Place of Region in the Contemporary

In this incipient moment, PCAN is shaped by the concerns and anxieties implicated in the phrase “Place of Region in the Contemporary.” It is a deliberately elusive term, the better perhaps for PCAN to move within a wide latitude as it explores its various nodes, its endeavors or impulses of making: making art, making exhibitions, making relations. At this stage, too, PCAN scans a wide horizon to set the coordinates of the “Philippine” that is oftentimes reduced to the national. It is at this point that the “region” becomes some kind of a foil, though not necessarily a binary opposite or an alternative. The region is imagined to having a place, a geography, and therefore a geopolitic and a geopoetic. But when “place of region” is formulated, the geography is instilled with the urgency of position, an assertion of location. PCAN is currently under this climate of positionality and locality that is exigent and interested. The region can transpose within the nation and beyond it, within a geopolitical area and through it, across hemispheres and around it. It is not only province or periphery. It is not only a collection of countries co-opted under the sign of a block or a coalition. It is route, corridor, travel, axis, harbor. It can be at home and abroad, city and suburb, gap or nexus between water and land.

PCAN mindfully reflects on the notion of “region” as a level of locality; it may be construed as hometown or island within the nation or a space beyond the nation such as the inter-nation. However it is regarded, the region is turned into a trope to track sites and zones of various scales so that it can recover traces of agency from the hardened identities and monolithic rubrics of nation or globalization. All this plays out in an inchoate environment or a complex milieu called the contemporary. Needless to say, the latter is re-inscribed in the interrogation of both place and region. For this initial foray, PCAN proposes the following entry points: an exhibition of contemporary art across the country; an anthology of the texts of Raymundo Albano; research on four artists who stood on the threshold of the modern and the contemporary; and a revisit to modes of honing artists and spaces away from the governmentality of the capital city.
PCAN conceptualizes the region as shifting strata of locations. As locations they are rooted in natural histories and historical transformation. The region is seen in relation to the contemporary, gauging its place, that is, its claim to be in this place, its stake in this claim, and the effects of this sense of belonging. The intention is, therefore, to convene these three terms in one utterance: place, region, contemporary. They point to temporality, instance, subjectivity. To be positioned in a particular locus at a certain time encompasses the politics of the region. This region as mentioned is shifting because it is construed as emergent and extensive. While it is grounded, it is linked and hinged, as it continually also delinks and unhinges. PCAN is interested in this process of settling, unsettling, resettling. It is a process realized by agents and structures that are verisimilarly enlivened by this process.

Three templates support these initiations.

First is the archive-exhibition that ferrets out the creative and intellectual work of five artists who worked on the edge of the modern and the contemporary in Philippine life: Raymundo Albano, Jess Ayco, Santiago Bose, Abdulmari Imao, and Junyee. They bring into their respective forays the precipitates of their hometowns: Ilocos Norte, Bacolod, Baguio, Sulu, and Los Baños. They also translate these precipitates into condensations of migration to Manila and elsewhere. These artists incubated hybrid forms in their studios: painting, sculpture, photography, drawing, intermedia, installation, video, and performance. Aside from migrancy, the queer element figures, as strongly evinced by the inspiring oeuvre of Ayco.

The second format is the survey presentation that accrues from research on the various art worlds across the country. It aims to traverse the ecologies of this art world and thrust to the fore productions that embody how these art worlds are produced. The survey, because of its horizontal orientation, implicates a variety of expressions. It also casts a wide net and draws attention to a mix of subjectivities: generational, gendered, queered. Counter-intuitively, it furnishes the city its own distinction as a region and inflects the so-called province with the gritty ethnographies of protest, play, and catastrophe. Diversity is not the only agenda of this survey. It probes the logic of the aesthetic practice nurtured by localities.

The third format is the laboratory in which research material and aesthetic proposition come together to produce pedagogical modalities that blur the boundaries between art and political economy. This is an interesting gesture to the degree that is displaces the centrality of the production of art from a singular intelligence and consequently redistributes the energies of the facture of the sensible proposition and its makers. In the same breath, the centrality of Manila as the privileged source and telos of knowledge transmission is disabused as it dwells on places like Los Baños, Dumaguete, and Dansalan/Marawi. It likewise complicates the idea of an exhibition because the display is at once disrupted and supplemented by the para-curatorial and the post-curatorial: gathering of data, reading session, discussion. And the forms in the space are a cross between the ephemeral and the documentary: writing, paper, instruction.

These three situations of presenting and perceiving reckon with the promise of the contemporary to simulate the ambience of both the festival and the seminar in which there is excitement in the recognition and acknowledgement of art as well as deep reflection on its ramifications for the intimacies of the body politic. Finally, in terms of a curatorial panoply, PCAN tries to choreograph a space that allows for contaminations, spillovers, interferences across the specific enunciations of the projects. This is done by drawing out zones of interface in terms of, let us say, a shared origin or a glimpse of semblances or moments of gathering like an essay, cooking, moving image.

From Place of Region in the Contemporary catalogue. Download the whole catalogue here.