questions to do with place making and the multiple temporalities that arise from the process are a few of this essay’s concerns.
Our world has gone awry and the stories told us of oppressive regimes, charismatically toxic dictators, endless wars, and the multitude of suffering homeless have become our realities. More than any other time in history, claims to place are gravely threatened. Displacement plagues us invariably. How can art, whether those made now or in the past, expound on these struggles for survival and the persistent desire to belong? How can art and its ‘perfect world’ help imagine and even realize that which Susan Stewart (1993) describes as a ‘world that works’?
It is perhaps this yearning for a world that works that propels the artist Wu Mali to say that endeavours like her Plum Tree Creek project take time; to make happen, to realise, to build and strengthen communal ties. Such artistic pursuits succeed to expand the reaches of contemporary art, ground its expressions in everyday contradictions and strife, and enrich the vocabularies that can describe the intimacies between art and life. Her piece in the exhibition rounds out the works: bridging generations of art practice, initiating yet again a conversation between present and past on the shared task of imagining a future that may indeed work for most.
My section Plying the Seas, Divining the Skies charts place making in the works of Taiwanese artists Juan I-Jong, Wu Mali, Liu Yu, Wu Chi Yu, Yi-Hong Jian, Jo-Mei Lee and Taiwan based Sow Yee Au. I examine the manner of haunting that nostalgia allows through the vehicle of time and the vessel that is space. It asks of art’s role in a world where serial eviction has become the prevailing condition for many.
Solely because it won’t be a Monday when I post, this becomes the first of a two-part piece on the exhibition Ecology of Creation.
Ecology of Creation opened last 18 February 2017 at the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, fondly referred locally as Ajibi. The group exhibition is addition to the museum’s Crossing Vision series where works that do not typically fall under fine arts categories are shown. Crossing Vision exhibitions are characterised by a mix of genres. The series date back to 2001 with “Where are We Going?” and had until 2005, four shows that focused on video, anime and graphic design. Ecology of Creation is the fifth exhibition of the series.
Works by Taiwanese Huang Po-Chih, Korean Beak Jungki, Fukuoka based design house monocircus, HongKong new media art group XCEED, Indonesian Julian Abraham Togar and Indian graphic designer Ishan Khosla are on view together with two pieces by video art pioneer Nam June Paik from the Fukuoka Art Museum collection. All pieces are multidimensional in materiality and process, most are site responsive, and to varying degrees, all are interactive. The cafe lounge was transformed into an exhibition space with the addition of movable panels. While I half expected the exhibitionary intervention to be more adventurous (in the sense of altering space in a more integrative manner as panels readily signal an exhibition), the works themselves serve to change the cafe atmosphere, primarily through the subtle intrusion of sound into space. There is the soothing lullaby of women singing as backdrop to Kosla’s piece, the rhythmic pounding that comes with preparing homeopathic remedies in Beak’s video work, and the pulsing beat of television news coverage of Togar’s body building contest. One approaches the inner area of the exhibition and is drawn to the whirr and hum of XCEED’s rotating pieces and the screened images of Nam June Paik’s Plutonian.
The exhibition title suggests the entwined elements that make the act of creation – the imagination, the environment where it thrives, and the circumstances that shape choices made by maker and artist. The latter may be a situation or event either tragic or fortuitous, the exploration of new technologies of making (and that does not preclude traditional ones), or attempts at fusing fields often perceived unrelated. The most interesting works in Ecology of Creation are outcomes of off-site interactions that mark continuities between the exhibition and the outside world. They thus, construct a field or a prism to connect time and space. These are the lemon orchard and dreams of a future liquor factory, a subway station arson and the confines of a laboratory in London or the polluted waters of a river in Seoul, a clay factory of muscled workers in Jatiwangi, the provinces of India and their traditions of craft, the grafted spaces of esoteric practice and high technology, or the manufacture of designed objects through modern machines.
Intimating the breadth of the real lemon orchard planted by Po-Chih, the exhibition space is marked by documentation through poetry, video and photographs of his Five Hundred Lemon Trees project. Factory: A proposal for museums takes it further afield as it hopes to source another 500 donors for a liquor factory. The lemon orchard itself came to fruition with donations from 500 donors in 2013. Distilled lemon liquor will be shared to donors in the next two years. Po-Chih served the same together with chicken soup prepared at the local community centre during the exhibition reception. What makes this project special is that it is outcome of a conversation between the artist and his mother (who joined us for the reception in Fukuoka), and that this singular exchange of ideas led to other conversations: discussions and taste tests across various locations – all weaving a web of support buoyed by social ties forged through mundane acts of eating and drinking together.
My favourite piece is Beak Jungki’s Materia Medica: Cinis. It grows on you. I am always drawn to works that invite curiosity and practices that thrive on longevity – what I mean by the latter is an arc that connects one artistic project to another with quite diverse outcomes. The pieces on display are part of a larger undertaking to do with Jungki’s interest in healing, both on a personal level and at a social scale. We see three groupings of objects – a burnt remnant from a train coach inside a glass vitrine, photographs of investigators examining remains of the site displayed like laundry hang out to dry, and a video of laboratory procedures above a small shelf of homeophatic medicine implements.
The work recalls the 2003 arson at Daegu station in South Korea, which killed 192 and left scores injured or missing. The station was restored barely a year after but for Jungki, an invisible wound remains. Cinis is the homeopathic remedy he formulated to heal this trauma of remembering a tragic event. The rhythmic pounding the artist’s hand makes on a saddle-like tool may perhaps allude to this manner of healing, one that combines recollection and contestation; a flushing out, a healing of like with like.
My experience of fire and the purges that result from having objects or sites erased from life renders Materia Medica: Cinis poignant. During his talk, Jungki recounts the childhood fire that resulted to his and his father’s injuries. Yet this personal story is not the only fulcrum around which his practice rests — he tinkers relentlessly, building machines that test the boundaries between nature and high technology, endlessly drawing from nature itself and integrating its forces into his so-called experiments; not a few of them playful, introspective, and wondrous. Consider for example, the altar like incubator where he placed chicken eggs to hatch. Heat and power were provided by numerous candles, whose lights flicker and burn inside a dimly lit room; for what are we to witness here but the singular miracle of life? That or the plotter from which pictures were printed from the ink of autumn leaves the artist gathered soon after he photographed them. We find in Jungki’s practice a derivative kind of replication, endless experimentation, a persistent tinkering (he builds these so-called ‘machines’ himself); cumulatively driven and fuelled by wonder.
Julian Abraham Togar’s 2015 Experience Earth is a series of art projects in Jatiwangi in Java. The town has several roof tile factories. The tiles are manufactured from clay which Togar later fashioned into cookies and aroma, both on display. The most engaging of the art projects however, was the body building contest organised among factory workers. They carried the roof tiles like leaden weights, mimicking body builders and posing for their own calendar pages which are displayed in the museum. Togar’s piece is humorous and playful yet keenly reflects on how it is to be one (literally and metaphorically) with the earth, as Jatiwangi’s tile factory workers’ bodies are hewn by their livelihood. Togar asks about memory’s construction alongside the mundane rhythms that pervade everyday life. He however punctures the everyday with an event, the body building competition that can be construed as spectacular, like festivals that cast commemoration, or it can be just a playful exercise to revel in the body, around which daily routines of town life revolve.