From virtual art fairs, to online indie film festivals, Minecraft nightclub servers, and supporting creative initiatives, Jessica gives you the low-down on 7 Philippine art highlights this year.
(Banner: image sourced from Norberto Roldan's Ziggurat exhibition at Silverlens Gallery, 2020)
Let's face it - staying in another month long lockdown is making us feel even more restless. As a finally degree-certified art history nerd, one thing that I really do miss is the chance of being able to visit art exhibitions, opening shows and galleries.
It's no surprise that COVID-19 and strict lockdown measures created a difficult situation for those working in the cultural and creative industries across the world. The result of it all? Immediate losses and major drawbacks for the world’s most infamous art institutions (check out this article here on how COVID-19 has affected museums). But all faith is not lost for the brave souls who entered 2020’s gates of chaos and confusion; artists, creatives and curators were forced to be resourceful and resilient within these challenging times.
This past summer was also meant to be my opportunity to visit current shows around Manila before heading off on to do my master's, but like a lot of people, I got stuck in this pandemic brain drain (oh how I've been longing to buy those cheap postcards of the artist's work you can buy in the gallery gift stores!). But if I could name one good thing that came out of being stuck at home during a seemingly endless lockdown, is the wonder of practically almost everything shifting to online conferences and remote exhibitions. In fact there were a lot of things going on that suddenly became easily accessible online, that it was actually hard to keep up with the cacophony of art exhibitions and virtual happenings! The best part about the shift to the virtual art utopia, is that almost all of them were accessible with little to no extra expense (saving you from buying expensive flight tickets, phew).
Now the world is slowly preparing for a new normal, I can’t help but reflect on these past eight months and how much I’ve experienced a real bout of FOMO on the current Philippine art scene. To cure this intense dread of missing out on the latest cultural events, I’ve decided to share with you a comprehensive online guide to Philippine art for all you lovely quaranteeners...
Art Fair Philippines back in February seems like a lifetime away - but not to fret - Mindanao Art Fair is finally here!
“Living art in a new landscape” is indeed a perfect description for the artist’s current environment in 2020. Organising an art fair in the middle of a pandemic with limited resources and the nation’s IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for COVID-19) protocols constantly breathing down the curator’s neck is, without a doubt, no easy feat. The curators of MinArt 2020 managed to make the most out of an uncompromising situation; visitors are invited to visit the fair located in the Malayan Colleges campus (Davao City, Mindanao), but they can only do so by appointment. Given the restrictions caused by the pandemic, the scheduled Mindanao Art Talks that accompanied the opening of MinArt Fair were streamed online, all of which you can still access here on their Facebook page: MinArt 2020.
MinArt Fair 2020 also features Third Spaces - a collection of ten architectural designs by Jon Traya for museums and galleries conceptualised across the Mindanao landscape. As described by Kidapawan based writer-historian Karlo Antonio Galay David, “Third Spaces museums are designed to foreground how colonial, modern, globalized consumerism has rendered local imagery in Mindanao alien and unknown to Mindanawons themselves, the norm being the Westernized or Filipinized generic that pervades the urban landscape.”
Not only is it a celebration of Mindanao’s artistic and cultural creativity - it’s also a testament to how all the participating Mindanawon artists of MinArt Fair 2020 (whether undiscovered or already in the city’s big league of galleries and collectives) had survived despite the art sector being one of the hardest hit industries. The MinArt Online panel talks are also equally amazing, showcasing a whole range of curators, cultural workers and academics who stimulate discussions on creative production in a region away from the pre-supposed "Manila as centre".
And if you’re an art enthusiast, experienced or inexperienced collector, you can check out their catalog of artworks currently on sale and visit each of the virtual exhibits on their website.
It’s one of the biggest art fairs largely hosted online that took place in Southeast Asia, and it’s a gem not to be missed!
Now in its 16th year, the Cinemalaya Philippine Film Festival went ahead with its annual independent film competition set between August 7 - 16 2020. Rather than hosting it in their usual CCP (Cultural Centre of the Philippines) venue, the festival curators decided to stream the films of their 10 chosen contestants on Vimeo instead.
Although it may seem that independent Filipino/a filmmakers and screen-writers are amongst the group of creatives that are largely underrated, under-appreciated and unrecognised in the mainstream world of film production - this isn’t to say that Filipinos haven’t had their chance at the spotlight in some of the world’s infamous film festivals before; take for example the film classic Lino Brocka’s 1976 release of Insiang and Brillante Mendoza’s Ma’Rosa, which were both respectively screened in Cannes Film Festival in 1978 and 2016. The Philippines has had a good running streak in featuring their films at Cannes in recent years, and the streak only continues - for amongst the films featured in Cinemalaya 16 was director, screen-writer and cinematographer Hubert Tibi’s Pabása Kan Pasyón (Chanting the Passion) - which is also set to be screened in Cannes 2021. I submitted to purchasing the £3 admission price (around 200PHP) for Cinemalaya 16 on Vimeo, managed to watch all 10 featured films, and I've got to say experiencing the 14 minutes of Hubert Tibi’s beautiful cinematography and heart wrenching narrative of religion and faith in a changing landscape was well deserving of its Best Screenplay award.
Cinemalaya 16 also released a collection of film stills, behind-the-scene shots, posters and videoclips of the 10 contestant’s films and its other sub-competitions that you can find in this virtual exhibition: Cinemalaya 16: Stream Consciousness.
To find out more about Cinemalaya - The Philippine Independent Film Festival and some of the other features this 2020, visit their website here.
But what about the status of filmmaking during the COVID-19 lockdown? To continue on the subject of short independent films, Quarantimes: Short Films from the Regions is yet another group of indie filmmakers hailing from many regions across the Philippines showcasing their rough drafts and work online through a Facebook Watch Party.
These films aren’t amazing, perfect, nor clean cut (they give me that 48-Hour Film Challenge vibe that they usually do with the Film Society back in university) - but they do evince imagination and creativity during a time when filmmakers need to take in consideration physical-distancing rules and the reality of working with limited resources. With running time ranging between 2 minutes to 10 minutes, these ultra short films are personal, hard-edged, rough, raw and imperfect - making them all the more interesting to watch, and putting you in awe of the beauty in the survival of creativity during very challenging times. Below is one of my favourite short films that you can find on their facebook page:
Have a look through the collection of Quarantime videos here.
This is where things get interesting. For avid gamers, underground music and art enthusiasts - this feature is for you. I first came across Para://Site Projects when I was writing up (an eventually unsuccessful) research proposal, to which a mutual friend introduced me to visual artist Abbey Batocabe. Abbey, along with her brother Mariano Batocabe, are the co-founders of Para://Site Projects - a Manila based art collective based that focuses on the experimental, a platform for the “parasitic” and the interactive. The type of art that Para://Site projects tends to create is not fit for a refined cosmopolitan taste; it’s new, it’s odd, it’s kitsch, it’s weird, it’s underground (and certainly a type of art that I fancy). And to align themselves with their goal of “encouraging discourses among individuals'', what better way than to collaborate with Club Matryoshka - a virtual nightclub hosted on a private Minecraft server.
'Lo and behold, Internal Server Error! In this fantastical, pixelated contemporary art exhibit situated within Infinite Summer (Club Matryoshka’s 24-hour online music festival), you can find works made by real artists, like Mariano Ching's "Life During Wartime".
Check out some of the other works featured in Internal Server Error on Para://Site Project’s IGTV.
Load Na Dito is a contemporary art collective, spearheaded by curator Marumi Hirano and artist Mark Salvatus in 2016. With the crux of this collective stimulating creative and collaborative discussions amongst artists, curators and cultural academics. not situated in a single space and the breadth of their networks ranges from the local to the international.
In response to the pandemic, Load Na Dito Projects launched an online residency that gave artists the complete freedom to take over their instagram page. Traverse through their feed and you’ll find artist’s memoirs, notes, artworks and a report on visual artist Jo Tanierla’s current exhibition, Pagburo at Pag-alsa, at the UP Vargas Museum.
Check out the Pagburo at Pag-alsa virtual gallery walkthrough here.
As we continue down our list of art collectives and shows to check out, this one is for the art enthusiast and avid collector: Shelter Fund - a creative initiative of photographers and illustrators based in the Philippines. If you want to start getting into amateur art collecting, Shelter Fund doesn’t only provide a diverse collection of high-quality photographic prints and illustrations, but it’s also a chance to provide support to our struggling creatives during this time of the pandemic. The prices of the prints are a bit on the high-end (and that doesn't include shipping costs), but hey - if you find the right one that speaks to you, it’s certainly an investment!
Links: Print Jam 2020
Last year, Makati based Silverlens was one of the art galleries featured during Frieze London 2019, bringing with them Filipino-American artist Pacita Abad’s large-scale quilted trapuntos (three of which were actually acquired for the Tate Modern collection). Abad's work was also featured in Spike Island's (Bristol) exhibition, Life in the Margins which ended earlier this year. Frieze also went virtual this year, and although Silverlens didn’t participate they do have three exhibitions made by three different artists that you can either book by appointment (between October 17 - November 21 2020) or look at online too. Since some of us are still all the way in London - thank goodness for the latter option!
Pacita Abad is featured yet again in the show Masks and Spirits, as well as Yvonne Quisumbing’s collection of works in Apothecary: Prelude. If you truly want a virtual experience however, and not just stuck scrolling through online catalogues, Manila artist Noberto Roldan (and the director of contemporary art collective Green Papaya Art Projects located in Quezon City) is also hosting a virtual walkthrough of his exhibit, Ziggurat. Roldan can be described as a veteran in the Philippine art world. His works have been featured in international biennales and also founded the former artists group called Black Artists in Asia (1986).
Unfortunately, Green Papaya is coming to end this following year, and in homage of the art collective and the fire that befell their artistic space in 2008, the Silverlen’s Ziggurat show displays Roldan’s creations from the salvages of that fire. A “ziggurat” is a pyramidal structure, a foundation often used in the architecture of temples to represent the ascension up to the heavens. By employing such a structure into his assemblages, Roldan creates multiple references to religion and faith and memory, creating miniature shrines from the objects found out of the remnants of the fire.
You can register for the virtual walkthrough of Norberto Roldan’s Ziggurat art exhibition (Thursday 12th November 2020) here.
Let's share these amazing virtual art exhibits online and let everyone know about Filipino/a creatives. This list is certainly not exhaustive. In fact, I had a ton more to share with you - but I'll leave them down here as links below.
Happy Quaranteening in UK Lockdown 2.0!
Other art exhibitions and collectives to look out for: