writings, projects and exhibitions of Clarissa Chikiamco

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Child's Play

Yay! Christian Tamondong in Preview August 2007! Gosh, he has really developed over the years. The pictures, by the way, don't do his works justice. You really have to see it in person!

I'll probably type in more text next time, will run around like a headless chicken now to start writing/packing/whatever! Thought I'd post this already since I scanned it months ago.

Anybody want to recommend an art space in Sydney or Melbourne to visit? :)

Poet of Space

Here is the Leandro Locsin article at last! After I wrote this piece, I found out that my dad interviewed Locsin many years ago when he was delving into architecture for a change :) Recently, my friend and writing for the school paper. I should've used my dad's article as source! Oh well, it was still enjoyable Visual Pond org-mate/cofounder Tenten Mina came up with a fantabulous idea on a Philippine architecture project. A pop-up book!!!!!!! :D We're putting it in one of Visual Pond's to-do lists, hopefully it won't be a decade before we get to see that pop-up book dream come true!

Monday, October 22, 2007


The title of this post could also be "OR the reason I've been so busy and haven't updated this blog in a while!"

End Frame is the Philippine video art festival I started with my art management friends Rica Estrada and Tenten Mina last year with initial help by Cheska Tanada (who is currently working abroad till 2009). Together we make up Visual Pond, a non-profit organization committed to the visual arts :) We do work for our org in addition to our other work commitments (including full-time work) so it can get pretty crazy.

Anyway, last 12-16 October 2007, End Frame II took place at The Fifth, Shangri-La Plaza, EDSA cor. Shaw Boulevard, Mandaluyong, Metro Manila. (Shangri-La Plaza is a major shopping mall here in Metro Manila, easily accessibly by the MRT line) The festival was presented by Visual Pond, National Commission of Culture and the Arts, Listening in Style, Shangri-La Plaza, and Rodriguez de Alba Foundation for Creative Advocacy in partnership with The One Minutes, Pablo and Metro Home magazine with the support of the Ateneo Art Gallery :D

I should be writing more about it soon but for now please check out Visual Pond's multiply at http://visualpond.multiply.com to look at the pictures of opening night (good crowd!). Also uploaded in our multiply are PODCASTS - audio recordings of two talks that occurred during the festival. One is a talk on copyright issues of video art by Atty. Louie Calvario of Intellectual Property Office - Philippines and the other is an open forum on video art with resource speakers Teddy Co (Philippine video art historian and Member, Cinema Committee, National Commission of Culture and the Arts), Tad Ermitano (video artist who was part of both End Frame festivals) and Jun Sabayton (filmmaker, visual artist and independent curator who curated the all video art show Jumpcut 2 in Green Papaya in October 2006). The picture on the left shows Jun, Tad and Teddy during the talk.

The open forum, which revolved mainly on a question of the definition of video art, will particularly give foreign artists/writers/curators an insight to what is the state of the video art scene here. It is I think the first formal discussion on video art held in Manila.

You may also check out Tad Ermitano's blog at http://cavemanifesto.blogspot.com as he blogged about the forum. His work is the one you can seen on the left at the first photo above.

For those who really want to see more about the art scene here in Manila but are unable to come over, I suggest you create an account in multiply and start networking with many of us scenesters in the Manila visual arts scene. We often take pictures of the exhibitions we go to (praise the digital revolution!) and upload these on our multiply accounts. It's a great way to keep updated too since people often post announcements of their shows or friends' shows in their multiply's. And if some of us were unable to go to an exhibit, well, usually one who did get to go has uploaded pictures so we can check out the show at least through the documentation.

My multiply is http://lisachiki.multiply.com. I also upload non-art stuff there so don't be surprised :)

Now I'm leaving everyone with a pic of Visual Pond! :) Rica, Tenten and me in that order. Thanks to my mom who took the picture, haha! Good night and hope to post again soon :)

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Between Intersections

This is a rather belated post because I only realized recently that I haven't posted the text I wrote for the brochure-catalogue of the exhibition, Between Intersections, which Poklong Anading (2006 Ateneo Art Awards Winner & Recipient, 2006 Ateneo Art Gallery Sydney Studio Residency Grant) held last April 2007 at the Ateneo Art Gallery. I particularly like this piece of writing of mine so thought I'd include it here :)
*The picture above shows two walls/projections of the exhibit but there were projections as well on the two other surrounding walls not seen in the picture.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

State of the Art

Preview's July 2007 issue features Jason Moss in the Artscene! :) Please check out more of his stuff at http://weloveintimidation.com/jasonmoss! He's just got an overwhelming lot of experience and friends at such young an age, it'll be interesting to see how he progresses :) Some of his works kind of remind me of the late Onib Olmedo, THE Filipino expressionist who I think should be named a National Artist. (The very much awaited retrospective of Olmedo, by the way, opens on 27 September 2007, Thursday, at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Come and see the show!)

This issue marks a whole year of my writing for Preview magazine since my first issue was July last year. This is actually only my 10th Artscene article (Artscene was absent August 2006 and April 2007). It's great to find a magazine that really recognizes creativity especially with their annual Creative IT list (and I loooooove the artists that I wrote about this year - it comes out in October)! Funny how things come full circle - the title of my first article for Preview was Starter Art and now for my 12th, it's State of the Art!

I'm very excited about Preview's November issue - it's on video art, woohoo! Visual Pond, the non-profit organization that Rica Estrada, Tenten Mina and I set-up (with initial help from Cheska Tanada) is busy full throttle with our second video art festival, End Frame Video Art Project II: Daily Disclosures, which opens on 12 October 2007. You can check out our website at http://endframe.visualpond.org.

3:17 AM - another late night for me! I still owe everyone a post on my article in Metro Society June-July 2007 issue which is on the National Artist for Architecture Leandro Locsin. The current Metro Society issue out has my article on glass sculptor Ramon Orlina (and I'll be posting pics here I personally took!).

All right, that's it for me tonight. Two articles due for another publication this week o_O Time to up the caffeine!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Blanc, Art Informal, Heavenly Lightness + Faking It

Hello, it's September! As some of you have noticed, I have been delinquent in posting my writings lately. Last month was the completion of the Ateneo Art Awards 2007 - the exhibition and awards ceremony - and of course as coordinator of the project, that became the priority!

Well, I'll be posting a backlog of stuff this month! For right at this moment, I'm posting my articles from Metro Home's June - August 2007 issue. There are 2 gallery pieces - one on Blanc run by Jay Amante and another on Art Informal. Both galleries are relatively new and very welcome additions in the pluralism that is the Philippine art scene!

I also wrote a short piece, "Heavenly Lightness," on a talk given by Dr. Abraham Sakili on Philippine Muslim art at Lopez Museum. There's also another article on Tata Montilla, which is more of an artsy design article. I heard he was reunited with artists Cesare and Jean Marie Syjuco, old friends of his, through our interview!

Well, do pop over an email to letterstolisa@gmail.com to just say hi or whatever else. Getting these emails (knowing people are reading my writings!) always gives me the extra encouragement I need to keep on writing as it is difficult doing a full time job + managing a video art festival (we're only a group of 3!) + writing + going to all the art exhibitions that I possibly can, taking pictures while there for personal documentation! o_O Sleep? What is that again? Haha!

I've also posted more links to galleries, institutions, artist pages and will continually add more. Thanks to all the readers who are patient with my choppy posting. Hope you continue checking back the site :) I also regularly upload pictures from exhibitions that I go to on another site - email me if you want to check it out and I'll send the address.

It's 2:45 am. So good night and happy grandparents' day to all your lovely grandmas and grandpas! :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

New Guard

Preview June 2007 Artscene: I love, love, love Leeroy New! I think he's different and injects some real vigor in the art scene here! I'm very, very excited to see where he will be headed in the next few years. It's great to find fresh talent.

To see more of Leeroy's works, visit his multiply at strycatcher.multiply.com. He also has some works up in a group show, "A Massive Disoriented Order," which opened on 6 July 2007 at Art Informal on Connecticut Street, Greenhills.

The sidebar of Artscene features Alab and silverlens, both visit-worthy places! Alab is the art space of Intellectual Property Philippines and silverlens is one of the rare galleries focusing on contemporary Philippine photography (see "The Plight of Photography as Art" post). I also have two wonderful friends working on those spaces and it's great to be working with them!

Silverlens is opening a new show on 18 July 2007. The artist is Christina Dy, my former teacher. I learned so much from her and she jumpstarted my writing career :) Please go to her exhibit (and get a haircut from her as well!).

The July 2007 Preview is out in stands. Aside from seeing Power Plant Mall's fab Malou Pineda in the best dressed list (who is a big supporter of the Ateneo Art Awards!), you'll also get to see Jason Moss featured in the Artscene.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

What can art do in the face of global suffering?

Eeks, yes, I know I said I'd keep my blog updated regularly but errrr... o_O It's been a month since my last post!  Well, I still need to post the past Metro Home issue (the magazine is somewhere in my room...) and I already scanned the June 2007 Artscene of Preview. Will upload it this weekend! (seriously!)

I'm posting for now my recent column article on the exhibit Trauma, Interrupted. It was published yesterday in The Philippine Star, page G4. I found this exhibition particularly interesting because I've also tried to explore the links between trauma, art and healing a few years back. I did a couple of painting projects for the Philippine Children's Medical Center, cheering their Leukemia treatment room (with Splat! the painting club of Assumption College High School which I used to head) and another room with Christina Dy's painting class. More significant to me was the Art Workshop I organized for the Correctional Institute for Women and New Bilibid Prisons. My utmost thanks goes to all the people who helped in that - my parents, students from University of the Philippines who conducted the workshop for free, my friends Joanna and Renicca who facilitated at NBP and the relatives who donated money so I could buy the necessary art materials. I wish I had been able to sustain it but I was only 18 years old when I did this project. I really had to focus on my studies and
I haven't stopped being busy since! I hope that the inmates we gave the workshop to have kept on drawing...

Well, without further yakkity yak of mine, here's the article!

What can art do in the face of global suffering?
ARTICIPATION By Clarissa Chikiamco
Monday, July 16, 2007

In our third-world situation, it is not strange to encounter the charge that art is for the elite. Art is often seen as an excess and as a luxury and is the least of people’s priorities, if a priority at all. How can art be functional and what is its relevance in increasingly pressing times?

Curator Flaudette May Datuin poses this challenge in “Trauma, Interrupted,” an exhibition ongoing at the Cultural Center of the Philippines with works by artists foreign and Filipino. Raising and attempting to answer the query, “What can art do in the face of global suffering?” “Trauma, Interrupted” delves into the links between trauma, art and healing — how art can be the catalyst for people to reconcile with disturbing experiences, whether it be from grave conflict situations or personal emotional anguish.

In Terry Berkowitz’s “The Malaya Lola (Free Grandmother Project),” Terry gives face and voice to the events of Nov. 23, 1944 by photographing the still alive but aged women who survived a raid of Japanese soldiers in their village in Mapanique, Candaba, Pampanga. The close-up photographs of these women are mounted side by side in the third floor hallway stretch, making walking along it a striking and moving experience. The date of the event and the age and name of the pictured lola are posted underneath each photograph, underscoring the need to have the occasion recognized with a sense of urgency. A soundtrack that accompanies the piece also gives the lolas the chance to be heard. Asides from calling attention to the issue, the work is also imbued with a sense of hope. As Terry says, “Learning about the nightmare these women lived through and how they were able to continue on, get married (in most cases) and raise families is truly inspiring.”

Ann Wizer and Naomi Wizer-Green’s “Pain Drain” features a mother and daughter collaboration that recreates Naomi’s bathroom. In this personal space (what could be more private than one’s own bathroom?), Naomi draws and writes poems on its surfaces which become the channel through which she communicates with her mother. Scrawled on the wall are multiple passages. “Hello, I’m Naomi. I’m neurotic. Don’t believe me when I say I’m fine.” “Fate is an elegant, cold hearted whore.” “Jesus Christ; I’m not afraid to die(,) I’m afraid of what comes next.” Rather than being simply an observatory of how a mother and daughter convey to each other, the work is an interactive piece which allows the viewers to participate and scribble their own thoughts as well. Some of the writings of the audience include, “Silence is too loud sometimes”; “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”; and “Shit happens everyday.” “Pain Drain” works on the premise that verbalizing in writing and doodling give shape and form to personal situations, becoming the outlet in which these circumstances are self-acknowledged and in which steps to communication and understanding can be established, a response formed.

Personal space is something as well which Lyra Garcellano’s work touches on. After taking polaroids of several different bedrooms, Garcellano paints fire on the polaroids, emanating from the beds. The work, called “Burning Beds,” comments on how sites of (what ought to be) comfort, refuge and security can also be spaces of despair, violence, anger and distress, either by individual conditions or by outside situations which infiltrate to affect private lives.

In “Somewhere Tropical, In My Backyard Series,” Gina Osterloh, a Filipino-American artist based in the United States, confronts cultural identity in photographs that use a constructed  tropical set inclusive of a faux sunset background. One photograph shows a woman with her black hair and her brown skin (as seen in her hands as other parts of her are covered up in cuffed jeans, a white shirt, a jean jacket and black shoes) seemingly identifying her as Filipino. Yet, her face, turned away from the camera, signals a refusal to be pigeonholed in the clichés that come bound by coming from a certain culture or race. The work reverberates in current reality, with millions of Filipinos attempting to resolve their identities in foreign lands while dealing with a sense of isolation and displacement.

Alma Quinto’s “Ang Comfort Rooms ni Francis” is a collaboration between the artist, Francis Basas, Miho Nakanishi and Jelai Averilla. The installation is composed of three comfort rooms with holes in the ground for toilets with Alma basing the design on what she saw in evacuation centers in Bicol. Colorful tapestries copying the drawings of Francis Basis, a survivor of typhoon Reming and an occupant of a Bicol evacuation center, are mounted on the doors of these CRs which then become doorways that cohere with Francis’ past, present and future. The past (disaster) opens up to the text “BURY YOUR GUILT HERE” while the present (evacuation) opens up to “EMPTY YOUR POCKET HERE,” with an acrylic slit box provided for the audience to give donations to Francis’ education and needs. The future (Francis’ dream of a family being together forever) opens to “WISH YOU WERE HERE,” where viewers can make a wish and even say a prayer for Francis and other survivors to be reunited with their missing relatives. The CRs are contextualized by objects such as a pile of clothes or a garland of sampaguita flowers. In this work, Alma presents a creative way for people to be moved by and intimately involved in a rehabilitation effort when many have already been dulled by the constant call to give donations. (Perhaps getting artists’ inputs and involving them in projects may be an option that NGOs want to explore?)

It can’t be denied that sometimes art can be a cold and alienating fish. Yet, as this exhibit, which has many more works than mentioned in this article, so palpably shows, art is also a very practical and personal thing. It can be a means by which the afflicted can come to terms with painful ordeals and by which people can become aware and begin to reach out to others. In creativity and productivity comes a sense of self-worth as well. While arguably art is always relevant whatever the times, the pieces in this show assert art’s functionality and significance certainly well.

* * *

“Trauma, Interrupted” is currently on view at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Main Gallery and Third and Fourth Floor Hallways, at Roxas Boulevard, Manila until July 29. For information on the exhibit, visit http://www.trauma-interrupted.org. E-mail the author at letterstolisa@gmail.com or visit http://writelisawrite.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Larasati April 2007 Auction Catalogue (cover)

Okay, writing for the Larasati April 2007 auction catalogue wasn't easy. I had to write 34 captions on Philippine artworks (Not all captions to Philippine artworks are mine though, there were more than 34 Philippine artworks up for auction. I only wrote those submitted on behalf of Artesan Gallery.) and 34 biographies plus a major piece on modern and contemporary Philippine art for the Art Philippine section. Having to write that amount was staggering. I don't think I went anywhere without my laptop for weeks and, despite being freelance at that time, would still spend countless nights tapping away at the keyboard.

After a number of stressful weeks, I finally finished and must admit I'm quite happy I took on the job. I am still a mite upset that somehow a few typos appeared in a few write-ups (when the file I had sent to Larasati had no typos whatsoever) but I'd rather not wax about something that nothing can be done about anymore anyway. I do think that Larasati was very brave in giving such a major spotlight to Philippine art (which hasn't been done before by any other auction house). Really major kudos to them!

In the end, I was glad I managed to accomplish such a major task and look forward to doing similar projects in the future. My heartfelt thanks and appreciation goes to Roberta Dans, Director of Artesan Gallery, Singapore, who organized majority of the Philippine pieces for Larasati (and who hired me to write as well!), and her husband Andrew Thomas. They were marvelous hosts and sponsored my trip to Singapore for the actual auction. It was really an exciting and memorable experience!

I'll be posting more on this in the weekend to come plus the Metro Home articles on Possible Islands and Ralph Walker's collection. Comments are welcome at letterstolisa@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you!

"Thinking in 3D"

Preview May 2007 Artscene: Ovvian Castrillo, where have you been hiding? This sculptress is finally getting some attention and we hope to see more works of hers! There aren't a lot of Philippine sculptors so it's great to see more in the field!

Preview's June 2007 Artscene (the issue is out in stands already, grab a copy!) features Jan Leeroy New, a budding sculptor fresh from undergraduate studies from University of the Philippines-Diliman (he just graduated last March). I think Leeroy is amazing and his pieces are reasonably priced too. You can visit his multiply and see more works at http://strycatcher.multiply.com.

"The Art World's Newest Darling" or "Into the Light"

Here is the Preview Magazine March 2007 Artscene on Geraldine Javier (cover story- "The Art World's Newest Darling" or "Into the Light," page 80). If you're interested in seeing more of her work, Geraldine has an exhibition ongoing in Finale Art Gallery, Megamall which runs until 18 June 2007.

I'd like to give a hearty congratulations to Geraldine for her piece in the recent Christie's May 2007 auction that fetched more than $30,000 US. Everyone is trying to get their hands on a Geraldine Javier! You'll have to get in line though, there's already a long list!

Down and Up the Rabbit Hole...

It's been more than a month since my last post. Yes, I've disappeared down the rabbit hole for over a month not only in terms of updating my blog but seeing friends and exhibits as well! Work at the museum has been hectic and unfortunately I don't have the time to go to as many exhibitions or do as much writing as I'd like to.

Well, I've resurfaced to post the March 2007 issue of Preview Magazine on Geraldine Javier (a cover story!), the May 2007 issue of Preview on Ovvian Castrillo and the cover of the Larasati catalogue out last April (I wrote a number of write-ups there including a two-page piece on Philippine art).

I'm glad to know that people read my blog so I'll try to maintain it as best as I can!

Please come to the exhibition Trauma, Interrupted, which opens on 14 June 2007, Thursday at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. It features works by local and foreign artists which explores the links between trauma, art and healing. A talk begins on 14 June at 2 pm to be followed by the opening and performances at 5 pm. More information is available at www.trauma-interrupted.org.

Friday, April 27, 2007


So sorry I haven't posted in a while as I've been so busy writing. The next Metro Home issue will feature 5 pieces from me (3 galleries, 1 on Tata Montilla who does faux finishes and 1 on a lecture on Philippine Muslim Art at Lopez Museum) plus I'm working on a piece for Metro Society too (Leandro Locsin).

The Larasati Auction catalogue is OUT! :) I wrote the section on Philippine art, the collection organized by Artesan Private Limited headed by director Roberta Dans Thomas. I haven't been able to get my hands on the catalogue yet but I will during my trip to Singapore this weekend. Exciting!

Please visit the Larasati website to see the pieces for sale: www.larasati.net. Auction bidding is on 30 April 2007 :) Bid and support Filipino artists!

And for those wondering, I was paid a flat fee just for writing and no, I'm not dealing in art :)

Monday, April 2, 2007

The Plight of Photography as Art

Page E-1 of today's Star! :) http://www.philstar.com/philstar/lifestyle200704020501.htm Link will be active till Sunday, 8 April 2007.

For those looking for my recent articles, please note I still have to post my Preview March 2007 Art Scene piece on Geraldine Javier as well as my column piece last November, "The Miracle of Dorothy Hale," on a painting by Frida Kahlo. Also, there is no Art Scene for the Preview April 2007 issue but Art Scene returns with a feature on sculptor Ovvian Castrillo in May! :)

I've also got two articles out in the recent issue of Metro Home (one is on Possible Islands, a non-profit organization based in the Philippines led by German curator Johannes Schoen, and the other is on Ralph Walker's lovely art collection). For professional reasons, I will not be posting these pieces till the n
ext issue comes out after a few months.

The plight of photography as art

ARTICIPATION By Clarissa Chikiamco
The Philippine STAR 04/02/2007

For many of us working in the culture industries, we can only dream of a day when a large majority of the population takes an interest in the arts. And while only a tiny percentage actually wield paint brushes or genuinely even look at the various exhibits held at the malls, millions of Filipinos own and carry a medium used by a number of artists today: the camera.

No other medium has taken off to incredibly popularity as photography. Unfortunately, however, the number of camera-owning people has not translated into an equa
l number of people interested in photography as an art. In reality, the camera’s mass appeal has become like a curse on photography-based art as it has become less valued than art of more traditional media like painting and sculpture.

As Robert Quebral, one of the owners behind Blacksoup Project Art Space, an independent venue that shows photography, puts it, "Every Tom, Dick and Harry can shoot and print photos nowadays."

Tom, Dick and Harry may shoot and print and may even call themselves photographers but for those like Wawi Navarroza, the title "photographer" simply isn’t enough. Preferring the terms "artist working with medium of photography," "artist with camera" or "photo-based artist," Navarroza, who has staged solo exhibits at Blacksoup and Silverlens and is off to Russia in June to teach at the Fotomasterskie Petersburgskie School of Photography, is quick to point out that not all photographs can be called art. "The problem is oftentimes people forget that the words ‘creative’ and ‘artistic’ are two different things. The word ‘art’ is not a cosmetic you can apply to anything that happens to look ‘good’ or was superbly done." Navarroza also differentiates between commercial and art photography: comm
ercial as being made inherently for the purpose of making you buy, while art "makes you question things, to think, to feel, to be in touch with what is ‘human’ in you. Contrary to commercial goals, art doesn’t sell you bottled dreams and aspirations; it actually smacks you in the head and wants you to wake up and be aware."

Silverlens Gallery, the result of owner/photo-based artist Isa Lorenzo’s inability to find a gallery in Manila which understood the photography medium and process, is one of the few venues solely committed to showing photography
as an art form. Lorenzo shares, "I think that people in the Philippines have gotten used to seeing cliché images of sunsets and kalesas and understand those as ‘art photographs.’ In their way they are, but the photos we at Silverlens show are images that go beyond cliché and are really about a body of work with a strong idea and shown with curatorial cohesion." Seeing a further need, Lorenzo has set up the Silverlens Foundation, a grant-giving body that is offering critical support for photo-based artists to finish bodies of work and that is providing the backbone for a collection of contemporary Philippine photography.

Aside from Silverlens and Blacksoup, the only other venue this author can think of that exclusively shows photography is the Alcove at Filipinas Heritage Library with the three spaces each defining themselves distinctly. Silverlens banners being the only museum-quality space dedicated to photography and photo-based art; Blacksoup, as an independent art space, offers a more laidback setting and is ideal for quirkier work (such as the lomo exhibit last year); Alcove sets itself strictly for black-and-white photographs. Other venues which have developed a special focus for photography are Lumiere and One Workshop Gallery, although both places also show more traditional art forms, too.

That there are so little venues for photography-based art is testament to a very small market for this art form. The art industry is driven largely by the exclusive nature of pieces — of that one prized artwork unlike any other — which the very quality of photography defies. As a print, it can be continuously reproduced and while the artist only prints a select number, the easily replicated aspect, especially precarious in the age of the digital camera, can be rather a turn-off for art collectors. It "doesn’t sound seductive at all," Navarroza admits. For a living, many turn to event and commercial photography while only occasionally being able to show their photo-based art. Lorenzo smiles at this, saying, "Fortunate is the photographer who gets paid to do personal work."

While photo-based art is a long way off from being essentially appreciated as art in the Philippines (especially by those with antiquated ideas of what art is), there are signs that its recognition as an art form is increasing. A few years ago, a number of these spaces focused on photography didn’t even exist. Silverlens only launched in 2004, Blacksoup opened in 2005 and One Workshop only commenced its gallery and new studio last year. And while most photography exhibits in malls are commercial, cliché or tied to celebrities, a recent exhibit at the Mall of Asia, "Large 8," which featured photo-abstract works blown up to staggering scale, appears to herald a growing appreciation of photography as art.

Navarroza says, "Appreciating pictures for their sheer pleasurable aesthetic value, yes, we do have a lot of those. We all enjoy looking at pictures. But appreciating pictures further for their mental/spiritual/sensual/artistic implications or as critical mirrors to provoke thinking is few and far between. It requires a certain sensitivity of thought and depends on the viewer’s willingness to see beyond the 2-D image."

Appreciating at deeper levels? Seeing beyond the image? It seems that the plight of photography as art is the plight of art, indeed.
* * *
Silverlens Gallery is at 2320 Pasong Tamo Ext., Yupangco Bldg., Makati. Blacksoup Project Artspace is at Marikina Shoe Expo, Araneta Center, Cubao. The Alcove is at Filipinas Heritage Library, Nielson Tower, Ayala Triangle, Makati Ave., Makati. Lumiere Gallery/Café is on the ground floor, LV Locsin Bldg., Makati Ave. corner Ayala Ave., Makati. One Workshop Gallery is on the ground floor, 2241 La Fuerza Plaza ll, Sabio St., Makati.
* * *
The author may be reached at letterstolisa@gmail.com. Visit http://writelisawrite.blogspot.com.

Death of an Independent Art Space?

This piece was published on 29 January 2007, Monday, on page F-3 and F-4 of The Philippine Star. A couple of days later during the closing party of FP and Chunky Far Flung, I was told that the article became the talk of the town (or at least the talk of the Cubao X community, I guess!). Not exactly sure what they talked about since I only heard tidbits here and there!

Death of an Independen
t Art Space? by Clarissa Chikiamco

Independent art spaces are vital elements of a thriving art scene that allows unfettered creativity, unhampered by commercial aims. These spaces, being (nearly always) artist-run, pass the reins of control to the artist, who at times is at mercy to the other members of the art community (such as gallery owners, art critics, curators and collectors) and their pressures or demands that his/her – the very creator’s – potential and power to create seems mechanized or diminished in the process. While full control is not without its pitfalls as many artist-art managers have discovered, these spaces are still vibrant beacons of promise where many of the young in the art scene gather to support young artists, to brainstorm and concretize ideas or simply to experiment and produce something together.

Autonomously, an independent art space has its own value. Yet, when these spaces converge together in one location, it constructs an art community that magnifies the significance and sincerity of each space’s vision while furthering appreciation for the different kinds of art they provide. Manila has one such jewel, Cubao X or the historic Marikina Shoe Expo in Araneta Center, Cubao, which, amidst the shoes and an authentic Italian eatery, has several art spaces and quirky shops that complement its alternative offering. Events at this place for the past two years, ranging from exhibit openings to film showings to poetry readings to indie music playing, have been mainstays in the Manila cultural calendar, particularly for the fresh-faced (most who go here are in their 20s and 30s). A key contributor to the energy of Cubao X is Future Prospects, an independent art space founded by artists Louie Cordero, Cocoy Lumbao, Gary Ross Pastrana and Japanese curator Mizuki Endo.

But all of this is about to come to an end. Marikina Shoe Expo is under new management this year (it is now back to its original owners as the lease to the shoe shops who managed the place for several years has expired) and with this change is an increase in rent, the closure of Future Prospects along with some other art spaces and ironically, perhaps an attempt to market the place as an art venue. It’s like locking the barn door after the cow’s been stolen only this time, I think the cow ran away.

Apparently, the management seems to be under the impression that the spaces at Marikina Shoe Expo actually make money otherwise why would they increase the rent of Future Prospects from an estimated P18,000/month to P25,000/month – a nearly 40% increase?

Others at the Expo protested over Future Prospect’s rent raise as FP, as it is often called, really doesn’t earn money, played a large role in calling attention to the place and is often the one responsible for bringing a large crowd to the Expo, a benefit to the other spaces who do manage to make some sales. Dawning on the landlord how intrinsic FP is to the place, a counteroffer was made but alas, too late. The artists behind this central space had a firm wake-up call and have decided to pack up. This month is their last month in the Expo, much to the dismay of many of us who often attend their events. Unfortunately, FP isn’t alone. Also closing down at the end of the month is Chunky Far Flung, an exhibition space that sells figurines, comic books and other collectibles. Kukuada, a gallery owned by Dr. Joven Cuanang, has already closed along with Bespoke furniture store. Pablo, an art gallery and retail store that offers stylish home décor items designed by Manila’s cutting edge graphic designers, may not be far behind as co-owner Yo Garcia cites “communication problems with the present management” as making them open to the idea of transferring to a new location.

Maybe the new condominium being built around the corner is the reason why the rent is being jacked up. Perhaps they’ll market Marikina Shoe Expo (it wouldn’t be right to call it Cubao X anymore, I think, with so many fundamental spaces that made it Cubao X leaving) as a quaint Soho-style area with art and cafes, something like a bohemian Serendra? Not quite sure how that will turn out as someone recently said to me, “Have you been to Cubao [X] lately? The owner totally killed the place. Tsk tsk tsk.” The magic of an art community can’t be contrived. The moment it tries is the moment it’ll never get there.

In fairness, the initial higher rent and new management aren’t the only factors which have led the artists behind FP to reach their decision. Pastrana reveals FP’s closure as mired by the usual issues that surround independent spaces. The main issue, of course, always boils down to funding. FP held a raffle last year to take care of the rent. About 25 raffle tickets were sold for P10,000 each, guaranteeing each ticket holder an artwork from one of a promising roster of artists. The artworks were available for viewing during ticket sales then raffled during FP’s anniversary party. (Yet, 2-3 ticket holders didn’t pay up, which was rather inconsiderate.) With the raffle money going mainly to the rent and the hired tagapagbantay, the artists sometimes found themselves digging into their own pockets for the expenses in putting up their events because FP simply doesn’t earn. Artworks and other items at FP are rarely sold while drinks are given for free most of the time since it’s both tricky and awkward to ask FP’s friends and patrons, most probably struggling in the arts themselves, to pay.

Pastana also mentions the difficulties in having no staff, no office (no computer) and equipment problems. There’s also the do-it-yourself symptom that affects all those in art projects flailing for funding – taking on multiple roles because well, of sheer necessity. The artist becomes manager, curator, writer, designer, installer, invitation disseminator (via email/text) and even caterer. Unsurprisingly, artists have a tough time practicing their art while managing a space. The administration or day-to-day takes up a lot of the artist’s time that might otherwise be spent in a studio. Pastrana acknowledges the help of friends such as Buboy Cañafranca, Lena Cobangbang and Erick Encinares in running and managing FP.

Though is it really the death of FP yet? What are Future Prospects’ future prospects? Pastrana says they may open again in another location after a break of some months. He floats some ideas: one being to not be space-bound or site-specific but to create projects in different venues; another being having a shared space with a shared staff with 5-6 project directors – each director being assigned specific months to take charge of the space and to spearhead a project. Yet, there’s still nothing definite and, even if keeping the name of Future Prospects, the space (or non-space if they do decide not to anchor themselves somewhere) will probably emerge a different animal. It doesn’t mean it won’t be a great animal or an even better animal, just a different one.

No one expects an independent art space to last for a long period of time. Yet, for those of us who go to these spaces, we can’t help grieving a little when it comes to the end. As one door closes, another one opens, they say. Yet, we can’t help feeling that when that door was open, it was very, very good indeed.

Future Prospects is holding their closing party on 31 January 2007, Wednesday evening.

Taking It From the Streets

"Taking It From the Streets" made it as cover story of Preview's January-February 2007 issue! :) A follow-up to this article: Pilipinas Street Plan recently held their second exhibit at Cubicle Art Gallery, Stella Maris St., Maybunga, Pasig. It opened last February 2007.

Taking it from the Streets

By Clarissa Chikiamco

Early man’s innate urge to write on surfaces is evidenced by the cave drawings he’s left behind. It seems though that, despite the passage of thousands of years, the giant leaps of progress, the advent of technology and the movement to the modern and the postmodern age, some things never change. This primeval itch to decorate, to enhance, to brand and to recreate space is still flamingly present in 21st-century man.

While we can credit all forms of visual art to this pining, its closest descendant today is probably none other than graffiti or street art. Modern graffiti, which began in the late 60s in Philadelphia and New York and erupted full scale in the 70s and early 80s, has become a worldwide phenomenon. Street artists are tagging (writing their handles or pseudonyms) and bombing (marking as many surfaces as possible) in all corners across the globe and, thanks to technology, reaching more audiences and forming collaborations across borders.

The launch of Street Plan: Street Art Manila Expo at the Store for All Seasons last September marked the first time Filipino street artists gathered together to show in one venue. Finally united under an art collective called Pilipinas Street Plan, the artists will continue to present their ideas in public venues while aiming to educate people about their form of expression. Often regarded as vandalism, works of gangsters and signals of pathos in the city, street art struggles still for acceptance and due recognition despite already being exhibited in galleries and museums abroad. Boyagimat, who thought of the exhibit, notes on their group’s intentions, “We just want to bring back the streets to the people, [that] it’s a public space and not a corporate space… We are fedup with advertising and political images on the streets – monstrous billboards of cellphone companies, mayors and congressmen: we are being manipulated with these images.” This anti-commercialist bent is an outright refusal to capitulate to the powers that be, even if it seems as miniscule as slapping on a small sticker on the MRT while whizzing past a million and one signages thousands of times bigger.

Noble? Yes. Illegal? Yes. Filipino street artists have cops, tanods, MMDA and dogs at their heels, compelling them to select a designated lookout in group works to prevent any run-ins. Individually, they must work quickly or risk getting caught (and some of them have) and, equipped with their spray cans, markers, posters and stickers, should be ready to strike at ripe opportunity. Pictures are taken of the finished work as a permanent record due to its ephemeral nature (might be taken down, painted over or be subjected to eventual deterioration due to the elements). The artists however are not averse to doing traditional paintings on canvas – indeed, most started out this way – but it’s the street that beckons to them, asking them for something – not just anything like some random, meaningless scribble – that can change her and make passersby sit up and take notice.

This sentiment is obviously shared by street artists around the world, creating a communal bond strengthened by the ability to instantly share works and ideas through the internet. In fact, 45-60 international artists from North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia answered the Street Art Manila’s open call for an international wall of stickers and posters with Oneday from Malaysia and CAML from Australia going the extra mile to be at the exhibit in person. The enthusiastic response has led Pilipinas Street Plan to arrange for more projects next year involving the international street art community.

Boyagimat muses on the local context of street art, “Most Filipinos never have a chance to go to museums or galleries and are intimidated to enter such venues. So by doing street art we show a different perspective of art viewing and appreciating.” So expect to see some art coming at a street near you.

Graphic Details

This piece, featuring artsy products to give as Christmas presents in Preview's stunning December 2006 issue, was so fun to write! I wish we could have featured more but some weren't able to have their products photographed by deadline plus there really wasn't enough space as well. I've recommended to Power Plant Mall to do a Christmas bazaar of all this kind of art-related products. It will really make your special someone's Christmas or birthday or day (for any occasion!) special! Plus there are a wide array of products for different budgets.

Boston, Avellana + Duemila


The piece below was the exhibition text for the Ilusyonada exhibit of Mica Cabildo, AJ Omandac, CJ Robles and Ray Zapanta at Chungky Far Flung, Marikina Shoe Expo, Araneta Center, Cubao (Chunky is now closed. Please see my piece "Death of an Independent Art Space?" published last 29 January 2007) in November 2006.


Virtual (adj.) – near, practical, effective, fundamental, essential, implicit, cyber

– actual (antonym)

(adj.) – fake, replicated, pretend, imitation, virtual, computer-generated

– genuine (antonym)

(n.) – realism, actuality, authenticity, truth, certainty, veracity

Ilusyonada is an examination on the virtual reality of the 21st century society. Advancements in technology have created new pathways of communication, altering social interactions and modes of relations while depreciating physical contact and tangible exchanges. It is a world present human civilization is becoming increasingly dependent upon and engulfed in, threatening to absorb the susceptible into its folds of codes (or rather, its emoticon embrace?).

Filipinos have particularly latched on to it because of their non-confrontational nature (text over calls have made the Philippines the texting capital of the world). But on a global scale, those especially taking on to the cyber network are the young who easily adapt to and mold their own language. The youth, who are also in the midst of questioning and forming their self-identity, use technology to create, define and enhance their individualities (Friendster, Myspace, Multiply, blogsites, etc.). Some use it to hide behind masks, to create and present themselves in a way they wish to be perceived in face-to-face encounters while others are able to reveal their true selves in the absence of peer pressure and physical bias.

Technology has frankly become the system by which people today create and broaden their space, without having to leave the house or the internet cafe. A few clicks open users to a whole network: to online communities with shared interests and shared purposes (dating anyone?), to instant news and information (subscription to newspapers have been declining as more people read up online), to worlds of fantasy and desire (RPGs, MMORPGs, RTS, CORG, porn), to simply keeping in touch with loved ones abroad and next door (or in the next room). Does technology isolate or augment? What has become dominant? Man or machine?

It is in this context that AJ Omandac, Mica Cabildo, Ray Zapanta and CJ Robles use traditional art media to scrutinize the culture of new media. Inappropriate? Maybe so. Yet, both virtual reality and the painted image are a veneer to something esoteric and multi-faceted, with meanings general and personal to creator and audience. Technology is bringing so many means in which to communicate. But behind the sleekness, the faster-than-whippet quickness, the shimmery glaze of the screens is the mirrored truth: that reality is simply what we make of it.