Frisson is an anthology of the critical essays of Alice Guillermo, one of the country’s most prolific and sharpest annotators of creative forms broadly conceived as art and their dynamic relationship with an equally encompassing social sphere.

This is an excerpt from an article by Roberto G. Paulino. You can download the book here.

Annotating Alice: A Biography from Her Bibliography

by Roberto G. Paulino

The 74 essays in this anthology offer a select but representative sample of Alice G. Guillermo’s voluminous body of work, encompassing over half a century of writings. An ongoing archival research project by the University of the Philippines (UP) Department of Art Studies to document and annotate her published writings and citations has thus far yielded a 70-plus page working bibliography listing at least 29 sole-authored books, 16 co-authored books, 29 chapters or works in an edited book or anthology, 22 journal articles, 19 exhibition catalogues, and around 300 periodical articles, among others.

This present anthology is part of a long-term initiative to archive her writings into accessible resources for Philippine art history and criticism.

The bibliographic entries were culled principally from her books, online public access catalog (OPAC) records, vertical files, and library archives. The latter was particularly useful in procuring copies of her curricula vitae. Unfortunately, her more recent CVs and 201 files were lost during the 1 April 2016 fire at the UP Faculty Center. When she passed away in 29 July 2018 at age 80, neither her home Department nor her family were able to provide even a résumé. For an art historian and academic, Guillermo did not seem preoccupied in listing and filing copies of her own work.

Her interest in writing and in history was evident in her undergraduate education. Guillermo was an A.B. and a Bachelor of Science in Education graduate, magna cum laude, from the Holy Ghost College (now College of the Holy Spirit) in 1956 and 1957 respectively. She majored in English and minored in History. She taught high school briefly at the Holy Ghost Institute from 1958 to 1959. Soon after, she enrolled in a masteral program at the UP in Diliman, similarly majoring in English before shifting to Comparative Literature.

In an interview, she shared that her interest in the arts likewise started early. “When I was young, I loved to read art books and look at pictures. And most of the art books at that time were about artists of the school of Paris in Europe…I had an art teacher who was very stimulating. And I think I got the interest from her.” She noted that “[m]y interest in art…was awakened not by Amorsolo and his rural genre…but by…the impressionists, the surrealists, the expressionists, and the cubists, who offered new and fascinating imagery.”

The select readings instantiate Alice Guillermo’s view of interlinking the political with “a deeply hedonistic feeling for art…quickened on occasion by the frisson esthétique.”

Her first publication on art appeared in The Philippine Collegian, the official student newspaper of UP Diliman, as guest columnist of Petronilo Bn. Daroy (1935-2017). The date and a copy of that seminal piece remains elusive. However, Guillermo recalled that she “wrote on European art—Cezanne, for instance—not necessarily related to local art. It was more for appreciation of art in general.” “Imagine that. And it was rather alienated because it wasn’t on Philippine art.”

A fusion of the pleasures of seeing with political engagement was catalyzed by her membership in the Student Cultural Association of the University of the Philippines (SCAUP), co-founded by Daroy and Jose Maria Sison in 1959. SCAUP was the “anticlerical foil” to UPSCA or UP Students Catholic Action, the influential religious organization in the university. Guillermo reflected how the former’s “radical mix of politics and art that would overshadow the bohemian influence of the existentialists.”

Download the full article and book here.