Megamall Hijinks

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.

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