Pagpamulak, Pleiades, and Pusod at the UP Diliman Grounds

We formally launched three art projects inside the Diliman campus yesterday.

Pagpamulak means ‘to blossom’. The work gathers white painted concrete body parts at the edge of the Sculpture Garden. The pieces make a playground, where we can climb a belly, see saw on a pussy, and rest on a penis. These pieces take from artist Lee Paje’s 2011 project where vagina shaped chocolates filled with rice wine were offered to audiences during an exhibition opening.



Mark Justinian’s Pusod (navel) is at the UP Lagoon, a reflective disk during the day and a marvel of coloured reflections at night.



Agnes Arellano’s goddesses Pleiades descend from the heavens, their ethereal forms render the grove otherworldly.








LAWAS launch event April 11

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.

LAWAS banner 02 April

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.

Exhibition Views

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:

Carzen Esprela’s Bag in a Boat (2016)
A view of poet and artist Dumay Solinggay’s performance All you saw were my breasts  (2017) during the opening and Jose Tence Ruiz’s Skool (2016)
Martin de Mesa’s mixed media installation Noel’s Shrine (2017) and Kitty Taniguchi’s oil on canvas painting Feeding Aries (2013
Isha Naguiat’s installation Traces (2017)
Faye Abantao’s Blank Stares , Empty Faces, Hollow Life series (2017) and Rocky Cajigan’s Fabric of Activism’s installation (2017)
Jose Tence Ruiz’s editorial cartoons from the 1980s addressing regional (Southeast Asia and the world) issues, and Zeus Bascon’s Dead Masks (2014)
Henrielle Pagkaliwangan’s pen and ink drawings 1 Elf Gravel and 1 Elf White Sand (2017) and Kat Palasi’s photograph series Manila Region (2008-2017)
A still from Panx Solajes’s video piece Himurasak (2016)


Place of Region in the Contemporary – Traversals/Trajectories: Expansive localities

Still, Himurasak Panx Solajes 2017

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.

traversals trajectories icon final

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.

Plying the Seas, Divining the Skies (way finding in a tumultuous world)

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.

Jian Yi-Hong ink drawings on silk, 2017

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?

Au Sow-Yee, Kris Project I: The never ending tale of Maria, tin mine, spices and the Harimau, single channel video, documents, index cards, light box, 15 mins, 2016

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.

Wu Chi-Yu, Refraction video installation 9 mins and 50 secs, 2015

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.

Liu Yu, Mountain City video installation 2017

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’?

Lee Jo-Mei, Message from the Bottle installation, 2011

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.

Installation view, Juan I-Jong’s Man and Lang Syuhai, 1986 photograph from the museum collection and Wu Mali’s archive of the Plum Tree Creek Project
Wu Mali, 200906 Plum Tree Creek project, archive of ‘art as environment, A cultural action at Plum Tree Creek


Tropical Cyclone at KdMoFA Taipei

Tropical Cyclone is an exhibition I co-curated with Louis Ho, Tayeba Begum Lipi and Huang Hsiang. It opens 6 October 2017 Friday, 5PM at the Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts Taipei.  The 2017 Asian Contemporary Art Forum starts 9.30AM on the same day. You can find details and registration instructions here.


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.