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September 09, 2009

MS. RICHIE LERMA

When three private art museums came together eight years ago to take stock of the public lives of their formidable collections, little did they know that the wheels of a cultural phenomenon were already beginning to turn. Banding to foster increased partnership in the face of dwindling funding for the arts, the project also helped foster camaraderie among the museums’ staff whose pooled research, expertise and professional networks became a valuable resource and a well-spring of information.

This “inside-out” approach – recognizing core strengths and finding ways to maximize their potential by seeking opportunities to broaden and extend their effect – proved immensely successful that it did not take long for the Ateneo Art Gallery, Ayala Museum, and the Lopez Memorial Museum to find new collaborators in Museo Pambata and Bahay Tsinoy. Together, these five institutions have annually rolled out a series of exhibitions around a particular theme, each one focusing on their niche areas while at the same time making their shows permeable, resulting in a free-flow of ideas and audiences.

Today, Zero-in is an exemplar of why collegiality and mutual respect are the keys to sustainability. Complete with guided tours, lectures, forums and satellite events, it is a veritable festival of arts and culture, arguably the longest-running one in the country. As the private consortium moves forward and charts the next stage in its collective public life, it is only natural for it to begin a process of introspection, allowing the spirit of altruism that started it all to once again move and inspire, this time drawing the outside in.

Thus, the theme that was chosen for this year’s outing, “Periphery.”

Beginning at the Ayala Museum on September 21, 2009 The Ring of Fire: The First Southeast Asian Ceramics Festival, will assemble recent works by several contemporary ceramic artists from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and the Philippines. The festival also brings together the contemporary practitioners who find expression in the art and technology of pottery. The exhibit, along with the planned interaction series with the artists, will reveal a range of forms and techniques that have developed in their countries and communities and the shared heritage that linked and enlivened Asian culture and social dynamics in history.

In line with the theme of “periphery,” this exhibit pays homage to the ring or network of artists who produce and create new works that invigorate and continue the tradition and art of ceramics in the twenty-first century. To complete the circle and saga of the art form and inter-island interaction and to give a historical perspective to contemporary ceramics, Ayala Museum will also showcase its permanent display of Chinese and Southeast Asian trade ceramics in A Millennium of Contact as part of the 2009 Zero-in exhibition series.

The Ring of Fire: The First Southeast Asian Ceramics Festival is organized and convened by artist Hadrian Mendoza, who has exhibited extensively in contemporary ceramics exhibitions both locally and internationally, and is represented in museum collections in the Philippines, Korea, Japan, China, and Washington DC. The exhibit will run until 4 October 2009.

Ateneo Art Gallery opens on October 1, 2009 Beyond Frame: Philippine Photomedia,  curated by Gina Fairley. The exhibit draws together 14 very different artists practicing at the edge, moving between traditional photographic genres and contemporary photo-based installations, and weaving narratives and notions of the self and place across a group of art works that spans more than 3 decades.  The exhibit is an astute observation of the development of a medium locally and the pulse of an art scene now.

Fairley states: “Anyone can pick up a camera today with availability of digital technology. These artists, rather, push our understanding of photography beyond a mere ‘recording of the real’. Caught between the first world’s ever-increasing sophistication of imaging technologies and a culture of tech-piracy and make-do aesthetics, the Philippines offers a dynamic discussion on contemporary photomedia from a regional perspective.”

Including works by Ateneo Art Award winners Poklong Anading and MM Yu, who will be shown alongside talents such as Romina Diaz, Ringo Bunoan, Christina Dy, Lena Cobangbang, Gina Osterloh, Rachel Rillo and Steve Tirona, this generation of artists will be anchored by historic works such as Lani Maestro’s “A voice remembers nothing”, works by the pioneering Philippine photographer Mario Co and installation based photo-works by senior artists Noberto Roldan, Gerry Tan and Tony Twigg.

This exhibit was premiered at the UTS Gallery Sydney, September 2008 with a site-specific wall-drawing by Christina Dy. It then toured to Bendigo Australia to continue the Ateneo Art Gallery’s ongoing relationship with the La Trobe University before returning to Manila.

With each venue the exhibit has changed responding to local conditions, as the curator explains, “Nothing is static in our contemporary world. To be able to extend the way we see our surroundings – albeit beyond the traditional frame of the camera’s viewfinder or being open to new technologies and regional relationships – that vitality I have found in the Philippines in photomedia. It has the ability to capture the pace and the pulse of now and, like the turgent eddies in a stream, lead us to the unexpected.”

The exhibit runs until December 15,2009.

Bahay Tsinoy, for its part, reflects upon the adage: “He who forgets his past is bound to repeat his mistakes” as it presents on November 7, 2009 Remembering the stories of two peoples, Chinese and Filipinos, sharing a dark past, but both emerging from the ashes of war with a conviction that the wars of their fathers should never visit future generations.

At the core of their histories are wars that serve as an enduring reminder that violence does not solve conflict, nor does it bring peace. Focusing on the Nanjing Massacre of 1937 in China by occupying Japanese soldiers, and the 1945 massacres in many places in the Philippines by withdrawing Japanese troops, at the heart of these atrocities were lives lost or shattered, innocent victims of actions neither of their doing nor desire being left in the peripheries. The exhibit will run until November 28, 2009.

Over at the Lopez Memorial Museum, on November 12, Deleted Scenes calls attention to the leavings of image-making and the coupling of sensory elements used to craft narratives of presumed fact and proposed fiction.  In speaking about what gets left out as opposed to what gets on board, the exhibition, as in the Special Features option in today’s Blu-ray DVDs does not so much as fill in the blanks as it lets on that the blanks are inevitably there because meaning-making is always invested and choice-driven.  In bringing the works of Lyle Buencamino, Sari Dalena and Camilla Griggers, Dada Docot and Al Manrique alongside seldom shown works from the museum’s collection, the exhibition mimics its own internal mechanisms that play into what has become core and periphery within its own trove. The exhibit runs until January 9, 2010.

Further exploring the harsh reality of life in the peripheries of society, Museo Pambata will mount an exhibition titled Invisible Children which spotlights children living in different and difficult situations: the working children, children with disabilities, those caught in armed conflict or affected by and infected with HIV/AIDS; children living in the streets, the indigenous treated as outsiders, the malnourished, prostituted and abused. They are those who are often neglected and denied access to their rights as stated in the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) which enunciates the principle that a basic quality of life should be the right of all children, rather than a privilege enjoyed by a few.

The voices of these children will be heard through poems, letters, photographs, works of art and other visual presentations culled from Museo Pambata’s recently-held CRC Summit for Children, as well as a book on the Tutubing Bakal/Bakwit project sponsored by the Australian Embassy, which offers a view into the struggle to live in spite of the most difficult circumstances. The exhibition opens on November 26 and runs until January 5, 2010.

Zero In 8: Periphery   represents a spectrum of mandates, audiences, acquisitional and educational benchmarks.  For more info, contact Fanny San Pedro at 631-2417or visit www.zeroinmuseums.org

Zero-In Exhibition dates

  • Ayala Museum: The Ring of Fire: The First Southeast Asian Ceramics Festival  opens  September 21 until October 4, 2009
  • Ateneo Art Gallery: Beyond Frame: Philippine Photomedia  opens on October 1 until December 15, 2009
  • Lopez Memorial Museum: Deleted Scenes opens November 12, 2009 until January 9, 2010
  • Bahay Tsinoy: Remembering opens November 12, 2009 until January 9, 2010
  • Museo Pambata: Invisible Children opens November 26, 2009 until January 5, 2010