Category Archives: Art

A musing and museum afternoon

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Via Crucis (2016) by Antipas Delotavo

The last time I went to the Vargas Museum was in college. I can’t even remember the name of the artist who opened his exhibition that day, so I’m pretty sure my attendance was partly because of the free food and beer.

So when I needed a place to work on my paper weeks ago, I visited the Vargas Museum, where there is also a museum cafe. It is true that a place rarely remains the same as the last time you saw it.

My favorite wall at its second floor is the one where Fernando Amorsolo’s paintings of ruins of Manila are on display. When destruction is painted by an artist well-known for works on the beauty of the countryside, we see a fresh wound while looking only at scars.

At the first floor, the current exhibits are those of Antipas Delotavo (Agos) and Roberto Feleo (Mito ng Aklasang Basi). Both exhibits run until April 8.

Museums have been more lenient about the prohibition against photographing the works on display. That might be a good way to reach out to the selfie-obsessed humans we have become. However, I can imagine the curators now face the challenge of creating a deeper experience than what the smartphones would allow.

For example, that day I visited the Vargas Museum, I saw two girls in the hall where Delotavo’s works are on exhibit. They were taking pictures of each other at the gap between the paintings Ganito Noon and Ganito Ngayon. Their hair and backs touched the canvas. They didn’t seem to spend time looking at the paintings, but the photos will most probably end up on their social media profiles.

There is no one way to appreciate a museum experience, sure. And among the many possible ways, there will be those that will prove to be annoying. I would like to ask curators and artists about this. Food and beer are on me.

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Allegory of Temptation (1933) by Graciano Nepomuceno

I vaguely remember how an ex-love demanded a trip to the National Museum. It was a weekend and I wasn’t feeling well, but my mind wouldn’t let me say “no.” Who would?

While looking at century-old masterpieces, I made believe my own emotions can transcend time and dust. I leaned and whispered that love lasts if you kiss in front of the Spoliarium. Before the walls of studies, I hoped the message was clear: the masters started somewhere, too. If forever exists, I’m sure it’s not ready-made.

After we broke up, I could come up with just one wish. That, damn it, when we proceed with the business of forgetting, may the memory of that rainy Sunday be spared. It should be framed, how we dragged ourselves out of the weekend slump and went to the museum. Art is always such a good excuse for loving.

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These photos are yours.

Disowning A Decade

In 2011, I finished sending away torn pages from my 10-year-old journal, in a little project called “Disowning A Decade.”

That same year, and during our bar review (and against the doctor’s advice, sorry), I went on a week-long impromptu trip to what would later on become one of my favorite hideouts.

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I wasn’t able to bring a proper camera, so I ended up snapping photos with a 500-peso Vivitar film cam from Abanao Road. Visit this Facebook link. Be the first to comment on the photo that you would like me to snailmail to you and I’ll send you the printed copy at the start of 2015. One photo per person, in view of the finite nature of my photography fund. But I don’t care whether you’re in or out of the Philippines.

Happy New Year! Wishing us all good health, so that we can continue to work for the other wishes of our hearts.

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Nine questions: Prabda Yoon

PrabdaYoon

 

Let me put this out first: I love bookshops.

Last month’s weekend trip to Thailand led me to Bangkok Arts and Culture Centre (BACC), where the treasure trove called Bookmoby Readers’ Cafe can be found. If you’re staying for less than 48 hours in a country, why would you spend more than an hour in a bookshop?

My haul from Bookmoby included a few familiar titles and a shirt with the shop’s logo. While paying at the counter, I also picked up a CD entitled Naming of a Storm and asked the staff if I can listen to it first. The album had me at “Bangkok Blues” so I got a copy.

Days after Naming of a Storm became my staple driving music, I took some time to read the jacket and found out that the the lyrics were written by Prabda Yoon, who also runs Bookmoby, Typhoon Studio and Typhoon Books. Prabda won the S.E.A. Write Award in 2002 for his story collection, Kwan Na Ja Pen. He has written books and screenplays, produced music and designed numerous book covers. His writings have also been translated to Japanese and published in Japan.

So why would you spend an hour of your short vacation inside a bookshop? Because it could be the door to a nation’s mind. And when you walk through that door, your trip continues even when you’re already back in your own country.

A week after my trip to Thailand, I found myself exchanging e-mails with Prabda Yoon. I’m so thankful that the prolific and influential artist took time to answer a few questions.

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The Typhoon Band, Typhoon Books and Typhoon Studio, Naming of a Storm. Is there a story behind the names and title? It’s just from my interest in meteorological phenomena. Also, it’s a word that is the same in Thai and English which makes it easy to use alternately.

The tracks in your band’s album, Naming of a Storm, has been my driving music for weeks now, since I picked it up at Bookmoby. “Cuba, Bollywood” is my favorite. Will you be releasing new album or music anytime soon? It’s unlikely because music is not my main thing and I don’t have time for it at all now.

The album was released in 2008. I understand that you wrote the lyrics for the songs. How different will the words be if you were to release a new one today? If I wrote new songs now the lyrics would probably be darker. I am feeling a bit frustrated with the political situation in Thailand and I think I would enjoy expressing that through songs. The music would also be more punk.

You’re a designer, writer, translator, publisher and musician, among other things. Have you always wanted or planned to do these? I’d always wanted to write and make art in some ways, but no, I didn’t really plan any of this. I never really believed that I could make a living doing these things. I tell myself often how lucky I am and how it’d be a terrible shame to waste it all by doing bad work. That’s my inspiration. I’m trying my best because I’m grateful I can do what I love.

Can you please tell us a bit about what makes you passionate about all these things that you do? I’m really no good at anything else. I feel that I’ve found my place in the world and I want to make the best out of it. For me life is about work, more than anything else, because I don’t have much passion for other things. So I just want to do what I do as much as I possibly can.

How do you see Thailand’s literary and art scene? It’s developing and at times it can be exciting. But Thailand still has a long way to go.

You’ve mentioned that you’ve been to the Philippines for some time. What brought you here? I have some good friends in the Philippines. And in 2009 I received a research grant from Japan that allowed me to stay in different parts of the Philippines for 3 months.

Do you have a favorite place in the Philippines? I love Siquijor. I went there twice. I would love to go back.

Is there any chance of you coming back? Yes, but not anytime soon. I know I will be back though.

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If you’re planning to visit Thailand, pass by BACC and spend time (at least an hour) at Bookmoby. You may also visit its website: www.bookmoby.com.

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Museum Weekend

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 Rizal’s flute

There are articles urging us to date someone who travels. Who writes. Who reads. Whatever. I’ll date anyone a good person who takes me to a museum or an art gallery when I need to feel better.

Last weekend, I was sick and needed something to keep me out of my room, where I’d probably just wallow in the futility of my vitamin supplements. Good thing it was also International Museum Weekend. (International Museum Day, but thanks to international date line differences.)

Free entrance! Chicken soup for my flu-infected soul. This year’s destinations: Lopez Museum at Ortigas and Ayala Museum at Makati.

The exhibit Complicated, featuring works by Mike Adrao, Leslie de Chavez and Ea Torrado, runs until August 2, 2014 at the Lopez Museum.

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Ea Torrado during her art talk

Ea Torrado’s talk was conducted at the Lopez Museum last Saturday. She led us, a roomful of museum visitors who have no (declared) dancing talents, into an appreciation of dance as an art. Her pieces on exhibit include Sisa, a video of her dancing in the dark with flashes of light and where names of desaparecidos are read.

When I think of dances, the creative process in my mind involves making up movements to suit a certain music. Ea spoke of how it is not always that linear. In fact, a lot of times her movements are conceptualized before the music. For some of her performances, the music was composed to go with the movements.

After the talk, I went around the Museum, where guides gave free tour for groups of visitors. I also wanted to go to the Yuchengco Museum at Makati, where Ambeth Ocampo was already wrapping up his talk on Philippine museums. But I had an appointment that afternoon and it was not possible to be at two geographically separated places at the same time. Believe me, sometimes I try. Also, my new job gives me free access to the Yuchengco Museum, anyway.

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Sunday was for the concert at Ayala Museum. Grammy award-winning pianist Edsel Gomez was there to perform with Nelson Gonzales (drums), Johnny Gaerlan (bass), Tusa Montes, Harold Santos, and Jacques Dufourt (percussion section from UP College of Music’s Asian Music Program).

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I’ve been exploring the music of jazz clarinetist Don Byron lately, because I’ve also recently decided to focus on my clarinet studies. That’s how I first came across the works of Edsel Gomez. Byron and Gomez worked together in Cubist Music, an album that features improvisation based on Cubist Art. The latin jazz pianist has also collaborated with vibraphonist Gary Burton of the Berklee College of Music, whose online improvisation courses I’ve been following.

So I was excited to listen to him perform live and wondered if I can remember the titles from his latin jazz compositions. There are a few pieces I was expecting him to play to the audience, some of whom I bet have been following his music closely.

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That night I was reminded of what draws me to jazz: its unpredictability.

During the introduction, Gomez told us how he studied Filipino instruments and music, then enchanted us with the way he mixed it with his own style. I sensed the same fascination in the audience as we listened to numbers, such as Bahay Kubo (Nipa Hut) and some war chants, rendered in jazz and mixed with music from ethnic instruments, such as kulintang, kubing, etc., by the artists from UP’s Asian Music Program. Gaerlan and Gonzales (who owns Tago Jazz Cafe in Cubao) perfects the chemistry needed to seal the fresh sound we were hearing.

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Edsel Gomez didn’t tell us how he would call the music they performed that night. I wish I’d asked. I also need to see them perform again, hopefully at the Philippine International Jazz Festival next year.

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Where we will be on Friday.

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October 14, 2013 · 4:30 pm