Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Residency Update: Continuing a life-supporting endeavor

 A Butterfly Is Patient 

by Zeus Bascon, edited by Desiree Nault

{Update: The article was conceived on February 22 until it was finished on May 2, a week before the Philippine 2022 election. 
May 10: The Commission of Elections (COMELEC) dismissed three appeals to reverse the junking of disqualification cases against Bongbong Marcos, who unofficially presumes the presidency with 30, 582, 777 votes as of 8am today, continuing the 68:32 magic ratio against presidential candidate Leni Robredo with 14, 584, 862 votes. Polls are nearing its conclusion, and masses gathered earlier today in front of the COMELEC NCR Office to request for a recount, calling out the integrity of the election process, after the malfunctions of several Vote Counting Machines, and its commissioner George Garcia who was Bongbong’s election lawyer during his 2016 vice presidential campaign.
It threatens the hope which bloomed from the citizens of this country. We all need to nurture and preserve these flowers we devote to this land and its people. We will gather under the sun, sun shower rain on us.}

Iniisip ko pa din kung paano uusad nitong pandemya… para bang hindi talaga tumigil ang mundo. Taliwas ang mga kasalukuyang nagaganap sa kung anong sinasabi ng madla noong 2020 habang kasagsagan ng pangamba at pag-aalinlangan matapos yanigin ang Pilipinas ng pagputok ng Bulkang Taal at pagpasok ng Covid-19 sa bansa - na hudyat daw ito ng pahinga; ang magkaroon ng panahon para kilalanin pa ang sarili; at pagtibayin ang suporta sa lokal na industriya bilang sagot sa hikahos na hinaharap ng mga mamamayan… Pero patuloy pa rin ang ebolusyon ng virus kasabay ng dagsa ng samu’t saring suliraning pang araw-araw. Hindi titigil ang mundo, ni babagal ang pagikot nito dahil may pandemya. 

[I'm still wondering how I would continue on this pandemic... It is as if the world hadn't really stopped. The actualities are contrary to what the public was saying in 2020 during the rise of fear and skepticism after the Philippines was shaken by the eruption of the Taal Volcano and the entry of Covid-19 into the country - that it was time to pause; have time to know more about the self; and reinforce support for local industries in response to the struggling future of the citizens… But the evolution of the virus continues with the spread of a variety of daily problems. The world won't stop, nor will it slow down because there is a pandemic.]


“At this very moment, I believe there is a very beautiful garden with wildflowers of purple and pink and yellow, bushes at unexpected places and several spots to place mats with friends or just lay flat and spend time leisurely. I can imagine it as I write, under thick layers of weeds and vines.” - a journal entry by the artist on July 26, 2021


"Cultivating a Garden" began with a vision of a local ecology. I activated SUBD., a brand developed with friends from my subdivision in 2014, to act as a portal to the activities, documentation, and outputs of the residency. 

The residency was my response to a question posed by a dear friend: “What is life outside of art?” I struggled, thinking about my present, and how I needed to do something apart from my involvement in commercial exhibitions and curatorial projects in Manila and elsewhere. In previous residencies, I had adapted by finding a sense of place in order to discover a sense of self. M:ST enabled me to conduct this creative endeavor while grounded in my hometown of Sta. Rosa, Laguna while growing bonds through collaboration with artists and the circles we serve within our own localities. 

As I traverse the timeline of this residency, I seek guidance from tarot card readings and take note of which resonates with my intentions and aligns with my present: 

The King of Pentacles - 

Sense of security in the material world (a sense of being grateful for what I have), 

The King of Sword, The Magician & The Moon - 

Manifesting a vision of what I like for my own stability (although it may not be that clear), 

The Emperor, The Temperance & The Star - 

Stepping into that power to create what my heart desires, 

The Queen of Pentacles, The Two of Pentacles & The Eight of Wands - 

Accepting unsureness about particular situations in the future. 

{CANCER - "The Real You VS The Distorted You" FEBRUARY 28TH - MARCH 6TH - YouTube by ALI’s Tarot Youtube Channel} 

Ang pagtatrabaho ay pagkilos at pagsulong. Ang pagpapahalaga sa oras, pera, enerhiya, kakayanan ng isip at damdamin na inilalaan sa malikhaing gawain at sa mga kasama ay ilan sa mga pangunahing konsiderasyon ng Cultivating a Garden. Mula noong nakaraang taon ng Hulyo ay may mga ipinunla kami, kasama ang mga kaibigang nagnanais ding maitawid ang kasalukuyan hanggang sa tanaw na hinaharap. Mga pagsubok, dala ang pag-asang may masilayan kahit na namumukadkad na mga bulaklak, kung hindi man magbunga ng mapagsasaluhang prutas kung dumating ang panahon na mangailangan.

[To work is action and progress. The appreciation for time, money, energy, mental and emotional capacity given to creative work and companions are some of the main considerations of “Cultivating a Garden”. Since last July seeds have been planted by us, friends, who are surviving the present, while looking at the threshold of the horizon. With these attempts, we carry the hope of gazing at blossoming flowers, if not actual fruit to share when the time of need comes.]

These projects have been crucial to the trajectory of the residency and the development of my recent art practice, which became more collaborative and socially engaged. Community development cannot be defined by a persistent desire for change or in response to one individual’s vision, but through interactions with others. The initiatives echo a common goal, to organize, which became a challenge once the pandemic began. The geography of the residency was defined by our capacity to exchange mutual support, develop parallel grounds of cultivation, and redistribute the financial resources provided by M:ST. 


Sidney Valdez in front of his studio during the interview, and an emoji engraving on granite from 2019, a tombstone. 

In a residential compound of Los Baños, Laguna, an apartment unit housed A Eulogy, an open studio by Sidney Valdez. From July 7 to August 16, 2021, Sidney exhibited his own finished and in-progress artworks created throughout the pandemic in his home. “A Eulogy” empowered Sidney to sell directly to collectors, as open studios here are held as alternative platforms for exhibitions, independent of more traditional museum shows or commercial representation. His home welcomed neighbors, artists, friends, students and colleagues into his artistic process. For instance, he invited visitors to start their own paintings by screening a DIY instructional video on how to prepare their own canvases. The works express his views as a human rights activist, articulated through his dread of neoliberalism with the language and images of his generation. I was compelled to support Sidney’s open studio because I am inspired by his attempts to mobilize neighbors and new art audiences within the uncertainty of the pandemic.  

“Bilang ngayon, higit kailanman, tayo ay pinakatambad sa kamatayan, sanhi man ng pandemya o dulot ng mapaniil na estado, ang mga pasanin sa aspetong mental at emosyonal ay higit na sa kapasidad ng isa kung kaya't ang bawat araw ay kagyat na kwestyon sa sarili na magpapatuloy o tumigil. Ang A Eulogy ay ang pagkilala sa pagbaka sa mga krisis eksistensyal at ang pagtanaw sa isang panibagong yugto mula sa pagkapanaw.” - ni Sidney Valdez sa panimulang pagbasa bago libutin ang studio para sa huling araw ng A Eulogy. 

[“Now, more than ever we are all vulnerable to death, whether due to the pandemic or the oppressive state. The burdens of mental and emotional health are so much above one’s capacity that each day is either urgently self-inflicted or aborted. “A Eulogy” is a recognition of the fight against this existential crisis and an effort to find new beginnings in death.” - by Sidney Valdez during the introduction to his studio tour on the last day of A Eulogy.]

A floating statement within every person’s internal conflict. 

The open studio concluded with Reel. & Graphic., a collaborative film and comic workshop organized with youth activist groups of the University of the Philippines Los Baños chapters, Kulturang Ugnayan ng Kabataan Alay sa Bayan and Panday Sining.


Group pic at the end of the workshop: us blossoming flowers showered by a confetti of leaves. 

Inch Wide, Mile Deep, was a free online workshop that took place over three Saturdays (held August 28, September 4 & 11, 2021) co-facilitated with Sidd Perez. Our objective was to generate a toolkit that would help participants do collaborative work, but through conversation, the series blossomed into a workshop on self-reflection and how to align one’s priorities and values with others’. It was my first time co-facilitating a workshop and Sidd was generous enough to guide me with prompts before every session that focused on expressing what I know and listening to what I don’t know. With the facilitators and participants fluidly sharing roles, we formed a circle open to communicating, learning, and moving. It helped me gain clarity on how I could continue Cultivating a Garden by growing a sensibility of togetherness; by understanding and owning how language is used in documenting the self and work; and the intimacy of sharing.

{repotted Bougainvillea, Calachuchi, Caladium, and Money Tree} 

Sidd also devised a template to archive the project’s development process. The template noted: the specific terminology used to communicate with target groups; boundaries; anticipated outcomes for participants; quantitative goalposts related to those objectives; and structure, content, and activation. This project documentation template is used throughout the remainder of the residency. 



Tanya Villanueva dreamed of a space in which artists could re-learn what it means to be artists and continue life in the pandemic. Her project ArtSchoolNow is both a beauty salon and a crucial space to share conversation and practical expressions of creativity with others. The salon provides care for artists and customers by valuing lives filled with beauty, sharing, and transformation

My pinkie with acrylic nail extension and gems by Tanya Villanueva.

“I think everyone (individually) needs to feel na may sense yung ginagawa niya na you’re affecting more than just yourself with what you’re doing… It can serve as a therapy for artists. Lahat naman tayo may feeling of hopelessness and isolation bilang yun yung ni-romanticize ng (pandemic), yung individual pursuit tapos isolation, pati yung pagtatrabaho at pag-iisip - It’s not sustainable. Nakikita ko kahit ngayon pa lang na nagpaplano (ay) sumasaya yung iba. I think everyone’s doing it for themselves eh, kahit wala yung ArtSchool(Now): yung magpaganda (at) magtransform, pero dahil nilagay siya sa setting na salon at pinag-uusapan natin ‘to together, parang meron na agad siyang mundo outside of yourself.”  - Tanya Villanueva in an interview.

In September to November 2021, ArtSchoolNow organized a series of workshops called “Care Work and Community Service for Artists Beyond the Artworld” supported by The Japan Foundation, Manila. In session one, invited artist Marija Vicente and professional hairdresser Alejandro “Sandra Lim” Sumalinog Jr. discussed their journeys as care service providers within their respective fields. While in session two, Kyoto-based artist Miro Kasama and Shota Nishi, the director of Hourai House, shared their experiences working and connecting with the members of their respective communities. Combined, the two workshops have helped us determine what needs to be considered when doing care work and beautification; specifically the need for interaction in order for creativity to organically grow into service. Before the physical salon opens to the public, the artists are experimenting on their friends and neighbors to try out the skills of hair coloring, painting nails, making soap, and more.

Cultivating a Garden will support ArtSchoolNow’s operations later this year, following workshop session three. The final session will involve collating fliers of activities, products, and services that we can offer as actions toward a collective dream-building. 


Screencap from Czar Kristoff’s recent video work To Watch The Sunset Once Again for the Thirteen Artists Awards (TAA) 2021 exhibition at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).

In Google Maps, Czar Kristoff and I are standing on water. We gathered in De La Paz, Biñan on the afternoon of December 12, 2021 to have a conversation about our (online) experiences as gay men, normalizing HIV testing, and watch the sunset. Sunset Garden is an exercise of immersion by contribution and absorption. Contribution, through our desire to engage with queer communities in San Pedro, Laguna, and on the Grindr app, as well as through the financial grants from CPP and M:ST. Absorption, through learning how to form land (solid ground) from bodies of water (bodiless figures) and the act of translation necessary to communicate about art and queerness with people behind the Grindr sunset profiles and the local gay community. Grindr Sunsets is an ongoing project by Czar Krsitoff since 2019, focusing on the act of camouflaging in homogenized queer space through sunset images. (Czar Krsitoff, on an Instagram post May 23,2021).

Our congregation occured at a construction site on Laguna De Bay, distant from the city. As we shared the space with others, we shared stories of our past and present. Errol Austria, Peer Navigator and Case Manager at Ospital ng Biñan HIV Treatment Hub, oriented us on the impacts of HIV on one’s body, health workers, and society; the Hub’s transition online via Grindr in order to reach more “clients;” and the journey an individual or a collective may take for their sexual health. As we watched the sunset together, Czar and I got tested.

It is peculiar how the sunset resonates all throughout the project, as if it is not eventful enough as a magical transition in our every day… 

“But it compels us to ask, what is queerness if not the radical possibilities in a galaxy of contradictions? The imagined futures on which our memories, moments, and motivations rely, is up against a light that does not care for the collective flourishing of our planet. Whose orbit are we circling when we look out a computer window? One should care to remember, that if you stare at the sun for too long, it creates a blind spot in your central vision.” - a question written by Mac Andre Arboleda for the Sunset Garden publication. 

Sunset Garden involved a number of entities and resulted in these outputs: the congregation on Laguna De Bay was an activity for my residency with M:ST; a video documentation titled To Watch The Sunset Once Again was Czar’s presentation for the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP)’ Thirteen Artists Award exhibition; as for the archive of Temporary Unrelearning Academy; and a printed publication as a sustaining output for Cultivating a Garden

The Empress - Growth 

Seven of Pentacles - Comfort 

Two of Pentacles - Choices 

{(222) ❤️CANCER "These Developments Cancer Are Right Around The Corner For You MAR21-27 - YouTube by ALI’s Tarot Youtube Channel}

Pagpasok ng 2022 ay ang pagtaas ng kaso ng Omicron sa bansa. Muling naantala ang mga plano ng karamihan bilang pag-iingat sa kalusugang pansarili at pangkalahatan. Habang abala ang lahat sa pag-aasikaso ng mga karampatang hakbang sa pag-usad ay aking naranasan ang kaginhawaan ng pahinga, dala na din ng daloy ng mga kaganapang pambuhay-bahay. Malaking ambag sa kapanatagan ng aking loob na mayroon akong natatanggap na suportang pinanysal mula sa M:ST, pansamantala nitong naibsan ang presyong naipon sa akin tungkol sa paghahanap ng pangkabuhayan para sa mga artists. Ngunit kukulit ang kati na masubukang maisakatuparan ang bisyon ng magandang hardin hangga’t may nakalaang pagkakataong mapangyari ito. Ang sumibol na mga mithiin mula sa mga nagdaang proyekto ay pumukaw sa akin/amin ng pag-asang posibleng mamunga pa ito ng makabuluhang pag-unawa sa papel ng sining sa buhay,  bilang isang mamamayan bukod pa sa pagiging tao. 

Ibinaba ng Malacañang sa Alert Level 1 ang sitwasyon ng karamihan ng mga lalawigan noong Marso, na nagpaluwag sa mahigpit na protokol sa pagluwas at pagtitipon lalo na sa kalakhang Maynila. Kasabay ng kanya-kanyang andar, habang parang walang pandemya, ay ang ingay ng kabi-kabilang pangangampanya ng mga pulitiko para sa lokal at pambansang gobyerno. Dagdag pangamba ng karamihan nitong eleksyon ng ika-9 ng Mayo 9 ang posibilidad na masailalim muli ang Pilipinas sa pamumuno ng isang diktador. Pangita sa aktibong pagkilos ang kani-kanilang pahayag ng pagkamuhi sa labis na karahasan na maaari pang ikalubha ng estado ng bansa, kung mailuklok sa pagkapangulo ang isang miyembro ng angkang pasimuno ng Martial Law. Malamlam ang liwanag dahil sa bumibigat pang ulap na tumatakip sa araw, ang tanglaw mula sa bawat indibidwal ang gabay tungo sa pag-asa. Sa Hulyo matatapos ang aking residency, at may mga nakahanda pang mga planong mageksibit sa publikong lugar komersyo at maging sa kalikasan man; ang magsagawa ng malikhaing aktibidades bilang daan para mapalapit ang contemporary art sa mga mamamayang lokal at mulaan ng posibleng kita para sa mga mga bihasang manggagawa; at ang tipunin ang mga kasamahan sa larangan ng sining na naninirahan sa aming lugar at mga kalapit bayan, upang buhayin ang pagtalakay ng pag-usad. Sa ganitong klima, hindi ko maiwasang tanungin ang sarili ukol sa tibay ng layon mayroon ang mga proyektong ito at kung makakaapekto ba ang mga ito sa mga sinisigaw ng pangangailangang panlokal - sanga-sangang mga alalahanin, ngunit patuloy na tatahakin upang matunton muli ang ugat na linangin ang ninanais na hardin. 

[2022 came with the rise of Omicron cases in the country. Once again, everybody’s plans were delayed as a precautionary measure of personal and general health. While the majority were busy figuring out appropriate steps going forward, I experienced the comfort of rest that may have flowed along with the events that have been in our home life. A big contributing factor to my ease is that I've been receiving financial support from M:ST, it temporarily lessened the pressure I’m feeling about finding alternative economies for artists. The aspirations that sprung from the previous projects, awakened in me/us, hope for possible fruits to a meaningful understanding of what role art has in life, not just for being a citizen, but also as human.

Malacañang lowered to Alert Level 1 the situation in most of the provinces in March, which relieved strict protocols for transportation and gathering especially in 

Manila. And as we move along, while there seems to be no threat of the pandemic, is the noise of the campaigning of politicians for local and national governments. The majority of the population holds  a grave worry that after the election on May 9th, the Philippines will once again be under the leadership of a dictator. We witness how various movements express hatred for the extreme violence that could further weaken the country's situation if the presidency falls into the hands of the family who once enforced Martial Law. The sky is dim because of the heavy clouds forming over the sun, the light from each individual guides us to hope. In July my residency will end, and there are still proposed plans to exhibit in public places of commerce and even in nature; to conduct creative activities as a way to bring contemporary art closer to the local people and to be a possible source of income for artisans; and to gather fellow artists who live in our area and neighboring towns, to activate the discussion of progress. In this climate, I can't help but ask myself about the might of these projects and if they can voice the pressing needs of the locals - caged within labyrinth problems, which will continuously be navigated to trace back why we need to cultivate our desired garden.]

I drew another set of cards from my own deck, with the continuation of my residency in mind:

The Sun - Fulfillment

Seven of Wands - Conviction

Page of Swords (in reverse) - A lack of 

The Empress - Nurturing

The World (in reverse) - another phase before things start over

The Hierophant - Values and Divination

Queen of Cups - Feminine energy and Intuition

The Hanged Man (in reverse) - On hold…