Pushing against the roof of the world: ruangrupa’s prospects for documenta fifteen

President Sukarno, the first leader of Indonesia after it became a republic in 1945, inspects his troops. (Photo by Hulton-Deutsch/Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis via Getty Images) My latest article about ruangrupa on Third Text:http://thirdtext.org/cristobal-ruangrupa "A concern in many texts of Indonesian mythology is the need to raise the sky. This appears in myths from elsewhere, too, but… Continue reading Pushing against the roof of the world: ruangrupa’s prospects for documenta fifteen

The Manila Syndrome

Filipino labor importation and US Cold War Diplomacy Men wait on pier 40 to board the ship that will take them to Alaska. April 27, 1939. Courtesy Fred and Dorothy Cordova, National Pinoy Archive, Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) Copyright (c) reserved. A month after New York went into COVID-19 lockdown, one of my… Continue reading The Manila Syndrome

Notes on not publishing a book from a really extremist ultra-leftist

Guy Debord's Biography in 45 Notes Guy Louis Debord (/dəˈbɔːr/; French: [gi dəbɔʁ]; 28 December 1931 – 30 November 1994) Think of how your book would look if you published a book. If it looks anything like any other book, do not publish that book.If by some reason you think of a book that has… Continue reading Notes on not publishing a book from a really extremist ultra-leftist

Visual echoes

Lee Friedlander (1934 – ), Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota, 1969, gelatin silver print. Middlebury College Museum of Art. Purchase with funds provided by the Memorial Art Fund, 1998.028. © Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco How many ways has photography changed our view of nature and how has our overwhelming dependence on photography impacted… Continue reading Visual echoes

A decent photo of Montauk Point

Over the summer break, I visited Montauk Point on the easternmost end of Long Island and I was intrigued by the information written on a tourist pamphlet that lighthouses were the very first public works project undertaken by the United States. The lighthouse along with the one at Camp Henry, as pointed out in “Conjuring… Continue reading A decent photo of Montauk Point

Art writing needs to be activist

I find myself writing more frequently about photographs and writing about photographic exhibitions and the archive. Thinking about the photograph’s historical, theoretical, architectural, and urban contexts and attendant social issues became more insightful and rewarding in light of extended isolation from any art world experience. Time away from galleries and museums was good but I’m… Continue reading Art writing needs to be activist

Blindness and reflection

I recall Aristotle’s De Anima in Geoffrey Batchen’s article about his thrift store locket. A commercial photographic material, the locket was once deemed lacking in “intellectual and aesthetic qualities beyond sentimental kitsch,” thus making it unfit for purposes of official history (33). The invisibility of such low-cultural objects to institutional analysis nonetheless paved the way… Continue reading Blindness and reflection

Listening to Images

Campt, Tina, Listening to images. (Durham : Duke University Press, 2017) I found Tina Campt’s use of the term “vernacular photography” thematically apt. Though she never mentions it, the etymology of "vernacular" is linked to slavery. From the OED: "vernacular", early 17th century: from Latin vernaculus 'domestic, native' (from verna 'home-born slave') + -ar.* Used in… Continue reading Listening to Images

From the Secret Files of American History

A response to Black Reconstruction in America (1935) by W.E.B Du Bois There are significant parallels between the events following the American Civil War and our current political situation. Does this mean that history is repeating itself in some momentous way or is it just a case of the same old shit happening all along?… Continue reading From the Secret Files of American History

Feeling Photography/Penetraing Pictures

Parlor games with the Igorots, c. 1905 Elspeth H. Brown and Thuy Phy, Feeling Photography. Durham : Duke University Press, 2014  In his letters, Franz Kafka projected his uncertainties on the photograph of his fiancé and wrote how her "little photograph produces as much pleasure as pain.” Kafka continues: “It does not fade away, it… Continue reading Feeling Photography/Penetraing Pictures

Reading American Photographs (Alan Trachtenberg, 1989)

ALAN TRACHTENBERG. Reading American Photographs: Images as History, Mathew Brady to Walker Evans. New York: Hill and Wang. 1989. Pp. xxi, 326 Trachtenberg’s book begins with a good reminder that the concept of indexical images existed well before the invention of the first publicly available photograph in the mid-19th century. The fascination for projected images… Continue reading Reading American Photographs (Alan Trachtenberg, 1989)

Hospital ministry under coronavirus lockdown

My father, Gerry, is a veteran missionary for a small local Christian congregation in the Philippines that has held Sunday service at a hospital for the last fourteen years. Assisted by my mother Beth, he has done missionary work in various workplaces since the 1980s. His current post in the Palliative Care Unit, an office… Continue reading Hospital ministry under coronavirus lockdown

Catherine Deneuve as an ageing film diva

The Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-Eda won the Cannes Palme d'or in 2018 with his film "Shoplifters" about a family of thieves. The following year, the master of family drama made his first film outside of Japan: "La Vérité" with Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche and Ethan Hawke. I was immediately impressed by the first appearance of… Continue reading Catherine Deneuve as an ageing film diva

Brief notes on Teddy Roosevelt’s statue being removed from the steps of the Museum of Natural History

In the New York Times today: the equestrian statue of Theodore Roosevelt, the former president of the United States who declared the end of the Philippine-American War in 1902, will be removed from the steps of the Museum of Natural History. The Museum maintains that it is removing the statue not because of Theodore Roosevelt's… Continue reading Brief notes on Teddy Roosevelt’s statue being removed from the steps of the Museum of Natural History

Kawi and Baybayin, ancient writing scripts of Southeast Asia

Copy of a stone stele written in Kawi script, then kept in the Museum of Culture Batavia The media of writing and images correspond to two different forms of reception: words are read, images are recognized. While the code that makes writing legible first has to be learned formally, what is shown in images can… Continue reading Kawi and Baybayin, ancient writing scripts of Southeast Asia

The Hidden Lore of Baybayin

Panitik Silangan was a Baybayin publication published in 1963. Photos: Stanley Baldwin O. See http://images.gmanews.tv/webpics/2016/08/3_2016_08_15_17_46_42.JPG All languages are languages of power: the power to impose meaning and thereby give order to the world. Most writing scripts are imposed from above by a state, or the beginnings of one, in a literate society. However, before a writing… Continue reading The Hidden Lore of Baybayin

Dog cage quarantine

  An officer of the neighborhood night-watch with five young men locked inside a dog cage after breaking community quarantine rules in Laguna province, the Philippines on March 20, 2020 (Eric Panisan Ambrocio via Facebook/Human Rights Watch)   When my sister told me not to make plans to come home to the Philippines over the… Continue reading Dog cage quarantine

Mythological tricksters in Indonesia and the Philippines 

There, tricksters tend to come in a paunchy and less nimble guise, as either apes or tortoises. In one such tale, an ape is said to have befriended a heron, and they engaged in the common practice, at least among the humans who told these tales, of delousing one another. The heron went first and picked off every last bit of the ape's lice. The ape returned the favor, at least after a fashion. Pick, pick, he proceeded. Ouch, ouch, shouted the heron. "You're hurting me!" "No, I am only picking off the lice," replied the ape. As it happened, the ape was plucking off all of the heron's feathers. "I am done," he said when he had finished. "Fly away." But when the poor heron tried, he could only stumble, and the ape laughed. 

Rage against the image

  On the night of February 25, 1986, the Filipino people took to the streets to celebrate the downfall of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Around ten thousand protesters held a vigil to retake Malacanang, the presidential palace originally built by the Spaniards for the Governor-General of the former colony. The plaza which was once open… Continue reading Rage against the image