In my continuing brazen campaign to be sponsored by the Filipino Tourism Board (#itsmorefuninthephilippines) to get to attend free events in exchange for blog articles best described as “…cute”, I’ve been trying to explore my city more. I recently went to ArtFair Philippines, an annual contemporary art exhibition of predominantly Filipino talent, held in Makati.
Makati is the swanky, bougie part of Manila that I don’t often get out to because 1.) traffic and 2.) I don’t like being reminded that I’m actually a troll in a city of beautiful, hip people.
I went with my friend Roselle who is the cool best friend of everyone’s dream rom-com and effortlessly great in a way you’re in not even jealous of, but more like “yasss, queen” about. She’s a student of design and a great photographer so I heartily agreed to go with her, if only to profit off her observations.
The event is held in a transformed parking garage that felt like it swallowed you whole. It twisted and turned and was discombobulating in a very Wonderland-esque way.
Almost immediately I realized what would be the recurring theme of the night. On the whole, contemporary art just isn’t for me, and Filipino contemporary art def fell into that for the most part.
It felt unattainable for the obvious reason that I have never experienced the Filipino ethos or been a part of their history of colonization and erasure even in the recent past of Hollywood’s vice-like grip on its outward appearance. The movement felt young, intense, and explorative in a way I really respected but felt far from. It felt responsive to something I just wasn’t able to grasp.
I also realized that much of the art I couldn’t engage with just because it was so grisly and shocking. Why does every contemporary art expo seem to be filled with bloody sex organs or pagan iconography or photos of neglected mental ward patients, no matter where you are in the world? It was all mostly pain at a visceral level that made you recoil.
Maybe it’s the heinous nature of my work, fighting against the online sexual exploitation of children, that makes me just not want to dwell on anything relating to abuse or twisted sexuality in my free time. In the same way that I can no longer listen to “My Favorite Murder” podcast or watch Law & Order: SVU, I just no longer invite staring into the perverse and dark for fun.
Sure, maybe it’s ignorant and complacent of me to be selective about the art I choose to engage with, but also like, I can live without images like that.
That’s not to say all of it was extreme (just 75% of it). Some of it was fun, pop art-ish, and clever.
And what I did like, I enjoyed even more just because Roselle is a blast.
We both found it kinda provocative and weird so we chatted the whole time about childhood memories evoked, unique techniques we liked, or quotes elicited. She was never pretentious even though she definitely had a better eye and higher appreciation. I loved our side conversations like if originality is feasible for our generation or if we can only combine what already exists in new ways.
We also went with another of her friend from school who was mostly silent. After, I asked him what he liked to which he just responded “art is subjective”, which was ….. unhelpful.
To the art and overall experience of experiencing the art, I’d probably give it a 6/10 ((yeah, yeah, critiquing art on a numerical scale is lowbrow but I choose to always act like new money))
But for friendship and exploration and being young surrounded by the city and its eccentricity: 10/10