For Lucban tourists, an art challenge, too
A menacing octopus installation made of bamboo strips became a breather to tourists who flocked Lucban, Quezon province. It contrasted with the multihued kiping (rice wafers) adorning most houses on May 15, the day of the town’s Pahiyas festival’s grand parade.
“This represents a challenge we are posing here in Lucban,” said Leslie de Chavez, founder and director of Project Space Philippines (PSP), which organized the “Systems of Irrigation,” the banner name for several exhibits of artworks across the town, including PSP gallery on JV Eleazar Street, where the octopus is in full display.
The exhibits began on May 14 and will end on June 11.
“Worried folks asked us: ‘How does this relate to Pahiyas?’” De Chavez said. “But the octopus artwork is made of bamboo, which still is a staple product of agricultural towns like Lucban. The only difference is the execution.”
“We want them to challenge themselves, make it dawn on them that there are many possibilities, even for the kiping, maybe by shaping them differently,” he added.
All the prospects they showed in three exhibits, most of which remarkably used unconventional spaces in art-making—empty lots, ruins, fences, even a barbershop at the edge of town.
The exhibits move people around town to view artworks, such as wall paintings, films and installations. The lineup includes Buen Abrigo, Lyra Garcellano and Leeroy New, plus a performance by Boyet de Mesa.
The Lucban museum inside the historic Gusaling Escuelapia hosts “The Harvest,” gathering some multimedia pieces and paintings side-by-side with the usual display of cultural and historical artifacts. Among the participating artists are Jan Pineda, Jay Yao, Kat Medina and Martha Atienza, all from Metro Manila.
“Order of Objects after Arrival” offers a space for contemporary artists and challenges the classical way of viewing art. At the center of the gallery are several bleachers, which offer spectator and critic perspectives. Moreover, visitors entering from the left or right end up viewing one work.
The exhibit hosts works by Arturo Sanchez Jr., Cian Dayrit and Don Dalmacio, among other artists.
Capital as theme
“Systems of Irrigation” pooled over 50 local and international artists to play the general theme, capital. The presentation is deep-seated as DiscLab|Research and Criticism, the event curator, made sure that the arrangement of works would get viewers to reflect on politics.
For example, “The Harvest” attempts to reinterpret the politics of processions during the Pahiyas, where closeness to the San Isidro Labrador image is an implication of social influence.
“We wanted this to be a process, where you look at the capital and look away,” said Renan Laru-An, DiscLab founder. The group wants the people to engage in dialogue or introspect while going through the exhibit, he added.
PSP project coordinator Jacqueline Ali said the theme was flexible to the different meanings of capital.
“You can interpret it as puhunan or capital in relation to centers and peripheries,” she explained.
“Systems of Irrigation” and the bigger event it is part of—the First Lucban Assembly—are an effort to interpret capital in both senses.
The Lucban Assembly, which includes research fellowship “Waiting Sheds” (running up to June 27), an open-air film viewing, and “Pagpag (Unlearning)” talks in the third week of May, all worked to explore Lucban as puhunan and periphery.
The assembly, the biggest in area which PSP has held (past events drew about a hundred artists), wanted to look into the capital that Lucban and Quezon province possess in the form of artisans, artists, history and culture, and how all these can impact visiting artists, Ali said.
“We also want this town, which is a periphery, to be a new capital for the arts,” said De Chavez, who saw the possibility after relocating from Metro Manila to Quezon. He recounted the experiences of Manila-based artists in having difficulty in scheduling art exhibits in the metropolis and to make art pieces with urban sounds in the background.
Artists in residence
PSP gallery, which De Chavez has used as a workshop, now houses artists who have availed themselves of PSP residency, including those from South Korea, Germany, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Andi Ramdani, an Indonesian, created the octopus installation as part of his residency program.
The exhibitions also list Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, Germany-based Harun Farocki, and US-based Michelle Dizon.
PSP has also been holding artist talks and forums, mostly in Lucban, since 2012. The activities have encouraged artists outside Manila to participate.
So far, the artists’ network has included about 10 Quezon-based artists, plus those coming from Bacolod and Dumaguete cities, and Laguna province.
The group has been collaborating with art groups and spaces in and outside the Philippines, among them Orange Gallery in Bacolod and Perahu Art in Indonesia.
But, even with such growth, “we’re only setting the groundwork,” De Chavez said. They plan to hold the Lucban Assembly every two years.
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