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Artist-Run Spaces Of The Future

Independent, homegrown, and filled to the hilt with art cred, we look at some of the most influential artist-led galleries that will showcase Manila’s dynamic, autonomous art scene on the global stage at the 2016 Art Dubai

  • Ringo Bunoan

    Ringo Bunoan

  • Julius Redillas

    Julius Redillas

  • Redillas, Love of Country, 2016, video

    Redillas, Love of Country, 2016, video

  • Gail Vicente

    Gail Vicente

  • Gail Vicente and Tanya Villanueva, New Feelings, 2015, found textiles, T-lights, dog chains. Variable dimensions.

    Gail Vicente and Tanya Villanueva, New Feelings, 2015, found textiles, T-lights, dog chains. Variable dimensions.

  • Wawi Navarroza

    Wawi Navarroza

  • Navarroza, Kant Light Supply 9,000 ft ASL, astro, archival pigment ink print on fine art cotton rag

    Navarroza, Kant Light Supply 9,000 ft ASL, astro, archival pigment ink print on fine art cotton rag

Galleries showcase art, but some are very commercial in nature. They want to show only art that collectors would purchase, but art is not just produced because the artist wants to sell. The real motivation for artists is to express themselves. So what are they to do if the spaces dedicated to showing their work shun their more experimental creations? They rebel and build their own art scene.

This is the reason for the rise of artist-run spaces. An alternative to the art gallery, an artist-run space is operated by artists, and in that place they can do anything they want. These spaces are not just creating a huge following locally but are now being recognized internationally as Art Dubai, the leading art fair for the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia, has decided to devote a special exhibition for the artist-run spaces in the Philippines.

Dubbed as “Marker,” this exhibition is a regular part of Art Dubai wherein every year it highlights a particular region, geography, or theme. Previous “Marker” exhibits have focused on West Africa, Central Asia/The Caucasus, and Latin America. For the 10th Art Dubai from March 16 to 19, “Marker” will be led by Filipino curator Ringo Bunoan.

It was natural for Bunoan to curate an exhibition on artist-run spaces as she has been actively involved in that scene. She was the co-founder of Big Sky Mind, an artist-run space that was active from 1999 to 2004, and from 2007 to 2013 she did research on artist-run spaces for the Asia Art Archive in Hong Kong. Bunoan is also a recipient of the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Thirteen Artist Award (2003), one of the lead curators for “Chabet: 50 Years” (a series of exhibitions in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Manila on Roberto Chabet, the father of Philippine conceptual art and the mentor of Bunoan), and was the editor of the book Roberto Chabet.

Historical rise

Bunoan explained that artist-run spaces have played a “vital role in the history of modern and contemporary art.” She traces the beginning of artist-run spaces to the 1930s where National Artist Victorio Edades and his modernist troupe created their own atelier in Manila where they painted images that went against the academic painting style championed by National Artist Fernando Amorsolo. Purita Kalaw Ledesma’s Art Association of the Philippines (AAP), Lyd Arguilla’s Philippine Art Gallery (PAG), National Artist Arturo Luz’s Luz Gallery, Roberto Chabet’s Shop 6 were also important spaces that had an impact on the art scene.

Bunoan credits Chabet for empowering the artists that he taught at the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts (UPCFA). He did not just teach them about art but also helped them learn how to organize their own exhibits. Thus, it comes as no surprise that his students eventually opened their own spaces such as the Pinaglabanan Galleries, West Gallery, Surrounded By Water, Big Sky Mind, Green Papaya Art Projects, Future Prospects, Magnet Gallery, and MO Space. Not all of these spaces are still in existence but Bunoan said that “they have all greatly contributed to the shaping of contemporary art.”

Chabet’s contribution to artist-run spaces will be acknowledged in “Marker” as it will feature his artwork Trap. First exhibited in the 1994 exhibit” Snake Charmer” in West Gallery and again at “Chabet: 50 Years,” the piece is a plywood box. The top is open so one can peer inside. What one will see is the repeated reflections created by the mirrors that line the panels of the box and the small mirrors placed inside the box. This work is an example of the kind of creativity that can come out in artist-run spaces—non-commercial and experimental.

Aside from Chabet’s piece, “Marker” will also feature Filipino artists from the artist-run spaces that are currently active and they are Manila’s 98B, Cubao’s Post Gallery, Taguig’s Thousandfold, and Maginhawa’s Project 20. The exhibition includes photographs, videos, paintings, soft sculptures, works on paper, and textiles. The exhibition will also have selected books on Philippine modern and contemporary art from artbooks.ph, an independent bookstore on Philippine art and culture that Bunoan co-founded.

Now what if you can’t go to Dubai to witness this international Philippine art showcase? You can still go to these spaces throughout the year as they always have exhibits and other activities and most of them are free and open to the public. So where are these spaces and what’s so interesting about them?

98B Collaboratory

Located at the First United Building, 413 Escolta Street, Manila, 98B was established in January 2012 by Filipino artist Mark Salvatus and Japanese curator and researcher Mayumi Hirano. They regularly have exhibitions, talks, workshops, residencies, pop-up markets, etc.

One of the artists that 98B is sending to Dubai is Julius Redillas, a graduate of Far Eastern University-Institute of Architecture and Fine Arts and an exhibiting artist since 2013. Redillas’ art often incorporates social media, digital media, and modern technology. His piece for “Marker” is a video entitled Love of Country. The video shows a group of Aetas posing for a studio photo. As the video plays, a recitation of Andres Bonifacio’s poem Ang Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa is being read, but something seems off. The poem’s Filipino words are being pronounced with an American accent and then with an Arabic accent. Redillas said that this piece started out as an accident. He was helping his sister do her homework when he Googled the title of the Bonifacio poem, he found a button that said “listen,” and when he pressed it, he was astounded when his computer was suddenly reciting the poem with an American accent. He also discovered that one could switch the accent and so he chose the Arabic accent as the piece will be shown in Dubai.

Through this piece, Redillas tackles the shallow understanding and appreciation of culture. This piece also references the controversial 1904 St. Louis Exposition, an event that was criticized for displaying Igorots so as to paint the Philippines as an “exotic” country, a similarly incomplete depiction of Philippine culture.

The other artists that 98B is sending to Dubai are Mark Barretto, Miguel Lope Inumerable, Katherine Nuñez, J Pacena, and Issay Rodriguez.

www.98-b.org, email hello@98-b.org

Post Gallery

Located at Shop 7, Cubao Expo in Cubao, Quezon City, Post Gallery was initially the space where Pablo Gallery was before it moved to The Fort in 2009. Since that move, the Cubao space would every now and then hold exhibits, music events, and designer meet ups. In 2013, they finally decided to open the space again and did a series of exhibits on experimental works and had events such as film screenings, talks, workshops, zine festivals, file sharing sessions, curated listening/screening parties called “Selecter FM,” and builders depot for those who want to create their own gadgets, among others. “It’s a space that tries to uphold the ’90s spirit of DIY and experimentation,” said exhibitions coordinator Lena Cobangbang. “Activities are meant to foster community and dialogue.” For Art Dubai, Post is sending Jed Escueta and Jayson Oliveria.

www.pablogalleries.com, email post@pablogalleries.com

Project 20

Located at 20 Maginhawa Street, UP Village, Diliman, Quezon City, Project 20 is situated inside the organic restaurant Green Daisy. It was founded in 2015 by Robert Langenegger and his group of artists. Their exhibitions often focus on young and upcoming Filipino artists, and they also have musical performances, film screenings, poetry readings, and more.

For Art Dubai, Project 20 is sending Gail Vicente and Tanya Villanueva. The two have collaborated on a series of works made of different fabrics, most of which are velvet and faux fur. These fabrics have a delicate and glamorous quality and so the artists decided to turn things around. They sewed in creases, stretched them, and burned them. “We wanted to go beyond the canvas,” said Gail, explaining how artists from their group are now challenging the traditional ways of creating art.

Facebook/projtwenty, email 20maginhawa@gmail.com

Thousandfold

Located at Warehouse 509, VFP Building 2, Veterans Road, Veterans Center, Taguig City, Thousandfold has a library and a store full of photobooks.  They hold exhibits, workshops, talks, and other educational programs on contemporary photography.

The difference between looking at photos on the Internet versus seeing them in photobooks is that photobooks showcase the unique voice of the photographer, said multiawarded artist Wawi Navarroza, who founded Thousandfold in 2015.

In photobooks, one can understand how a photographer thinks—from his or her selection of photographs for that particular book, to the context of those photos once understood as a whole, to the kind of paper that he or she chooses to print his or her work. Through exposing Filipinos to photobooks, Navarroza hopes to encourage photographers to be “authors with a specific voice and a way of looking at things.”

For Art Dubai’s “Marker,” Navarroza will show photos from her Dominion series, where she took photos of landscapes and skies. The locations of these photos don’t matter, said Navarroza, as she intentionally made them look otherworldly. The series started when a storm destroyed her studio in Taguig. “Everything in my life was there,” she said. “So I started asking ‘What is this structure that creates and destroys?’”

The other artists that Thousandfold are sending to Dubai are Tammy David, Ian Carlo Jaucian, Gino Javier, and Czar Kristoff.

www.thousandfold.org, email info@thousandfold.org

“Though these artists create a diverse kind of artworks, what binds them all together is their resistance to making commercial works,” said Bunoan. The art market loves figurative paintings of pretty subjects, but “Marker” will not tread

on that same path. “Art is taking risks,” said Bunoan. “A lot of artists just keep doing the same thing. They already have a formula.”

Bunoan’s chosen artists are a mix of established, emerging, and young ones. As to why she decided to include young artists who have yet to establish a name in the art scene, she said, “Yes, they are young, and I don’t know what’s going to happen to them, but I think that’s what makes them exciting.” (Jasmine Agnes T. Cruz)