Last week, the UP Vargas Museum hosted and facilitated the Curators Development Workshop. It was a who’s who of curators and artists, and as if that wasn’t exciting enough, the discussion among them was even more exhilarating, especially to an observer such as myself.
The office partnered with the UP Vargas Museum when it was notified that it would have a curator slot for the JENESYS Program, a special international exchange program between Japan and other East Asian Nations to promote and encourage cultural and artistic collaborations. This program also includes educational exchanges, by the way. Previous delegates to this program are photographer-cultural worker Isa Lorenzo, media artist-environmentalist Rosalie Zerrudo, visual artist-curator Gary Ross Pastrana, kotsuzumi (traditional Japanese percussion instrument) player Dana Uy, media artist- writer Teng Mangansakan, and social activist Sarah Raymundo.
It was great that the call for proposals brought in 14 curatorial concepts — the organizers would have been happy with 10, at the most, and that was very hopeful. Ultimately, there were 12 curator/artists who fearlessly presented their proposals before a panel of their peers.
Oh, but before that, there were talks from the more senior curator/artists who acted as their mentors and reactors to their presentations. They were Jose Tence Ruiz, Sandra Palomar-Quan, Eileen Legaspi-Ramirez, Yeyey Cruz and Karen Flores. Isa Lorenzo also delivered an informal talk of her observations during her JENESYS program in Japan.
When we went in, the presentations by the senior curators have just finished and the discussions were getting heated. This intensity was carried all throughout the 2-day workshop period. I felt this was strange but in a good way, because in some forums I’ve attended, 30 minutes was usually enough time to get the message across and more than that I was already itching to go back and do something else.
It was interesting to hear about the different processes that a curator goes through to, first, give birth to an idea, and second to nurture that idea to grow. At one time, I felt that the gathering was among philosophers than curators, what with all the terms like “simulacra”, “ocularcentrism”, and “supererogation” volleyed back and forth. This group was advised to KISS (keep it simple, studs) and be particular — nay careful — of the terms that one uses in their curatorial plans and documents, be they for PR, catalogues or exhibition notes.
On Day 2, the young curators presented their concepts to a panel of their “mentors”and co-participants, which they amusingly called the firing squad. There was a variety of ideas laid out, some fanciful, some intriguing, most well-thought of. It was noticeable that there were a lot of interactive exhibitions, even those involving the internets, seemingly democratizing art. There was one proposal which even got all the curators excited when it was presented, as it appeared that it was already a project and was missing a curator.
The time to critique and discuss each proposal was tight but was very satisfying. In the end, the “mentors” gave their thoughts on the whole exercise. Mr. Ruiz advised the young curators to continue the cultivation of conscience in their exhibitions. Sandra Palomar and Karen Flores added that curators should see their role in art as a responsibility rather than a status symbol or position of power and to remember that they are accountable for whatever is born out of their exhibitions, good or bad. Eileen Ramirez reminded the participants to make of the broad resource for ideas found in the histories of art curation and production, and to situate their ideas/ concepts within a larger context, taking care not to isolate it from the issues or concerns of their community. Yeyey Cruz warned the group to be careful not to be flippant about terminologies and artists to support/ prop up; and to see the curator’s ability to bring a show together as a privilege. She also mentioned that it helps that curators can do everything — think, write, do — and not be selective with what they can or can’t do.
The young curator to participate in the JENESYS Program hasn’t been decided yet. But we are sure to see a lot of these young curators’ shows in the future.