writings, projects and exhibitions of Clarissa Chikiamco
Friday, March 30, 2007
"The Light of Fernando Zobel" is my first article for Metro Society, published in the October - December 2006 issue. Fernando Zobel was an artist and art patron, supporting and collecting the art of his fellow artists while they were still struggling to be recognized. It is due to his sharp eye and his generous bequest to the Ateneo that we have the Ateneo Art Gallery, the first and premier museum of Philippine modern art.
For Philippine Video Art? More Things to Come
By Clarissa Chikiamco
Today marks the opening of the End Frame Video Art Project, the first Philippine video art festival, at the North Court of Power Plant Mall. Spearheaded by Visual Pond, a non-profit organization co-founded by this author with fellow art managers, and under Power Plant Mall’s Focus on the Arts Program, End Frame aims to call attention to and create discussion on video art done by Filipino artists and experimental filmmakers.
Throughout the duration of the festival, September 25 – 28 at the
The beginnings of this project can be traced to August last year when I met Kentaro Taki, director of Videoart Center Tokyo, at the Asia-Europe Art Camp in
Video art, though, should not be confused with simply video. The medium of video alone is insufficient to classify something as video art. The idea and intentionality of the artist must be considered, particularly its noncommercial nature and yes, the art-for-art’s-sake thing again, as well as the conceptual value garnered by the viewer. Of the latter, de Guzman summed up the feeling during the screening of entries, “You know it [video art] when you see it!” (Of course, one must take into account that the “you” is always relative which is why there’s hardly ever, if ever, a 100% consensus on what is art and what isn’t.)
If that seems rather murky, Videoart Center Tokyo gives rather clear-cut criteria on video art: no straight narrative/documentary, no commercial film, no Mtv, no
Video art is another realm being explored by Filipino artists and, as the publication of a still of Tad Ermitano’s work Hulikotekan v. 2.1 in the latest issue of Time proves, our artists have got what it takes to burst into the international art stage. It’s with this frame of mind that we formed a partnership with The One Minutes Foundation, an organization based in
This Olympic One Minutes will also feature distribution/exhibition of works via mobile phone, demonstrating that today’s art can be viewed by simply reaching for the device in one’s pocket. Video art’s increasing use in the visual arts scene is a result of the times we live in when even McDonald’s puts a plasma television in their store and we are continuously exposed (or assaulted?) by moving images in the everyday. The language of this media resonates with a broader audience and the accessibility of technological equipment enables artists to shoot and edit on their own.
Exhibition though can sometimes be a problem, particularly in video installations that use multiple monitors. That’s why I tip my hat off to the Listening Group of Companies, particularly their Chief Operation Officer Levenson Rodriguez, for the technological support not only for End Frame but for the Philippine video art scene. The Listening Group of Companies, together with Visual Pond, plans to sustain the momentum of this project through a continued showing of video art in the three different Listening branches at Power Plant Mall,
One wonders, however, how far video art can go without financial support. While a new breed of art collectors is amassing young, contemporary and avant-garde art, would they go so far as to collect video? In our culture of piracy and mass reproduction, how much is one willing to pay for a video artwork? How can video art be enjoyed by a collector? What is the role of our art museums in terms of this new media?
There are many questions unanswered still and perhaps all the more elicited from the project. Yet, as long as more people become aware and start thinking of these possibilities, stimulating dialogues and discussion, it’s a certainty that we will have a healthy local video art scene and it’s with feeling that I believe we are on the tip of an iceberg, with many more things for video art to come.
The artists and the artworks that are being shown in Power Plant Mall are Adjani Arumpac, Ab Ovo; Ramon Bautista, The Persistence of Vision; Jasmin Bernardino, One Becomes Two; Bea Camacho, Enclose; Dante Dizon, Light Headed; Tad Ermitano, Hulikotekan v. 2.1; Rodel Gadapan, Glimpse of Reality; Mitch Garcia and Ian Madrigal, RPG II: Culture Shock or Culture Sucks; Miguel Gonzaga, Premonition; Antoinette Jadaone, It feels so good to be alive; Richard Legaspi, Kahon and Claro Ramirez, Jr., Bandera.
End Frame at the
Power Plant Mall is located at the
This piece, originally entitled "Art Connection," was edited and published as "Starter Art" in Preview Magazine's July 2006 issue. Below is the unedited version.
By Clarissa Chikiamco
Art, for many people, connotes something that is sacred, expensive, elitist and even baffling. There seems to be a wide gap between art and the audience as the average person struggles to understand why certain paintings are revered while others are not. A work, for example, may have a single streak of color on a white canvas affecting people to say “But I could do that!” Museums and more formal types of art galleries tend to be alienating at times to those who don’t have much of a background on art.
There are, however, a number of artists in
AJ Omandac, who recently held a one-man show Chop-Chop at Store for All Seasons, says he made a conscious choice to do lowbrow to reach a wider Filipino audience. He explains that, “As an artist, I have this objective to mirror that [pop culture] reality.” The influence of pop culture connects to the audience who instantly has a sense of familiarity with the works while the perspective of the artists themselves rings true for many. Bru, an artist who is also part of the illustration-graphic design studio Electrolychee, says, “Lowbrow is not really lowbrow for me, its just art that's more accessible and cool to a younger audience. It relies more on what looks good and feels right instead of what a hoity-toity art critic thinks, or believes would be a money-making investment. If this is lowbrow, then yes. In the
The venue and the crowd help the audience in connecting to the works as well. Mica Cabildo, who also mounted a recent exhibit at Store for All Seasons, says, “Common people feel intimidated by posh galleries even when art exhibits themselves are free. There's the attire you have to think of, the crowd, the need/desire to appear cultured, and the divine cleanliness of everything. People are less self-conscious and can therefore appreciate art more in places that make them feel at ease with themselves.” A relaxed and common venue, like a clothing store or restaurant, makes art seem more a part of the everyday, somehow de-mystifying the works.
Yet, one of the most important factors that have made lowbrow art enjoyable to many is the price. Prices usually range from P1500-4000, which is definitely affordable compared to the prices of artworks made by artists with a more formal and fine arts background. Buyers, according to artist Marcushiro who is the other half of Electrolychee, are “mostly the young and the young at heart.” While an audience can appreciate art no matter its cost, budget-friendly prices opens the door to its acquisition, drawing a whole new connection to the viewers as prospective owners.
Mica confesses she feels a little guilty about buyers her age shelling their allowances to buy her works but says it makes her beam as well. The accessibility and the affordability in the lowbrow scene has created an exciting art market handled mostly by young ones who believe that there is more to art than what museums and traditional galleries offer. Yet, it is interesting to note that, while buyers of lowbrow art don’t commonly acquire it for investment, it’s always possible that the “powers that be” in formal art circles might in the future acknowledge this art movement and give it a similar degree of sacredness as other art developments. The irony wouldn’t be lost on lowbrow artists, that’s for sure.
Have Our Artists Found the Filipino Soul? The Search for the Filipino in Philippine Art is Still (and Probably Always Will Be) Plagued By Issues
The title above is the original title of my article but it was published in The Philippine Star as "Have Our Artists Found the Filipino Soul?" on 29 May 2006, pages G-1 and G-3.
Have Our Artists Found the Filipino Soul?
By Clarissa Chikiamco
Winner, Lifestyle Journalism Awards 2006 sponsored by Philippine Star, Stores Specialists, Inc. and HSBC.
Clarissa Chikiamco is a 2005 magna cum laude graduate of Ateneo de Manila University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Major in Art Management, Minor in History degree. She co-founded Visual Pond, a non-profit organization committed to the visual arts. She is organizing and curating the End Frame Video Art Project, the first video art festival in the
One of the greatest issues to arise in Philippine art is the search for its national identity. What, in Philippine art, is Filipino? It is a tiring debate and one that was particularly hot in the 60’s and 70’s when art was strongly seen as an instrument in shaping national consciousness. Despite an agreement that good art is good art no matter what its context, the issue still haunts those of us who work in the art scene today, particularly in launching Philippine art into an international platform, where in a near borderless world one tries to find the thin lines which delineate one culture from the next.
More than anything else, subject matter instantly leaps to mind. The golden sunlight streaming down on pastoral fields where a dalagang bukid stands smiling – the paintings of Fernando Amorsolo were, and actually still are, seen as the epitome of the Filipino soul in art. While I respect Amorsolo, having him as the bastion of the Filipino in Philippine art as many people uphold him to be treads on dangerous ground. Still decades later, we have yet to loosen this stiff fixation for genre. Contests and calendars still largely revolve around this theme and opportunist artists chug out one farm scene after another. This bastion is unfortunately being bastardized. I’d like to think too that the Filipino soul, especially in these modern times, encompasses more than farming, fishery or beautiful maidens bathing in the river.
Abroad, the taste for the exotic seems alive and well if the email I received late last year is any indication. A
This insistence to create something relevant to one’s nationality is not unique to the
This brings to the fore an issue that must be reckoned with in the search for the Filipino identity in art: the Filipino expatriate. Some of our artists are part of the ten percent of the Philippine population who now live abroad, raising even more questions on art’s Filipino soul. If an artist who has Filipino blood was raised abroad and studied abroad but tackles Filipino issues – then is his art Filipino? Or how about the international artist with Filipino blood who was raised in the Philippines but left to practice abroad with no obvious Filipino qualities in his or her work? Then there are the artists with no Filipino blood at all who reside and practice in the
With subject matter being too constricting, one tries to find the Filipino identity through style: there is the baroque mentality, the love of color and the affinity for graceful and decorative lines. While these are principally agreed upon as qualities that have continually surfaced on paintings done by Filipino artists, one has to ask how applicable are they when dealing with different media? Nowadays, contemporary art deals with performance, installation, video and sound and certainly, there haven’t been enough of these works to see a common quality or to form a judgment on a Filipino identity.
Putting aside art that directly tackles a Filipino issue or frames it within a Filipino setting, sometimes trying to find the Filipino in certain Philippine art is like trying to milk a cow when the cow isn’t a cow after all. One can have some highfalutin explanation on why a foreign-looking Philippine painting smacks of Filipino postcolonialism or what not and occasionally these things are right. However, also intermittently, they are overreaching. With so many international influences and the variety of media the artist can explore that are not endemic to the country, it should surprise no one that – dare I say it? – sometimes there might not be much Filipino to find in contemporary Philippine art.
One of my favorite artists, Lee Aguinaldo has been said not to care if his paintings could be deemed as Filipino because his primary concern is ensuring that a painting is well-made. I think this is where all the best artists take off from as Filipinos are known for their art all over the world, not because of the art’s Filipino style or Filipino subject matter, but because of its creativity and world-class excellence that echoes not just nationally but universally.
So have our artists found the Filipino soul? I can’t say no and I can’t say yes but, with all the issues which may never be resolved, I think the answer will always have to be the definite maybe.
LIFE & STYLE By Millet M. Mananquil
The Philippine STAR 05/21/2006
Where have all the good writers gone? Gone to graveyards, everyone? Certainly not. Many good writers are still very much alive. They're just around, waiting to be discovered, nourished, and plucked from their blissful and quiet lives.
Gone to higher-paying jobs, everyone? Perhaps, but with their passion for writing and commitment to excellence in Philippine literature, these part-time writers will always go back to their first love.
To search for such talents, as well as discover fresh new ones, the Philippine STAR, in partnership with Stores Specialists Inc. and HSBC, launched the Lifestyle Journalism Awards 2006 last year, and presented 12 topics to choose from, each one inspired by the Philippine STAR Lifestyle Section's themes for each day – Arts & Culture, Business Life, Health & Family, Fashion & Beauty, Leisure, Young Star, YStyle, Shopping Guide, Modern Living, Pet Life, Travel Now and Sunday Lifestyle. For the latter, we allowed contestants to create their own topics.
The STAR chose Stores Specialists Inc. because this top retailing chain of globally renowned lifestyle brands is not only an arbiter of good taste, it is also a dedicated patron of the arts and culture.
The HSBC, the world's local bank, on the other hand, embarks on projects manifesting its commitment to help propagate and preserve the country's national heritage.
The response from readers was overwhelming. We received more than 6,000 entries nationwide, coming all the way from the Mountain Province to Mindanao.
After months of perusing each and every entry, we finally came up with more than a hundred semifinalists for the board of judges to choose from. Judges were Philippine literature stalwarts and Palanca Hall of Famers Butch Dalisay and Krip Yuson, STAR editor in chief Isaac Belmonte, STAR lifestyle editor Millet Mananquil, ANC broadcast journalist and Palanca Awardee Twink Macaraig, Summit Publishing president Lisa Gokongwei-Cheng, columnist and Palanca Award winner Wilson Lee-Flores, SSI executive vice president Anton Huang, and HSBC vice president-public affairs Laine Santana.
Fifteen winners have been chosen, each one winning a glass trophy designed by sculptor Impy Pilapil, plus P50,000 (P25,000 in cash from HSBC and P25,000 in gift certificates from Debenhams, Britain's favorite store in the SSI chain), plus the opportunity to join the Lifestyle Section's rosters of writers.
Awarding rites will be hosted by Philippine STAR president Miguel Belmonte on June 6, with SSI EVP Anton Huang and HSBC president Warner Manning co-presenting the awards. STAR publisher and chairman of the board Max Soliven will lead the awarding ceremony.
Here they are:
Clarissa Chikiamco, 22 is an art lover and provocateur. Her dream is to set up an independent art space. Chikiamco is a 2005 magna cum laude graduate of Ateneo de Manila University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Major in Art Management, Minor in History degree. She co-founded Visual Pond, a non-profit organization committed to the visual arts. She is organizing and curating the End Frame Video Art Project, the first video art festival in the Philippines this September 2006. Her winning entry: "Have Our Artists Found the Filipino Soul?"
Francesca Mikaela Ayala, 22, speaks five languages and has made the world her classroom. After high school at Poveda, she took up visual and communication arts at Franklin College in Switzerland. Ayala also took a film production workshop in Italy, a language and culture immersion program in Spain, and more discovery sojourns in places like Malta, Tunisia, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Cuba. Her winning entry: "Love in the Time of HIV".
Migs Villanueva is a woman truly dedicated to the arts and letters. A multi-awarded writer (two Palanca Awards, two NVM Gonzales Fiction Awards among others) who has produced/designed written books, Villanueva was creative director of the University of the Philippines (UP) Press. An AB Psychology graduate of Ateneo, she is currently taking her MA Creative Writing at UP. She is a board member of The Saturday Group of Artists. Her winning entry: " Tubong Lugaw" (My Heroes in Business).
Maria Alicia Sarmiento, 20, reaped honors and applause as a BFA Theater Arts student at Ateneo. Now Sarmiento is getting even higher grades as a BS Clothing Technology major at UP Diliman. Stage actress or clothing entrepeneur? This geek (read: young erudite) comes from a family of writers/lawyers, but who knows what she'll dream of next? Her winning entry: "This 'Whatever' Generation: Disembodied and Disconnected".
Cristina Jacinto, 21, could be one of tomorrow's brightest and smartest broadcast journalists. This Povedan graduated magna cum laude in Broadcast Communication at UP Diliman. This consistent university scholar's extra-curricular activities include membership in DZUP Circle's Longga FRIENDS and publicity work for Lavender Diaries: Anthology of Women's Stories in Music. Jacinto has interned at ABS-CBN as well as her uncle RJ Jacinto's RJTV. Her winning entry: "Measured Beauty".
Lily Ann Padaen is a lawyer (UP College of Law, Class 1990) whose ideal respite is to enjoy a cup of hot tarragon tea in Tagaytay or Baguio on a foggy day. Her spirit howls at the full moon and celebrates the rain. She secretly is learning how to belly dance. That is, only during weekends, for she is legal counsel of a foreign bank with a Philippine branch in Makati. A wiz, Padaen finished her pre-law AB Political Science in three years, taught law, took her MBA at Ateneo and is now taking her Ph.D in Creative Writing at UP. Her winning entry:"Beauty in the 21st Century."
Anna Canlas, 18, is focused on achieving her dream: She hopes to pursue digital journalism at New York University, work as an anchor for the British Broadcasting Corporation or put up her own women's magazine, melding style with literary merit. Graduating grade school and high school valedictorian, Canlas is a Broadcast Communications freshman at UP Diliman. Her winning entry:"What Filipino Design Can Offer the World."
Mariane Umali has a big heart. She works with a humanitarian NGO. Her other passion is food – reading and writing about it. "I view food as a part of culture which needs to be documented and promoted. When stressed, I cook. Food is my therapy… This fondness (for food) was brought by my parents who taught us to appreciate food to make family and friendship ties stronger. It does not matter if a dish was prepared in some far-flung area, hole-in-the-wall or five-star restaurant." Umali is a BS Developmental Communication graduate of UP Los Baños. Her winning entry: "The Enduring Joys of Kinalas and Loglog."
Annette Beley has collected as many cookbooks as she has Agatha Christie novels down the years. "My two passions – writing and cooking – come together in such a positive way." Beley's love for writing began at UP where she took AB Journalism and "thoroughly enjoyed it because one of my professors was the inimitable Louie Beltran." Her love for cooking began when "my father sealed my fate when he showed me how to whip up a mean spaghetti meat sauce he learned to cook from an American-Italian classmate at the University of Pennsylvania." Her winning entry: "Beginner's Luck" (The Perfect Meal).
Cheryl Nolasco is an economist by training (UST, AB Economics) but says: "My job description is blurry. I supply linens to hotels and motels, clothes to department stores. I am a part-time illustrator/designer for a small boutique, and a full-time wife and mother. Nolasco writes about the economics of being a fashionista in her winning entry: "A Peek Into My Sole." She adds: "I am married to Philip who has learned not to question my empty wallet and full closets."
Kevin Piamonte is an associate professor in Humanities at UP Visayas. This British Council scholar at the University of Warwick, England also directs theater productions and writes fiction. He lives with his 97-year-old grandmother, Socorro Fuentes Pison, the sister of National Artist for Music, Jovita Fuentes. Piamonte has traveled extensively, but the journey he has enjoyed the most is a road trip in Luzon with his American-based sister, Kathy. He hopes that the trip has, in a way, Filipinized his sister. His winning entry: "Welcome to the Pinoy Home: The House of Spirits."
Lilia Ramos-de Leon has published short stories, feature articles and book reviews in top national publications. She won the Free Press Literary Award for Short Story in 2003. A former attaché to the Philippine Embassy in Madrid, De Leon has also written books for the Foreign Service Institute of the Philippines. She taught as professorial lecturer at De La Salle University and was board member of the International PEN (Poets, Essayists, Novelists), Philippine chapter. She graduated from the State University of Northern Virginia with an MA in English. Her winning entry: "All the Pets I Loved…"
Cecile Lopez Lilles was grand prize winner in the STAR's "My Favorite Book" contest in 2004 with her piece "Mothers, Daughters and White Oleander." Her published works include "Fighting Forty (in My Fair Maladies, Essays and Poems on Ailments and Afflictions) and "Loose Vowels"(in When We Were Little Women) and essays in parenting mags. This entrepreneur and mother of six children never ceases studying. A BS Sociology graduate of Santa Clara University in California, she is currently a freshman in UP Creative Writing Master's Degree Program. Her winning essay: "The Sentimental Tourist."
Exie Abola is a veteran at winning literary contests (1st Prize, Short Story in English; 1st Prize, Essay in English, Palanca Awards) and wrote the Best Short Story of the Year 2005 in the NVM Gonzales Awards. He teaches part-time at the Ateneo English Department and is studying towards a Master's Degree in English Studies: Creative Writing at UP Diliman. Abola created his own topic, and his winning entry is "My Wife, the Book Eater."
RJ Ledesma's biodata is longer than his winning entry, but he has kindly summarized it for us: RJ has been living many parallel lives, which have converged in one universe. It's either that or he's schizophrenic. Still unsure if he has ADD, RJ used to hawk an orange softdrink in the late '80s, was a one-time college professor in Public Speaking and Economics at his alma mater, De La Salle University, worked as a brand manager for a multinational company and was a frenetic television host for Magandang Umaga Bayan Weekends. In a move that made him popular among MTRCB censors, RJ co-conceptualized and developed the late night comedy show Studio 23's The Men's Room which he currently hosts with Juddha Paolo. A product of the National Writers Workshop in Dumaguete City, RJ loves to write, but unfortunately obstacles like work have gotten in the way. Aside from working in the family property development firm, he is the editor in chief of Manual Magazine, a television and event host, a comic book geek, an eclectic book collector, an Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga practitioner and erstwhile teacher, an ovo-lacto vegetarian and manservant to his girlfriend. Sleep is something he used to do. RJ lives in constant fear that he and his hair will soon part ways. Ledesma's winning topic: "You Smell Good Enough to Mate (Dating in the Time of Thirty and Above)."
Winning entries will soon be published in the STAR Lifestyle Section.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
"Murdering By Design," my coverage of the Murder by Design event featuring talks by Manila's sizzling graphic designers and graphic design groups, was published in Metro Him, Volume 3, No. 1, page 26 (which came out about May 2006). It was during this talk that I first met Bru and Marcushiro of Electrolychee and Mon and Jowee of Team Manila. Team Manila went on to work with us at the Ateneo Art Gallery for the 2006 Ateneo Art Awards.
This piece also marked my emergence from my "cave" of not writing for publications in a while. I used to contribute to newspapers then stopped when I reached high school to concentrate on my studies. While I wrote two pieces for Food magazine on my food experience in Melbourne and Bandung, I think it was this article that really got the ball rolling for me, especially since I want to focus on the arts.
"Art and Nazi Germany: The Nazi Ideology Employed in the Visual Arts" was published in the Ateneo Student Review for the Social Sciences (ASRSS) in November 2005, after I had already graduated from college. I wrote the paper in 2004 for a history class, The Second World War in Europe, taught by one of my favorite teachers of all time, Jo-ed Tirol. When Jo-ed or "Raptor" as I call him was approached by the students making the review, he recommended my paper.
I won't put the full 21-page paper here but will post the covers of ASRSS (above) and the first page below.