writings, projects and exhibitions of Clarissa Chikiamco

Monday, February 18, 2008

Visual Impact

Video art in the Philippines was the topic for Preview magazine's November 2007 Art Scene. There were some space limitations but my article in full appears below.

Visual Impact

In the past year, it seems that increasingly finding its place in the Philippine contemporary art scene is the medium of video art. In a medium fraught with difficulties, Jumpcut, End Frame Video Art Project and Mag:net’s Cinekatipunan have presented artists and experimental filmmakers with vital opportunities to exhibit their video artworks while the medium continues to appear in exhibitions staged at open-minded galleries, unbothered by its noncommercial nature.

The increasing presence of video art is still, however, no easy exertion and continually presents a challenge. “Of all the artistic mediums in the country right now, video art is the least prevalent,” says artist Jun Sabayton, curator of the Jumpcut 2 exhibition held at Green Papaya Art Projects last year which was also shown at the 24hr Art Space in Darwin, Australia last September. Video art is clouded with problems such as finding equipment (video cameras, editing gear, projectors, dvd players and multiple televisions – the plasma kind if one is lucky), encountering technical difficulties (even as simple as finding a way to loop the dvd player so one doesn’t constantly have to press “play”), designing the presentation (all the wires can make it quite messy) and discovering willing venues to show a medium that’s definitely not quite as collectible as paintings or draws a crowd the way a film does. All of this is done in the strong possibility that there will be no financial returns despite the investment – that is, if the artist found funding or self-funded it.

Artists Ian Madrigal and Mitch Garcia admit that while they make use of the equipment in their freelance graphic studio to make their video artworks, they are also faced with the problem of upgrading their equipment. “One thing is upgrading equipment is quite expensive so we have to maintain our day jobs and double our efforts in earning/working to afford making video artworks.” Yet, they’ve persisted in its production, believing in the medium. “The thing about video art (according to our point of view) is that you cannot cheat on it. The concept and technical aspect goes together and the artist must know at least basic video editing.”

Weekly showings of video art/experimental film at Cinekatipunan have given artists and filmmakers a regular and valuable venue to show their works, shortly to be joined by monthly video art exhibits at Listening in Style arranged by the non-profit organization Visual Pond. Dialogue/exchange with video art/new media communities abroad aids to foster the idea that the Philippine art scene is current with the art scene globally.

Video art, founded by Korean-born artist Nam June Paik beginning with his exhibition Exposition of Music – Electronic Television in Germany in 1963, takes its roots in the Philippines through experimental film and conceptual art. As written by video artist Tad ErmitaƱo in his essay Worlds Apart: The Two Faces of Video Art in the Philippines, video art’s tradition of experimental film “radiate[s] from the Mowelfund Film Institute (MFI), and the tradition of conceptual art… radiate[s] from the teachings of the conceptualist Roberto Chabet.” ErmitaƱo, who studied at Mowelfund, even had his video artwork selected and shown at the Ogaki Biennale in Japan last year. Of the conceptual camp, probably the most well known is Poklong Anading, who frequently uses video in his works and mounted a 4-channel video installation at the Ateneo Art Gallery for a week last April using four projectors.

Despite the continuous challenge, there is no place for video art to go but forward in the Philippines. The use of the medium is underscored by its increasing relevance in an age when moving images are ubiquitous - from the giant television in the highway to the plasma televisions playing ads in McDonald’s to the cellphones already in people’s pockets. Like a train gaining speed, the engine of this contemporary art form is accelerating to take Philippine art to new destinations - unplotted but all the more exciting.

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