It is my belief that in any profession, especially in the creative line, one never completely moves beyond the pull of the personal in any human encounter. Experience teaches us to not look at the works merely as objects but also the process behind it. My project has in its typical manner sought to deeply explore my quest as a writer enamoured by the arts and despite all the evident energy displayed to represent this impossibly unending single perspective (as usual), much of the artists representative work included here appear to be fundamentally derivative. Yet the dispersal of artistic ideas seems to be commuted into a diagnosis if anything, lacking in any collective manifesto, speaking mainly through the voices of the individual artists, rather than via any organized curatorial or critical apparatus.
A portion in the book aims to spotlight new talent—artists who deserve more attention outside their art schools, cheap studios, and apartments. I did not seek to work with a set of artists who are normally shown together or those who can easily fit into a concept. I would gladly abandon any curatorial framework in favour of having these people exhibited together even if only in a publication. The reasons are immense and diverse and I have often remarked that this has a working title of “A Few of my Favourite Things,” and I was only half-joking. It is true that the pleasure of rummaging through the materials the artists sent me and visits to their studios and travelling with them is primary to any blanket of coherence that I can cover for this project.
Choosing the photos that would see final print, I often rethink about how to stitch them together and caption them. In the context of critically perplexing language, some artworks play second fiddle to the opinion of their curator, looking like any typical Berlin or Manila group show in yet another white space with ostentatious ambitions and titles. It occurred to me that other curators have already been eagerly successful in exploiting a packaged kind of leftover cosmopolitan attitude towards exhibitions, and this publication simply wants out of that order or at least defeat it by being conscious about it.
My vision if not my work for this project is far from over. Jerwin Collado’s installation entitled Muling Pagkabuhay ni Hesus Cristo is an example. Vaguely and in a very general term, his work evokes the young force behind much of current artistic production. It seems adolescent, not yet inebriated by a supposed maturity needed to succeed in the art world but it is fresh and it sheds new color on a largely greying art scene full of mass-produced, commercially-oriented works. I picked the works for their sincerity and the potential of awkward and quirky juxtapositions such as the pairing of Maria Cruz and Marina Cruz Garcia who in Manila are each commonly mistaken for the other or of artists whom you cannot categorize so easily by age, citizenship, and gender or art genre.
The raw material is there, which this collection is happy to show us. We just don’t yet know what kind of value will ultimately be stamped onto it. I hate to end this introduction on a slightly depressing note but the dramatic and widely publicized impasse between quarrelling factions and sensationalized portrayal in the media that will likely result in misguided notions of contemporary art in Manila can be seen as a symptom of the art scene’s problematic relationship with the larger, international art world. In my small attempt, I propose to dispel that by presenting artists you would never see together in any museum or gallery collection. Thus, the crossing of artistic coteries and the discordant but not meaningless insertions of international artists. More than half of the artists included here work outside the Philippines and few of them actually know each other. Art History is currently being rewritten, whether or not we like it, and such understandings of former affinities disappear. One may see this presentation as part of an organized revision of an attitude towards contemporary art which cuts the boring parts out. Or maybe just a mere coincidence common in art of elsewhere that is also bordered and divisive. But let me end here since I don’t believe in accidents and long explanations. – Geronimo Cristobal, Jr.
4 November 2011