Kawi and Baybayin, ancient writing scripts of Southeast Asia

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 usually be identified spontaneously. It doesn’t matter that what is shown in pictures is as schematic as… Continue reading Kawi and Baybayin, ancient writing scripts of Southeast Asia

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. 

Pushing against the roof of the world

A two-part essay assessing ruang rupa’s prospects for Documenta 15 A large concern in many texts of Indonesian mythology seems to be the need to raise the sky. The concern appears in the myths of China and Hawaii but the forms they take there are not as extreme as in the Indonesian stories, where the… Continue reading Pushing against the roof of the world

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