Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Despite fund lack, the arts thrive

Philippine Daily Inquirer, 12.28.2009

A survey of the 2009 arts and culture scene in quotes and observations


Despite its limited budget, the CCP, which celebrated its 40th anniversary this year, managed to bring together, in this year’s Brave New Works Festivals, “a deluge of provocative new works by poets, playwrights, choreographers, composers, visual artists and independent filmmakers,” as CCP associate artistic director Chris Millado described it.

The festivals included three well-known pillars: the Virgin Labfest (theater), WiFi Body Festival (independent dance) and Cinemalaya (film); along with WordJam! (spoken word), the 13 Artists Awards (visual arts) and Musik Underkonstruktion (new symphonic works).

Now, think how much more creative our artists could get with greater state funding and support.

We take a survey of the 2009 arts and culture scene through remarks by the artists and cultural workers themselves:

“Our motto is ‘Have floor, will dance.’ We’ve even danced on wooden softdrink crates while on tour!” -- Lisa Macuja, who celebrated her 25th anniversary this year in ballet. Macuja’s Ballet Manila has performed in over 45 cities and towns nationwide.

“The situation in Mindanao is a really complex issue. It’s important that we actually care that there is a war there, that we do whatever we can in our capacities to do something about it. In my case, I am doing theater work to create awareness.” -- Shamaine Centenera Buencamino, on playing Tanghalang Pilipino’s “Madonna Brava ng Mindanao,” based on Brecht’s “Mother Courage and Her Children”

“Alternative art spaces are growing, away from shopping malls and back to the suburbs. Former warehouses and ancestral homes are now the preferred spaces. For example, Cubao Expo, a former cluster of shoe stores, is now abuzz with art spaces like galleries, performance spaces, screening rooms, coffee shops with open-mic poetry readings and musical jamming ... In the last five years, there’s been a surge of creativity among young artists. Aside from using paint and canvas to express their ideas, they employ a gamut of other materials. Digital art and photography has opened new avenues. Film is dead, and the gazillion-gigabyte memory chip, which can store a multitude of images and sound bites, replaces it. Web design, animation, mangga, animé and flash animation are all evolving every second.” -- Guillermo “Ige” Ramos, Cocoon magazine art director and a judge in Inquirer Lifestyle-Nokia’s 10 Most Exciting Young Artists, on why he believes the Philippine art scene is in the midst of a renaissance

“Filipino artists are open to new forms. Multimedia is part of this one big play now. Artists today explore different mediums, they don’t use traditional forms. They break, reconstruct or go beyond the form. They explore different techniques and have new output.” -- Visual artist-filmmaker Jaime “Jay” Pacena, curator of Inquirer Lifestyle-Nokia’s 10 Most Exciting Young Artists

“Manila is a flood-prone area, we are a riverine, estuary community. During the Spanish colonial era, Manila, which was constantly flooded, was eased by the presence of the estero system which would flush away the floods. During the American period, this continued to be observed, and many have remarked how this was an efficient way of draining away floodwaters from the city. Sadly, this was not improved by succeeding administrations. In fact, there was over-development by unscrupulous individuals and the local government, resulting in the development of areas that should not have been there in the first place. Estero systems or streams were taken over by buildings and encroachments. Added to this is the urban population growth, particularly the growth of the urban poor who live in danger zones, a major problem in disaster control and management.” -- Manuel Maximo Lopez del Castillo-Noche, architect and professor at the University of Santo Tomas College of Architecture, on the terrible flooding of Sept. 26

“After World War II, the reconstruction of Manila did not follow any urban planning... Ultimately, the flooding problems and water-drainage problems of Manila is an engineering problem... We should also remember that all of us are contributors to this disaster, from the plastic bags we throw into the sewers, to the trash in the streets, to the indiscriminate abuse of unsustainable resources and our reliance on a government that is not working, we all play a part in this disaster. The sewers and drain systems are like the veins in our body. If you feed it junk, it will give you a heart attack! There are only so many bypasses that can be performed.” -- Dan Lichauco, architect and urban planner, on what typhoon “Ondoy” could teach us

“Society imposes an image, and it can be difficult to sustain that image if a man experiences pain. There are expectations to be macho—how men aren’t supposed to cry and all that.” -- Veteran actor Tommy Abuel, on insights he gained from “The Male Voice,” a New Voice Company presentation this year that tackled violence and emotional dysfunction from the point of view of men

“[While] writing English musicals in a Third World country is a challenge, musical theater is [also] a great opportunity to explore stories, to change perceptions, to allow audiences to take an emotional journey.” -- Jaime del Mundo, actor, director and librettist, talking about his 2009 work, Trumpets’ “N.O.A.H. (No Ordinary Aquatic Habitat),” a gospel-tinged musical that incorporated an environmental message

“I feel it is important to look back at these ‘landmark’ works of art, to ground us more as artists of the 21st century. My interest is how this drama shows the level of complexity with which we, as Filipinos, create meaning in history, how we readily blur fiction and reality, myth and history... The show can serve as a good preamble in terms of creating an attitude of critical thinking for the coming elections. Our history is one of resistance. What we do today affects our future.” -- Dance artist Myra Beltran, on the challenge of transforming Virgie Moreno’s play “Itim Asu” into a melange of movement, sound design and video. “Itim Asu” touches on the legend of La Loba Negra—how the wife of assassinated Spanish governor-general Bustamante allegedly avenged his death at the hands of friars, an assault immortalized in the Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo painting that now hangs at the National Museum.

“The story shows how all of these things can dehumanize you. You can get caught up in the system. Politics, bureaucracy, abuse of power and big businesses can eat you up. It shows how revenge can consume a person... Killing people and making them into pies is absurd and extreme, so if you pick up on the dark humor, it’s actually funny in a bizarre way.” -- Michael Williams, on what made “Sweeney Todd,” Repertory Philippines’ big musical for 2009, something Filipinos could very well relate to

“Heritage is very important to UST [University of Santo Tomas]. When you speak of heritage, it belongs to everybody; it doesn’t belong to an individual person, so it’s a social responsibility.” -- Fr. Isidro Abano, OP, director of the UST Museum of Arts and Sciences, the oldest museum in the country, on the restoration of the museum’s vast visual arts collection as part of the celebration in the run-up to 2011 when UST turns 400 years old as Asia’s oldest university

“I think President Arroyo should sit through a 24-hour movie marathon of [Carlo J.] Caparas films before naming him National Artist and junking the selection process altogether.” -- Singer-songwriter Jim Paredes, on the controversial proclamation by Malacañang of Caparas as National Artist for Film and Visual Arts

PLUS: A companion piece--Constantino Tejero's “A double-edged year for arts and culture”, the point driven home by its concluding paragraph, Ang Pagdalaw ng Senyora.

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