Art & Development, Community, Travelogue

Exchange: Talking, drinking, laughing, eating, looking

The heart of the Galleon Trade exchange exhibition is face-to-face contact. I feel extremely lucky to be one of the nine California-based artists who were able to pull away from busy-ness in the States to interface directly with Manila’s artists.

A few memorable sites/situations:

mogwai screening room
[Mogwai screening room: (l-r) Reanne Astrada, Romeo “the oldest punk rocker” Lee, two Filipino artists–one named Jet and another whose name I can’t remember–and the artist Gerry Tan. Photo by Stephanie Syjuco.]
Cubao X slide show. A self-organized presentation of work by contemporary Filipino artists at Mogwai, a brand-new, hip café with a sleek upstairs screening room. Cubao X is a locus of galleries, design shops, comic book stores and restaurants that once housed artists studios, and before that, the Marikina Shoe Expo. Though local artists are ambivalent about the displacement of artist’s studios for artsy commerce, I was still impressed that the owners of Mogwai made the glam screening room available for an artist slide show.

emil yap studio
Cavite studio. Emil is a social realist painter and installation artist, and a longtime activist. The social change of the 1960s in the States seems so distant to me, but for Emil, the Philippine’s people power movements of the 1970s and 80s are part of his personal and artistic history. Emil is also my cousin.

poklong anading Untitled Gaze  2007, Photographic Transparency   90 x 192 inches
[Poklong Anading, Untitled Gaze, 2007, Photographic Transparency, 90 x 192 inches. From Finale Gallery]
Megamall closing. I had the good fortune to attend the closing reception of Poklong Anading’s exhibition at Finale Gallery in Megamall in Manila. (Yes, there is a mall called Megamall, and yes, it’s common and unsurprising for Manila’s commercial galleries to be located there. The location is apt, since malls offer a clean, air-conditioned escape from the chaotic, humid streets outside.)
Poklong makes top-notch object- and photography-based relational art. On display at the closing was a back-lit, life-sized photograph of viewer’s backs as they packed the narrow storefront gallery during the opening. Inside, an oversized mousetrap made of neon and cement hummed with an audio track of chatter. I thought the work was elegant and smart. It expressed Poklong’s ambivalence on the social nature of art openings and the commercial context of the gallery (mall signage could be seen in the reflection of the windows in the photograph, and it was mimicked in the neon sculpture). On another level, to look at the photo resulted in a curious effect of being physically outside of the gallery as well as the a circle of opening attendees photographed.

Art Grill audience
[Artists and audience at the ArtGrill: (l-r) Galleon Trade artist Johanna Poethig, Gerry Tan, yet another Filipino artist named Jet, sound artist Chris Brown, and artist and mag:net gallery owner Rock Drillon. Photo by Eliza Barrios.]
Q. C. Q&A. mag:net café Katipunan in Quezon City (Q. C.) held an ‘ArtGrill’ featuring in Galleon Trade artists. I’m glad I had the chance to contextualize my Regalos project, as it helped people like Gerardo Tan, a conceptual artist and Dean at the University of the East College of Fine Arts, to better appreciate my ideas. It was also really nice to hear my fellow artists talk about their work. For example, Stephanie Syjuco, who left the Philippines as a young child, discussed her work in relation to forging/counterfeiting her identity, which took on new meaning in the context of the Philippines.

Artist's Salon at the Living Room
[Artists’ Salon at The Living Room, hosted by Carlos Celdran. Photo by Stephanie Syjuco.]
Crowd at Living Room
[Audience. Photo by Stephanie Syjuco.]
carlos celdran
[Carlos Celdran checks the projection. Photo by Eliza Barrios.]
Malate Salon. Carlos Celdran did a fabulous job leading the discussion at The Living Room, an alternative space and art residency. With his familiarity with critique that seems more Western than Filipino, Celdran pressed the Galleon Trade artists with very thoughtful questions. He asked me about the cultural appropriation of using balikbayan (literally, “going home”) boxes. I took it as an opportunity to pursue a question that Carlos constant poses about art: “Is it Filipino?” People always asked how many Galleon Trade artists are Filipinos or Fil-Ams. I also found the constant discussions about who does or doesn’t look Filipino very curious—after all, Filipinos, more than Americans, have a broader understanding of Chinese and Spanish influences in Filipino blood. So I found it interesting that as a Chinese, I would be appropriating the balikbayan box, while my intention was to express my skepticism of my contribution as an American.
Afterwards, during a surprise birthday party for me (lucky me!) the Galleon Trade artists had the honor of having our photo taken by Juan Caguicla, an incredible photographer who happened to be renting us a room down the hall.

More words and pictures to be posted soon. In the meantime, see pictures and posts about the Galleon Trade expedition at:
Official Galleon Trade news blog
Jenifer Wofford’s blog, Wofflings
Claire Light’s blog, Atlas(t)


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