Archive for August 26th, 2007

The Second Visitation

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

As I sit here at home, broke and unemployed, I console myself with living in my memories of glamour, drama, and touching greatness. (cue: Norma Desmond scene, Sunset Blvd.)

My last Sunday in Manila, Carlos invited Megawati, me, Juan and Romeo to Pink Kitchen, a breast-cancer awareness fundraiser for I Can Serve at Rockwell Tent that one of his family members had organized. We figured, being sensitive folks in support of a great cause (and also a cause that involved copious amounts of delicious food) that we would go, and represent.

Lo and behold. Seated front and center was the Lady herself, yet again. Carlos, ever the irrepressible social butterfly, greeted her and made introductions (while delicately and hilariously fending off accusations and outings being made by Imelda’s daughter about Carlos’ Imelda Tour). A camera emerged, Carlos’ brother took the picture, and the rest is history.

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Carlos, Mega, Imelda, Wofford (Thanks for the pic, Celdrans!)

And yes, she grabbed my hand for the photo opp.

Having had The Encounter, we settled down as best we could, and got to eating. The Pink Kitchen was essentially Rockwell Tent, filled with gourmet food booths where you would go and pick whatever delicious thing you wanted to eat, and pay with pre-purchased “money”. We got to gobbling, when, wouldn’t you know it, Mrs M decided to start making the rounds, sitting down one table away from us:

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I couldn’t control myself. Romeo and I went back over to her, and asked if we could take a picture with her AGAIN. She graciously acquiesced, and that, ladies and germs, is how I got the photo below…

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So, yeah. Since I’ve also gotten my photo taken with Phyllis Madonna (my other patron saint, of sorts), and got to eat bootleg Planter’s Cheezballs in Manila in copious amounts, this just about rounds out my life’s goals. I sent the pic out via email to a bunch of friends, and the 3 questions that kept coming up were:

1 . Is that a wax mannequin?

2. What’s up with the stains?

3. What shoes was she wearing?

And while I can confidently say that she was most assuredly NOT wax, I have no hard and fast answers for the other 2. And lay off the shoe questions, anyway. Is that all you people know about history, or what?

To be fair, the shoe story is the iconic example of the excesses of the Marcos era. And I, like most folks who care about the Philippines, have learned a thing or two about all associated history and controversy. In having my photo taken with her, I guess it comes down to something that came across really strongly in Imelda, the 2003 documentary by Ramona Diaz: you can despise the woman, you can adore the woman, but you can’t deny the almost supernatural charm and charisma she wields. She’s an icon, love her or hate her. I’ve got to say, having gotten to spend only a few minutes with her, she really does have it. I don’t know what it is, but it’s weirdly powerful.

Maybe the stains are her way of keeping it real these days.

I dunno.

Megamall Hijinks

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

Posting out of sequence: the event below happened in early August. Well, I’m not that linear, anyway.

So. Even though most shows in Manila are less than a month long (sometimes only 2 weeks), and there are at least one or two openings/parties associated with each show, there’s been a recent trend towards having closing parties, to boot. Case in point: Poklong Anading’s closing party for his show, “Light Suffers if There’s No Place to Fall From,” at Finale Art Gallery. Conceptually, it made a lot of sense to have a closing event, given the work on exhibit. Christine Wong Yap wrote smartly about it on her blog:

Megamall closing. I had the good fortune to attend the closing reception of Poklong Anading’s exhibition at Finale Gallery in Megamall in Manila. (Yes, there is a mall called Megamall, and yes, it’s common and unsurprising for Manila’s commercial galleries to be located there. The location is apt, since malls offer a clean, air-conditioned escape from the chaotic, humid streets outside.) Poklong makes top-notch object- and photography-based relational art. On display at the closing was a back-lit, life-sized photograph of viewer’s backs as they packed the narrow storefront gallery during the opening. Inside, an oversized mousetrap made of neon and cement hummed with an audio track of chatter. I thought the work was elegant and smart. It expressed Poklong’s ambivalence on the social nature of art openings and the commercial context of the gallery (mall signage could be seen in the reflection of the windows in the photograph, and it was mimicked in the neon sculpture). On another level, to look at the photo resulted in a curious effect of being physically outside of the gallery as well as the a circle of opening attendees photographed.

Christine, Mike, Stephanie, Rick and I went to the closing, and of course had a blast.
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Steph’s photo of the inside of Finale (above): empty, except for the mousetrap sculpture:

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On opening night, folks crowded in to see the object, and Poks took a picture through the gallery’s glass front of everyone inside. He then printed it life-size, and installed it in the gallery window.

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(Steph’s pic above)

Which we then editorialized (Rick’s pics):

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Woff, Arcega, Cobangbang, Anading, Syjuco, Wong Yap

There was a lot of hanging out, talking and mixing it up with the friends who dropped by. Poklong got all fired up about showing us photos on his laptop of Martha Atienza‘s possible artist compound in Bantayan, Cebu.

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Always fun to have a family photo, gathered round ye olde Powerbooke, dreaming our dreams…

Seeing the photos of course got us all fired up about the idea (not having actually met Martha yet, of course)…but then, Manila being a tight-knit community, I ended up meeting Martha at Green Papaya a week later…she’s a really interesting artist. Half Dutch, half-Filipina, but unlike certain half-breed Wofflers, was actually raised in the Philippines. When I got to spend a bit more time with her, she showed us a bunch of cool work on her laptop (not yet on her website) that’s destined for an installation in Holland.

The art scene in Manila is super close-knit, and friends really seem to support one another in a family-oriented way. There are always things bubbling, but it really feels like all of the amazing potential there is coalescing into something big. Maybe it’s just a maturity piece: late 20-somethings/30-somethings finally coming into their own, and being ready to make something bigger happen. Same there as here, perhaps. It seemed like just during the month we were there, various international curators, dealers and other artists were drifting through our friends’ studios, which was pretty exciting to hear about.

Anyway, Megamall was closing, so we made our goodbyes, and trundled off to the elevators. Almost all the shops we closed and dark by the time we split, and the mannequins on one of the islands were draped for reasons unclear to us.

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I ended up seeing this on other after-hours mannequins at another mall later on, so I can’t classify this as a uniquely MegaMall moment. Still, this was a far more poetic presentation than elsewhere, what with the ominous lighting, the dark clothes, and (best of all) the shorts.

Shorts are funny sometimes. I can’t really explain why.