writings, projects and exhibitions of Clarissa Chikiamco

Friday, September 24, 2010

Lee Aguinaldo work? Last call

6.31 am and I should be getting to sleep but I thought I'd squeeze in 30 minutes to write a quick overdue blog entry.

Since arriving in Manila from my one-month sojourn in Korea for the Gwangju Biennale International Curator Course, I have been quite busy on the Lee Aguinaldo (1933-2007) exhibition I'm working on with my former teacher, Boots Herrera. I've mentioned this project in past entries and it has been a longtime coming. The seeds of the project started from my undergraduate project under Boots when I was a senior at Ateneo in 2005. So it is with a little incredulity that I realize the exhibition opening is fast approaching and all that has happened between me being a college senior to the current moment. A lot can happen in 5 years! Anyway, the exhibition opens 26 October, Tuesday, and will run until early February 2011.

What I've been particularly preoccupied on for the past few weeks is my essay for the Lee Aguinaldo book which will be launched in February before the closing of the exhibition. There are four of us writers, each of us with our own piece. One is a reprint of Rod Paras-Perez's text from Lee Aguinaldo's last solo exhibition which was in 1992 at the Lopez Memorial Museum. Cid Reyes is writing on Lee's abstract works. Boots is doing the biography. My essay looks at how Lee constituted and was constitutive of modernist ideas of the artist as well as examining his postmodernist practice which has been little remarked upon (and why it has been little remarked upon).

So my life for the past 2 1/2 weeks since I've been back has been Lee, the computer and texts helping me along my essay. I am trying to finish the essay by Sunday not only because we are beyond the original deadline already but I have put so much of my life on hold for this piece. I have not been writing for my column for Star (and I should be doing a review of the Gwangju Biennale which opened last September 2) or a couple of other things lined up. There are also I think so many things I need to attend to so I can plan my 2011 well and 'manifest' exhibitions/projects I have in mind before spaces fill up their calendar. But this essay on Lee deserves/demands so much of my concentration. Everything is on hold till I finish it.

I have put at the start of this entry an image of Lee which appeared in the 13 October 1963 issue of Asia Magazine. Shot by Dick Baldovino, I would argue this piece is a self-portrait because Lee composed a special work on glass plate for the photo which he stood behind. Now, to illustrate in a way what my essay is tackling, juxtapose that self-portrait above with another self-portrait of Lee done in 1985 below:

It is instant to visually register there is something different going on here but I think difficult to articulate how and why while locating it within a wider discourse. It always seems easy in retrospect once it's written but when you are articulating this - from images to thoughts to words (as thoughts are not immediately words) - it is difficult as well as exhausting. While I do veer towards the poetic in writing texts for contemporary art exhibitions, my essay here is academic in approach which means a lot more research than usual. The length is also considerable. Originally, I thought it would be 5,000 words. I remember even looking at the screen at about over 200 words thinking, 'I cannot imagine reaching 5,000.' Well, I am over 5,000 at the moment and still writing. I've estimated the final word count to be between 8,000 to 10,000.

So I'm going to get some shut-eye at last for a few hours but I just thought I would update people with what I've been up to since I've pretty much been a recluse that pops out here and there (for some interactivity with the outside world for my sanity). I'm going to some exhibitions later in the evening to some shows I cannot not go to but between sleep and that, I hope to have a productive day pumping out those words. Wish me luck I finish by Sunday. And for some last words for this entry - if you have a Lee Aguinaldo piece that you haven't contacted Boots and I about yet, this is the last call for you to tell us and for it to be included in the book. Seriously, if you have one, email me ASAP: letterstolisa@gmail.com

And I leave you with a good morning!

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