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Arts and Culture

Art in the year of the hybrid

THE X-PAT FILES - Scott Garceau - The Philippine Star
Art in the year of the hybrid
Inflatables by Sasha Frolova

As we hit Alert Level 1 in Metro Manila, we are all a mixture of half-free and half-cautious. So it only makes sense that Art Fair Philippines 2022 would be a mix as well. It’s what AFP organizers Trickie Lopa, Lisa Periquet and Dindin Araneta call a “hybrid,” with a blend of live-space events, digital pop-ups, and an AFP website that also serves as a hub for scheduling events, talks and gallery visits.

And as things open up, size matters. Transferring from its longtime home at The Link to an online-only AFP last year, this year’s 10-day art experience will mostly spread out across the Ayala Triangle Gardens with guided “Gallery Hops,” a variety of experiential spaces among the leafy walkways, a public amphitheater area for film screenings, an Augmented Reality Trail with QR imagery, and a just-constructed scaffolding for viewing artworks that are expected to reach superscale proportions.

A hybrid means that living, breathing art gazers can now traverse an actual space by visiting Ayala Triangle, which transforms starting March 23 into an open-air art plaza. The scale spreads out horizontally — with areas hosting Art Fair’s usual venues of interest (Galleries, Films, Photos, Residencies, Projects) — but also vertically, with a high-scaffolding walkthrough area at Ayala Tower One Fountain Area to explore art within a safe, open-air environment.

Finally, the veil is partly lifted. Let it art!

Forty-six galleries will participate — including two strictly-photo spaces, six international galleries, plus two NFT (non-fungible token) spaces, carrying on from last year’s digital focus.

To get people back into the IRL mood, this hybrid fair will encourage Gallery Hops — special routes and scheduling guides so visitors can actually get back into the physical gallery spaces surrounding Makati. “We’re really pushing people to do live gallery visits,” Dindin said, noting the galleries “really made an effort this year to put together live shows.”

In addition to spreading out across the metro, there’ll be a greater focus on regional art groups from the three main Philippine island clusters, including Ibagiw Art Fest x Gallery 2600 (Luzon), VIVA ExCon Dasun Bacolod x Orange Project (Visayas), Langgikit x Museo De Oro x Art Portal Gallery (Mindanao), and Lawig-diwa x Gallery Down South (Mindanao). “There were projects undertaken in the past year that we wanted our audience to experience,” says Trickie, “so we partnered up with a few artists around the Philippines to show work to reconnect already.”

Melvin Guirhem

Go for Baroque

Art consultant Norman Crisologo and exhibition designer Ed Lacson have devised an outdoor space to showcase local artists who emphasize what Crisologo calls the “baroque quality” of Philippine art. He describes it as “the deliberately ugly, the seemingly spontaneous, the recklessly experimental with a unique Filipino sensibility.” Lisa adds: “None of these artists are wallflowers or shrinking violets. They’re all out there.”

Among the mix of senior, mid-career and up-and-coming artists commissioned this year are: Aze Ong, Bjorn Calleja, Doktor Karayom, Johanna Helmuth, Melvin Guirhem, Ryan Jara, Sasha Frolova, Tyang Karyel and Wyndelle Remonde. The late Arô Soriano and social realist Nune Alvarado will get a special exhibition as well.

You get the sense that artists have been dying to break free from the lockdown space. Some new names you will know, some deal in canvases, some in street art or NFTs, some crochet tapestries, some make sculpture, and some create inflatables. It’s going to be a heady mix, and the fact that local artists have been itching to “go big” is apparent in the sheer scale of some of the featured works: Russian-based artist Forlova will present four-meter-high inflatable pieces, while James Clar’s “I Can’t Tell You What I Don’t Know, Only That I Don’t Know” is a huge, 20-foot parol transported from San Fernando by truck that will front the Ayala Museum, Norman Dreo’s “Behind the Shadows” is a 7 x 20 foot mural, and Ong’s elaborate tapestry, set to hang in the Ayala Tower One Fountain Area, will be a massive 12 x 40 feet. (“She did it all herself,” marvels Lisa. “Next time she said she’ll use assistants because her wrists were in agony.”)

Even fashion gets a close-up, as part of the physical ArtFairPH/Photo section presented by BPI, with an exhibit called “Tattoos, Ternos and Couture: A Celebration of Philippine Fashion Photography” curated by Neal Oshima, Michael Salientes, Mark Nicdao and Gio Panlilio.

Last year, New York-based new media artist Jeremy Couillard brought experimental films to the ArtFairPH/Film section (presented by Globe Platinum), and this year — after his “Fuzz Spiral” series based on his recent video game Fuzz Dungeon was displayed on Times Square screens in 2021 — he returns to Art Fair with “There Is No Up Or Down, Only Attraction,” a film exploring curious creatures, galactic vistas, pixelated gaming maps and streetscapes to be shown on digital screens (sponsored by LG Electronics) at Makati’s Ayala Triangle Gardens new outdoor amphitheater space.

Last year online AFP saw the launch of the ArtFairPH/Residencies in partnership with Bleeding Heart Rum Corporation, makers of Don Papa Rum, and this year the fair exhibits works by the first five chosen artists: Derek Tumala for Manila Observatory, Hannah Nantes for Linangan Art Residency, Jao San Pedro for Emerging Islands, Alwin Reamillo for Orange Project, and Faye Abantao for Butanding Barrio. The next round of residencies is open to all Filipino artists across all disciplines, with application period for 2022 running from March 23 to April 23 (chosen artists will be announced May 20).

Doktor Karayom

Welcome to augmented reality

Last year’s focus on the “metaverse,” NFTs and digital space was a hit, drawing a lot of new viewers to AFP, according to Trickie. “The NFT talks were one of our most-attended events last year. We were lucky we put it out at just the right time.”

This year, Art Fair Philippines takes the metaverse to Makati, with an interactive augmented reality (AR) art trail at the Ayala Triangle Gardens using the Daata AR app.

Daata is a digital platform for experimental artists including Couillard, Eva Papamargariti, Elliot Dodd, Tuomas Laitinen, Keiken, Aaajiao and Florian Meisenberg. Along with these artists’ digital images, Daata specifically requested that Filipino artists be included in the AR space. Thus, Leeroy New’s “Aparisyon (Apparition)” images were commissioned to pop up along the AR Art Trail. New created his sculptures from discarded plastic bottles during the pandemic, and they feature an extinct animalistic creature from another universe — one facing a climate crisis much like our own. They’ll be joined in the “phygital” space by Filipino speculative fiction writer Eliza Victoria, whose story “Let Me Hold Your Hand” draws from the tropes of portal fantasy and local folk narratives of people losing themselves in enchanted realms. A step beyond Pokemon, deep into the realms of art.

(For those who still prefer the comfort of screens, exhibits by this year’s participants will be viewable at www.artfairphilippines.com. Art Fair Philippines guests can also join the Gallery Walkthrough, scheduled on March 23 and March 24, for virtual tours of the exhibitors.)

Let’s talk about art

Dindin walked us through improvements in the AFP website. “When we planned this year’s fair, we thought the website had to be more hard-working, mainly because that’s the reality now — people really spend a lot of time online.” She encourages people to create their own account on the websites, “mainly because it’s going to make it easier to navigate the site and your favorites.”

Think of it as your dashboard hub to schedule what you want to see in advance, sign up for free art talks and virtual tours, and book actual gallery visits via Messenger, Viber and What’s App. Another tip: the “View on a Wall” feature on the website lets you click a button to see just how an artwork would look in your home space. “It’s very useful if you want to figure out the dimensions of an artwork.”

In addition, ArtFairPH/Talks features daily discussions presented in partnership with the Ateneo Art Gallery, Museum Foundation of the Philippines, and the Embassy of Spain. (Talks accessible at www.artfairphilippines.com.) This year will include virtual discussions with Paco Barragán, an independent curator and arts writer based in Madrid, about art collecting and advice for artists, and a panel discussion about NFTs, which was the main focus last year.

Art Fair Philippines 2022 also features ArtFairPH/Open Studios, this year collaborating with J Studio and ceramicist Pablo Capati to showcase a three-part series of pottery demos entitled “Conversations on Clay” with Jezzel Wee, Marco Rosario, Ella Mendoza, Krista Nogueras, Jon Pettyjohn and Joey de Castro.

And virtual Art Tours are back with “Baguio Artists Studio Visits: Part 2,” a continuation of last year’s video documentation of artists’ studios by Nona Garcia, Abbie Lara and Kawayan de Guia. Visual artists Plet Bolipata and Elmer Borlongan will also take fair visitors on a virtual tour of their new studio in what they call the “Bolipata and Borlongan Talyer Video Tour.”

Finally, with 10 Days of Art, Makati holds a series of events around the Central Business District to celebrate beyond the venue of the fair with two solo exhibits by Juanito Torres and Norman Dreo under the title “Perspectives” on view at the Greenbelt 5 Gallery. (Visit www.10daysofart.com for schedules.)

“We’re very excited to see how the space will feel,” concludes Lisa. “It brings back the Art Fair in a different place, but in a more physical way so hopefully people will have that feeling again about being in a real art space.”

* * *

For more information on this year’s program and schedule of activities, visit the Art Fair Philippines website www.artfairphilippines.com and follow Art Fair Philippines on Instagram (@artfairph) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/artfairph).

Art Fair Philippines 2022 is co-presented by Ayala Land, Bank of the Philippine Islands, Globe Platinum, and Don Papa Rum.

The Philippine STAR is a media partner of Art Fair Philippines 2022.

ART FAIR

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