Contemporary Art and the Region

Curator and art historian Patrick Flores and I will be in conversation at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila on 22 September 2018, Saturday from 2 to 4PM. Referencing exhibitions currently on view at the museum, Patrick will reflect on and explore ideas of the contemporary and the region. In response, I will discuss modes and lenses through which to understand aspects of Philippine contemporary art.

Registration is required for this event. 



Happening this week

Artists Roberto Feleo and Antipas Delotavo simultaneously open exhibitions at the UP Vargas Museum March 11th Friday, 4PM


I will be in conversation with artists at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila for Direction 2016 of the permanent exhibition Philippine Contemporary Art March 12, Saturday 2 PM

Open Dialogues poster 2016

 Curator Dr. Shoichi Hirai talks about the ongoing Gutai exhibition at the Ayala Museum on March 13, Sunday 4PM


Infinite time, proximate distance

Exhibition notes for Direction 2016 at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila

Works in this edition represent a mode of storytelling that captures movement across media, a crossing of boundaries buoyed by a world building impulse that focuses on the formation of contemporary understandings of existence in time and space.

PCA Print

This current, as we are in the world in the moment, is conveyed through forms that are tactile, textured, expansive yet intricate. In these works, time is arrested or reversed, fabricated, spooled and unfurled. Its elusive nature is grounded however fragmentarily, in the firmaments of space. This claiming of place is condition we all desire, however transient we have become: place constructed within familiar confines, in strange lands and distant shores, even fantasy worlds.


These reconstructions of time and place are discerned in process and technique, in recasting space, and in enlivening stories that challenge our capacity for belief. Modes vary – they include thread sewn into image, colloids on surface, industrial material painstakingly built up and bound, the body flattened on screen in a video game relay, a flimsy pin coaxed into forms that defy its very nature. They are also about the reinvention of worlds: the past in artefacts, fragments of gestures recorded and evidenced by shards, folklore in a miniature world, the belly of hell in mirrored reflections or the kaleidoscope thicket of a fictional forest.



However diverse, the pieces cohere in gestures of embodiment, through vessels that is our physical bodies, through sensor that is affect: they remind of despair and hope, happiness and woe, whether in recollections of abandonment and loss, or the vestiges of art’s methods. These strongly imply that the imagination offers a wide berth to explore and examine how it is to be in our moment, ‘as is happening’ within pools of transcendence while nearly submerged in a mire of conflict and loss.

Panahong walanghanggan, distansiyang malapit lang

Salin Joey Baquiran
Representasyon ang mga obra sa edisyong ito ng isang paraan ng kuwentong nakakahuli ng pagkilos sa iba’t ibang midya, nakakatawid sa mga hanggahan na binubuhay ng udyok na lumikha-ng-daigdig na nakatuon sa pagbuo ng kasalukuyang pag-unawa sa pag-iral sa panahon at espasyo.
Naipapahayag itong daloy, na kinalalagyan natin sa sandaling ito sa daigdig, sa mga anyong nasasalat, may ligasgas, lumalawak pero masalimuot. Dito sa mga obra, napapatigil ang oras o napapabalik, nalilikha, naiikid o nakakalag. Nakabatay ang mailap na katangian nito gaano man kapira-piraso, sa himpapawid ng espasyo. Hinahangad nating lahat na kondisyon itong pag-angkin sa pook, gaano man tayo tila palagiang paalis: lugar na nilikha sa loob ng pamilyar na sakop, sa mga kakaibang lupain at ibayong-dagat, kahit pa nga sa pantasyang daigdig.


Makikita ang mga rekonstruksiyon ng panahon at pook sa proseso at teknik, sa muling-paghubog sa espasyo, at sa mga nakakabuhay na kuwentong humahamon sa kakayahan nating maniwala. Nag-iiba ang mga paraan—kasama ang pagtahi ng sinulid sa imahen, colloid sa rabaw, industriyal na materyal na matiyagang binuo, pinalapat na katawan sa iskrin para sa pasahang video game, marurupok na karayom na hinikayat sa mga anyong bumabanat sa mismong kalikasan nito. Tungkol din ang mga ito sa reimbensiyon ng mga daigdig: ang nakaraan sa mga artefak, mga piraso ng muwestrang naitala at napatibayan ng mga bubog, kuwentong-bayan sa isang munting mundo, ang kaibuturan ng impiyerno sa mga nasasalaming repleksiyon o sarikulay na kakahuyan ng imahinaryong gubat.


Gaano man karami, nagkakaisa ang mga obra sa muwestra ng pagsasakatawan, sa mga sisidlang ating mga pisikal na katawan, sa pamamagitan ng pandamang matutukoy bilang damdamin: nagpapaalala ng desperasyon at pag-asa, saya at dalamhati, ito man ay sa pagbalik-tanaw ng pagpapabaya at kawalan, o mga bahid ng mga pamamaraan ng sining. Matinding pinapakahulugan nito na naghahandog ang imahinasyon ng malawak na pagkakataon upang masaliksik at masuri kung paano manatili sa ating mga sandali, “habang nangyayari” sa mga munting lawa ng pag-angat habang halos nakalubog sa pusali ng hidwaan at pagkaligaw.

Art for Mondays: Mdm B. Niyaan by Russ Ligtas

February is amassed with art events in the Philippines. It is Arts Month here. Apart from writing seemingly countless essays in the first two months of the year, I had the privilege of curating and updating the Direction section of the Philippine Contemporary Art exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila.

Patrick Flores, foremost historian of Philippine art and art critic opened the exhibition two years ago. The museum has plans to recreate its sections periodically to heed the calling of the contemporary. The first such update is the 2016 edition of Direction. We had the soft opening (a bigger launch together with one other section is slated later in the year) last Saturday, 20th February. We opened with artist Russ Ligtas‘s performance of Mdm B. Niyaan.



Mdm. B. Niyaan is well choreographed, interspersing video projection, spoken word, written texts, dance, song, and audience collaboration. It is a poignant, powerful, emotionally unsettling and moving piece. Russ reembodied one of several alter egos: Mdm. B. Niyaan is abandoned and  bereaved but eventually liberated from pain. We witness her confronting the enormity of loss. Russ describes the piece as ‘an intimate rite of ex[c]orcism’, and we see him transported by way of his body, a web camera, a laptop screen, a wall projection and in the most intimate trappings of this personified self: his voice, his movements, and the paraphernalia of an invented persona.



Russ moves powerfully yet is fragile like a doll, his boyish frame belying the power of his voice and the strong tension and force emanating from his limbs outward in space, parsed and owned as the physical vessel of the performance and as the interior recesses of emotions. The piece successfully braided the intimate with the shared: we have all experienced degrees of abandonment at some point in life. It is frank but not jarring because there is underlying vulnerability that solders it into a touching whole.

Mdm. B. Niyaan is poetic outpouring yet withholds much as it suggests we shroud it with empathy and our own unspoken pains. It ended with all of us chanting fragments of a song, its rhythm like a lullaby to which we sleep cradled in love’s embrace or soothed by our surrender to forgiveness.


A filmed performance in another venue is on view at the Direction section of the Philippine Contemporary Art exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila.

Russ’s thoughts about his art:

“I am not sure if there are artists. There is only art.My art is lived. It is exploration of the self. It is dangerous.

I confront the realities of my being – all conflicting facets, the illogical desires and fears, the demons and gods, my histories and trajectories. Some of them have become alter egos. They are me and they are not me. They are no one and they are everyone. They use art as a disguise for normalcy.

My performance engages notions of reality and questions authenticity. It is theater and it is not theater. It is performance art because it is a form of channeling. It might not be performance art because it is framed by theater. It is expressed theatrically. I refuse to call it theater. My performance is resigned to the fallibility of human perception. I embrace this obliviousness. In my ignorance, I create an experience of truth.”






Philippine Contemporary Art: Directions

An update to the Directions section of the Philippine Contemporary Art exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila will be on view starting tomorrow, 20 February 2016. Prior to the soft opening will be an interactive performance by Russ Ligtas at 4PM at MetLab.

Artists whose works are included in this recreated section express a leaning towards crossing over media, whether through use of material, the deployment of technique, the reworking of sources, the creation of experience, or the expression of oft-told themes. I find myself inclined towards pieces that combine intricacy and sweep in scale, noting how complexity can be embodied this way. Several of the works speak to this attribute.

PCA-Directions-Poster Collateral