The Visayas Islands Visual Arts Exhibition and Conference (VIVA ExCon) 16 opens VCon 2 this December 12 with “Curators Converse Node 1: What Happens In/To/With Through the World” and Vincent Rose Sarnate’s take on the event is that ‘for the sun to rise in every place on earth, the world must spin 360 degrees.
For the dawn to break in Visayan arts, initiatives must spin away from the norm. In its 30th year, the VIVA ExCon world rotated to receive its first ray of light amid the shadows of the 2020 pandemic.
VIVA ExCon is a Visayas-wide biennale that celebrates, promotes, and strengthens art, and brings visual art groups, related stakeholders, and art communities close together. Initially bounded by the pandemic, this initiative has recently been recalibrated in online and interactive dynamics to rise to the tests of the times.
VIVA ExCon’s V-CON 2: Virtual Monthly Talks started these dialogues to include international, national, and island-based resource persons per session. The webinar “Kalibutan Curators’ Node 1: What Happens In/To/With/Through the World” with Kalibutan Head Curator Patrick D. Flores and Region 6 curators Guenivere Decena and Liby Limoso was first in the series of talks.
The speakers were joined in by ExCon Director Mariano Montelibano, ExCon Chairman Charlie Co, and interpreters Nicky Templo Perez and John Xandre Baliza from Benilde School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies.
Head Curator Patrick D. Flores said that philosophically, the word Kalibutan is a Hiligaynon or Visayan term that speaks to the idea of the world and also of consciousness. The webinar “Kalibutan Curators’ Node 1: What Happens In/To/With/Through the World” is a seminar on a possible exhibition.
It was referred to as ‘possible’ as there are uncertainties even if a flexible roadmap for exhibitions and related undertakings was put in place. The possibility is there, but having this in mind, artists and curators can look for other options besides exhibition. Head Curator Flores emphasized that the curatorial as a practice is not by default confined to exhibition-making.
The art world is not without its internal and external bounds. It is therefore imperative for artists to go beyond limits.
According to him, the subsidiary title pertains to the state of being in the world, thinking through the world, and finally looking after it with care, as well as with anxiety, affection, or even obsession. Whether kalibutan or the world pertains to the physical space or the mental realm, full immersion involves rotating further from self-serving goals. Art performs a higher, nobler aim of deepening world views. It is not a zero gravity eye candy. The challenge for artists and curators escalates with consumerism. The new world is tolerant of art, but not fully receptive of it. As patronage shifts to rising generations, visual arts has nearly been reduced to photography backdrops.
Curators reflect on the dawning world as artists spin through their contexts. Bacolod-based curator Guenivere Decena brings the works of Negros artists Perry Argel and Denli Chavez to light. Decena highlights how Perry Argel’s works deviate from the typical economic setup.
Consumerism adds trash, while Argel subtracts waste through art. He performs world-saving math. In his exhibition, Ilistaran (Dwelling Place), Guenivere Decena features Argel’s eco-didactic home that was hand-built from collected items all over the world; from scraps drifting to and from Philippine shores. Decena equally lauds films from Denli Chavez. To a world that views mental health passively, Chavez projects gravity. Her films Hangin, Lagaw Lagaw, Dalia Dali Lang, Suba sang Malogo, Release, and Killer’s Eye deal with the molding of the mind; how serial killers are made, human trafficking, acute depression, domestic abuse, coping with loss, and related issues. Her concept Pagbutwa Halin sa Kaidalman (Rise from the Depth) integrates the legend “Siete Picados” and tells of loss, gain, and rise toward a novel form of consciousness.
Iloilo-based and Panay Island curator Liby Limoso documents and visualizes the oral tradition of Panay Mythology. Limoso talked about mapping the characters of Panay’s Sugidanon through oil painting. Sugidanon is a ten-chapter epic of noblemen, mythical creatures, and demi-goddesses. It is traditionally performed through chanting sessions that last for hours.
We currently have two antithetical worlds: the ethnic world and the colonial, consumerist-capitalist world. As global efforts lean toward the latter, Limoso wished justice and equity for indigenous people and preservation and conservation of tangible and intangible heritage. Against the jarring pull of colonialism, cultural imperialism, and xenocentrism, Liby Limoso’s art initiatives remain steadfast.
The VIVA ExCon world made a 360º turn as it goes back to Bacolod, its point of origin. VIVA ExCon Chairman Charlie Co expressed his love for Negros and Visayan artists. He said that the first VIVA in Bacolod brought artists together against all odds, much like the current setup. For programs and organizations to last as long as VIVA, they must confront art hurdles with armed but warm and gentle hearts.
Co said that in the third VIVA in Dumaguete, the founders and artists were asking themselves if they still want the biennale to go on. The challenge was faced head-on and hands were linked. Support from those who believed in the organization coupled with minds geared to solve problems enabled Co and his team to set exhibition areas up.
VIVA ExCon has always been about linking and helping communities and art initiatives, creating bridges, gravitating towards art empowerment and proactive responses to art-related issues. In the dark challenges of time, artists must keep facing the sun and keep moving in the direction of positive change. VIVA ExCon is rotating and after its full turn, a new day will begin.
VIVA ExCon’s V-CON 2 will continue on December 19 through Zoom webinar, and on to selected Saturdays of January until June 2021.”*