Monday, November 15, 2010

Filipino Pride: More Epic than Pacquiao

There is no escaping this: Blogging my thoughts on Pacquaio. This is in reaction to watching current news on TV that is composed almost entirely of Pacquaio (i.e. people’s reactions to his recent fight and win against Mexican boxer Margharito, people’s clamor for his fight with Mayweather—which a lot of people, including Justin Bieber, consider to be the next “EPIC BATTLE”, Pacquiao’s costly pasalubong to his kids—well, not that he’s complaining). Despite my non-violent self, the one closely related to Dr. Jekyll (which has its ironies), who would not want to enjoy a bloodsport, I am somehow glad Pacquaio won. I was grinning when he punched combinations into Margharito. Could it be Filipino pride? Is Filipino pride related to the German schadenfreude? Those are among the several questions I would like myself to examine and finally find answers that are hopefully satisfactory and would put myself to sleep.

The other questions are: What is Filipino pride? When does it happen? Why does it happen?

And ultimately: Should I be proud of Pacquiao?

(Anyway, pardon all the side comments.)

To be continued. Watch out. This could be epic. (As thinking aloud is.)

English Lessons

Theroux’s book is becoming very interesting. But it is talking about China in the 1980s, a few years shy from the Cultural Revolution. I’m planning to email my Chinese friend, Cher Hu, to ask her if some things in the book still hold true today. Cher lives in southern China. I met her last year (?) at the museum when she took a tour with other Chinese social work volunteers.

While crossing the Yangtze (or Chang Jiang as the Chinese calls it) aboard the Shanghai Express, Theroux remembers what the Chinese say about the difference in temperaments between northerners and the southerners. The northern Chinese are “imperious, quarrelsome, rather aloof, political, proud noodle-eaters” while the southern Chinese are “talkative, friendly, complacent, dark, sloppy, commercial-minded and materialistic rice-eaters”. While it is the Chinese’ observations of their own, I wonder what they would think if they read it in a book. I wonder what Cher would think of this observation of the southern Chinese. She is the only southern Chinese I have met and talked with, and what I observed was she was very inquisitive and very interested about Philippine culture especially about Islam in Mindanao. I would not say she was “talkative” but she was “communicative”, although in the dictionary, one defines the other. But for me “talkative” holds a derogatory meaning. To be called talkative, is like being called for punishment for talking too much. In elementary, I was always listed in the class “Most Talkative” students, which an assigned class officer wrote on the blackboard for everyone to see, including the teacher who gives the punishment. The punishments varied from the least painful—a minus grade point—to the physically painful and publicly humiliating—sitting on the air for a time in front of one’s chair, while the rest of the class looked on in silence. “Communicative” is a much better word to describe someone who responds well by talking. Cher definitely communicated well on our meetings. I think this is because she spoke English well and therefore was not shy to communicate her ideas.

Speaking of speaking English, there’s a place Theroux visited in Shanghai which I want to know still exists. It is the “English Corner” in the People’s Park (in Peking, an English Corner existed in Beihei Park—that too, I would also like to know if it still exists). During Theroux’s visit, the English Corner was “half an acre of Chinese gabbing in English under the trees”. It was started by a few old men who learned English in missionary schools before the Revolution. Every Sunday, they congregated in one corner of the park to talk among themselves in English to keep their English-speaking skills sharp. Then young Chinese park visitors caught wind of this odd park section. A lot of them wanted to learn to speak English too! So they asked the old men to teach them English. “What began as a casual one-hour interval in 1979 had become by 1986 a full-day Sunday institution.” Regulars came to practice their English with their friends or with strangers, especially foreigners like Theroux who drop by, curious of what the corner is.

Theroux observed that the Chinese can be ritualistic in this way. But this ritual was also practical for the Chinese youth. They took informal English lessons in the English Corner because it helped them gain an upper-hand in the new Chinese economy where new businesses found English speakers a plus. But he finds a more daunting conclusion. He met some Chinese youth who, upon learning English, have assigned themselves English names. He concluded that this could be “a way of distancing themselves from a culture that until recently had been intensely chauvinistic.” It also poked the Cultural Revolution in the eye when the Chinese youth called themselves by their English names while wearing “a funny hat and sunglasses.”

I’ve met other Asian youths (Chinese and South Koreans) here in Davao who have English names. For South Koreans who come to the Philippines in droves to learn English, having an English name is a must. I am not sure of their reasons. For me, it makes it easier to remember them. They may not have the same reasons as the Chinese and the Chinese youth of today who have English names may not have the same reasons as the Chinese youth of the 1980s for having English names. But could the cultural impact have similarities? I have an English name. Do I feel myself apart from my culture because of my English name? What is Philippine culture nowadays anyway? What I know is dominant of Philippine culture today is that it is highly Westernized that even when I go to the mountains and meet tribes people, they introduce themselves with their English names.

Very Punny

I learned a new word in Paul Theroux’s book. It’s “priapic” which means resembling a phallus. He used it to describe Hsi-Men, the Chinese Casanova in the pornographic and restricted book “Jin Ping Mei”, which he read while riding the Shanghai Express. Theroux describes the book as a raunchy 2,000-page novel that tries resolving itself as a morality tale. When I read the passage of its end, which Theroux quoted in his book, I was reminded of the film “In the Realm of the Senses.” Both male protagonists in the book and the film screwed themselves to death and the female protagonists were depicted as insatiable sex fiends who cause the male protagonists' fall from passion.

But I think what’s more ridiculous is Hsi-Men’s name. It sounds the same way as “semen”. The author must not have intended the pun.  But I, as a reader (and someone whose imagination got ludicrously fired up) could not help but notice the pun. In fact, there is not just the pun in Hsi-Men’s name. It did not take me a second to realize that if one divides the word “semen” by its syllables, one comes up with “se” (sē) and “men” (mən) which I interpret as “sea men” (sailors—a lot of testosterone there) and “a sea that reproduces men” (provided it merges with a sea of eggs). Now, I “see men”.
Finally in China!

Reading Paul Theroux’s “RIDING THE IRON ROOSTER: By Train Through China”--

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Activate Davao!

A year ago, I organized a gig at the Durian Bar in Davao City entitled "Golden Noises: Explorations on Sound". It featured three musicians whose works traversed the electronic, industrial and experimental. They were circuit bender Erick Calilan aka Ugong from Cavite, noise musician Toshiyuki Seido from Japan, and electronica musician Charles "Chuck" Fournier aka Chroma from Davao.

The gig was borne out of serendipitous web surfing. I was exploring sound art then (although now, I can't remember why I became interested in it), found EXperimentation in Sound Art Tradition's (E.X.I.S.T.) website, clicked its links and landed on Toshiyuki Seido's Multiply site. We struck up conversations in English, then Tagalog on music, Donna Miranda, then I found out he was coming to Davao in August because his wife was Dabawenya. Our talks then rolled on to a possible sound art show in Davao. He was interested to do a collaborative piece with famed contemporary dancer Donna Miranda, who, I told him was also set to come to Mindanao to do dance workshops, around his vacation time in Davao. I was interested to see the fruition of such a collaboration and tried to set it up. Miranda was courteous enough to reply to my Facebook messages, but she was too busy to latch on to the project. Seido was also interested in collaborating with his friend, anthropologist and artist Noel El Farol on the sound art show, but El Farol could not commit because of an important family matter. So Seido and I decided to abandon both ideas and looked for other artists to involve in the project. Seido brought in Erick, an active member of E.X.I.S.T and a friend and collaborator, and I brought in Chuck, whom I connected with in a previous multi-media gig I organized.

Doing Golden Noises was like jumping into deep waters without a life jacket. It's okay if one knows how to swim, but someone like me who barely had experience in organizing events ( I had a record of one before GN) was committing suicide. I fumbled with sponsorships and bore holes through my pockets preparing for the gig. The good thing was, friends came in to help me keep afloat on several event matters. Seido and his wife Gen took care of Erick's board and lodging and part of our transportation to and from the venue. My friend, Michael Balgos devoted his time to fetching Erick from the airport to taking us on trips in the downtown area in his Volks on Erick's last day in Davao and finally, taking him to the airport .for his flight back to Manila. My friend Andi, then a DJ of MIX FM 105.9, promoted the gig by guesting us on her radio show and allowing Seido to demonstrate his improv sound instrument on air. It was one of those rare moments one gets to hear alien sounds on radio (aside from the occasional static). I was also thankful to the station manager, Joey, for being open to it. There was also my friend Lerry, who lent me money when I most needed it. My friend, Mark Limbaga, a man of the lens (cameraman, photographer, cinematographer, etc.), volunteered to video document the event and provided the best live visuals during the event. If not for them, I would have certainly drowned.

Now, more than a year after, I'm working on a bigger project on sound art, the Davao City leg of ACTIVE | DE-ACTIVE An Inventive Music Fest. This is the first traveling inventive music fest in the Philippines which features local and international artists. The artists which will be featured in the Davao City leg are experimental musician Jonjie Ayson, circuit bender Erick Calilan, pipa virtuoso Luo Chao-Yun,  electronica musician Chuck Fournier, free jazz drummer Sabu Toyozumi, and sound and visual assemblage artist Lirio Salvador.

ACTIVE | DE-ACTIVE will feature free workshops and fora on music improvisation and an inventive music show. It aims to "provide a platform for informed discussions of the cultural, developmental and educational aspects of improvisation and experimentation in music, and at the same time, present its artistic and technical practices. The festival is also an attempt to gather a community of experimental musicians, improvisers, new media art practitioners, musicologists, and teachers who can share and exchange knowledge that would benefitthe understanding of improvised and experimental music."

ACTIVE | DE-ACTIVE is Erick's brainchild and I'm glad to support his daredevilish endeavor. For an experimental musician, daring is no longer a dare.but a lifeway. Erick is working on this event, which crosses through three cities--Cavite, Manila, and Davao--while also working on his thesis. I can imagine the stress he is having now, and also his joy in making this festival. Meanwhile, I am juggling four other projects with this event and I'm losing some weight in the process flailing through all..

There are still a lot to be done--more people to send invitations to, tarps and other event paraphernalia to print, and other matters that need attention. I'm stumbling through this, but I know I'm going to pull through.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

In Cebu

My fourth day in Cebu. So many things to write about but so little time to do it. I'm in the middle of layouting a souvenir programme for a classical concert back in Davao. I got a throbbing nape pain since yesterday from the pressure of making the deadline. Well, I should have been back in Davao yesterday to do it but I wasn't able to book a flight back. The troubles of bohemian living. Stragel gayud. Panghitch trip ra ang kwartang dala. Good thing I got friends to help me here. Special mentions to Chelly Acasio for letting me sleep in his house in Pardo for a night, my highschool barkada Analene Lantayona for sheltering me, feeding me and letting me abuse her Mac with all the things I've been doing, and UBEC crew (Flaime, Bart, Blowi, Bek, Mel, Kidlat) for giving me a good time at the Junk Shop and in the streets. Daghang salamat sa suporta!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Not Colorblind

It was in 2008 that the seeds of !HA? were sown. An art festival was brewing in Cebu and the newly-formed graffiti crew called UBEC ("Cebu" backwards) was looking at it from a distance. Its members shared the same sentiments: They can't afford the art fest's registration fee and they were wary of the attitudes of the artists in attendance. Upon these, UBEC made a street art fest that lasted a week. They first referred to it as "street art week", but then Sam Pipebomb, a crew member, pointed out that they should avoid naming it "Philippine Street Art Week" because it would be downright corny and serious. He suggested "!HA?", that expression of surprise or confusion one hears from people when they stumble upon a work of street art. An exclamation point preceding the word "HA" is enough suggestion at rebellion. No other rule permeated the first !HA? except "everything and anything in the streets". Ba!HA?la na. Dada enough.

UBEC was not alone in celebrating the streets for a week in the first !HA?. Tacloban's crew joined in. That would be the beginning of a street connection. Three years later, the network has expanded. In !HA? 3.0, more than fifty street artists and their crews in over ten cities in seven countries have participated in a week-long simultaneous street jams between Sept. 4-11, 2010. 

On September 11, 2010, Cebu and Davao simultaneously celebrated the end of !HA? 3.0 The Colorblind, an experimental art fest which ran from Sept. 4-11, 2010 in several cities in the Philippines and in other countries. UBEC Crew of Cebu and DCK of Davao organized gigs in Turtle's Nest, Cebu and Durian Bar, Davao respectively, which flowed with live paintings, music, sticker-making, doodling, exhibits, etc. 

The gigs were a time for physical convergence of the artists and their friends who participated and witnessed the unfolding of an experimental art fest. !HA? 3.0 The Colorblind did not happen in one place but in several places where there were artists who rowed their hometown streets with paintings, installations, wheatpastes, stencils and artistic debaucheries one can't put a finger on. The only thing uniform about the works is all of them are done in monochrome. But as to their subjects and media, Ba!HA?la na.

The artists documented their works and submitted through email for posting in the !HA? 3.0 official blog. The blog serves as the festival's online gallery. Because there is not one physical space for convergence, the coming together is done online. The blog is also linked to a Facebook page of Streetkonect, the website hosting the event. It is in the SK FB page that one can see people's response to the works. The SK FB also serves as one of the venues for artists to submit their works.

!HA? 3.0 thrives on the connection among artists established and nourished online. The non-existence of one physical space to host the festival as well as registration fees, unbinds participation. Anybody can join, that is if one frees their conception of art-making and would care to join an experimental art festival that waives age, artistic background (does not matter if you're not formally trained in anything), race, and sex. 

!HA? 3.0 is not owned by any crew or individual but is a germination of an emerging art movement. There is no fixed schedule for it. Its participants do not know if it will happen annually or biennially. They also do not know if a fourth  one is coming. What is certain is the existence of the art movement. Yet this too can change.

 Ba!HA?la na nga.

Gensan at Night

When I got to Gensan, I was glad to find that Van, my friend and schoolmate in UP-Min, has continued doing photography. When I met her as a freshman in college while I was in my third year, she was using an SLR camera which she used well as a photojournalist for the student paper. Now, she uses a DSLR but refrains from succumbing to the temptation plaguing most photographers using DSLR: digitally enhancing photos .

Here are her photos of downtown Gensan at night she took from the rooftop of a hotel two months ago. Interestingly, the places in these photos were those which we were in earlier this evening. 

Gensan encounters Part 1

Interesting night despite the cancellation of meeting with visual artists. Al Nezzar got stuck in Sarangani and had to cancel the meeting but he gave me the contact number of an indie musician who could be a respondent to my MDSMA survey. The local musician also turned out to be a visual artist and referred other artist contacts to me so I can see them tomorrow. He also referred to me other indie musicians thriving in Gensan. Talk about hitting two birds with one stone! Tomorrow's gonna be tight. I'm hoping to cover a significant number of respondents/subjects on both projects.

(Recently, a friend named my affliction of juggling jobs. She says I have a polygamous relationship with work. She's given me advice on how to handle it and I'm trying to work it out. Next month, I'll be eating better and getting less hair fall.)

Well, back on track. I just came from an unlikely visit to an apartment rented by a team of comic book colorists and artists. My friend Van's boyfriend turns out to be a colorist for DC and Marvel. When we got there, he was fussing about a deadline for a Marvel project. I've never seen anyone so drunk on pressure, perhaps, because I never got to look at myself in the mirror while I was trying to hit deadlines. Haha! I hope they finish the project soon so they can take a rest. Poor guys have been up for hours trying to finish 9 pages.

Van and Mari showed me some of the processes  involved in Mari's line of work which are coloring and rendering. I know I've only seen the tip of the iceberg but seeing the tip made me realize that making comics is no easy job. A lot of time and effort and people are involved in producing your weekly 9-pager. Next time I have a comics in my hands, I will treat it with silent reverence or with jubilation  (most specially when the story is good) and read it, read it, read it.

It seems like this night's meeting with comic book guys is my prelude to my September 25 sojourn in Cebu for the 1st Cebu Comics Convention! The Cebu Comicon will be held in Ayala Mall. I'm not making up expectations for the convention. I want to be surprised. :)

And another thing to look forward to is a comics convention in Gensan slated next year!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hello again

It's been a long time since I've cranked this blog. Last entry: February 26, 2009! What happened? Well, many things enough to tear me away from blogging. A major culprit is Facebook. I'm hanging out there more because most of the world is there. Here, I would just be talking to myself. In Facebook, everybody's updated with everyone in a split second. When I'd like to share information here, I'd be sure for it to gather cobwebs and dust.

But I'm reconsidering the possibilities of this blog. For two months since my last trip to Dumaguete to see and help out in Amihan's exhibit, I've been contemplating of making a blog about arts and culture in the regions. Since I've been traveling so much now and interacting mostly with artists, why don't I write about it? Amihan's husband, Bendix Fernandez has undertaken art writing himself. He started writing press releases for the Jumalons, Amihan's family of artists. Now he is writing articles about artists and exhibits in the Visayas particularly those in Dumaguete and Bacolod.

My friend Kelly aka Artnanay has been nudging me towards the direction of art writing. Kelly is among the few art writers in Mindanao and she is eager to have new recruits to the noble cause of art writing for the regions. She created a Yahoo group for art writers which she invited me in. I haven't been actively participating in it but I think now I will be getting more involved with it. She also showed me her readings from an art criticism workshop she attended last year. I photocopied those pages which I found were must-reads. I'm going to share them as soon as I've freed some time to transcribe passages.

In a few minutes now, I'll be off to Gensan to conduct a survey on its independent local music scene for Muzika del Sur Music Awards 2010 and meet with visual artists for a Mindanao artists directory project. I'll be blogging again on these two when I get to Gensan in around 3 hours.

'Til then!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China
"Ma Liuming, Fen Ma Liuming Walks on the Great Wall (1998). A member of the artistic generation that developed in Beijing in the mid-1990s, Ma Liuming adopted the performance identity of “Fen Ma Liuming,” a lithe, androgynous creature. His nude walk on the Great Wall, presented in the exhibition as both a photo work and a video, contrasts the solidity of the Wall—the paramount symbol of China’s historic power—with the fragility and ephemeral presence of the individual"

Thanks Joe for sharing!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Miru Kim
Miru Kim is a New York-based artist who has explored various urban ruins such as abandoned subway stations, tunnels, sewers, catacombs, factories, hospitals, and shipyards. She was featured as one of America's Best and Brightest 2007 in Esquire magazine. Her work has been spotlighted in various other media such as The New York Times,, The Financial Times, NY Arts Magazine, ARTE France, Ovation TV, Time Out New York,, The Korea Daily, La Stampa, Berlingske Tidende,, and Dong-A Daily. Public collections of her work include Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art.

Miru was born in Stoneham, Massachusetts in 1981 and was raised in Seoul, Korea. She moved back to Massachusetts in 1995 to attend Phillips Academy in Andover, and moved to New York City in 1999 to attend Columbia University. In 2006, she received an MFA in painting from Pratt Institute.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

300&65 Ampersands
an ampersand a day keeps the typecrazy happy

The Juju Bag in Tumblr
juju speaks more

Eating Art
Modern Art Placemats Turn Fine Art Into Food & Win Gold Design Award

Erwin Bauer of Bauer Concept and Design created a series of smart, conceptual and functional placemats, shot by photographers Janto Lenherr and Michael Stobl for Vienna's Mumok Museum of Modern Art Restaurant and hotels. Each design interpreted a famous modern artist's work as food on a plate, which was then photographed.

The series of placemats won the 2009 Gold from the European Design Awards in the Miscellaneous Print category.

If you are familiar with the following artists whose work has been turned into food on a plate, you will really appreciate these. For those who are not, I included a piece of their work below each placemat image, so you can have a better appreciation of how clever these are. And I think it makes for a much more interesting post. I hope you do, too.

thanks to joevit for the link!