Fri. 05.03.21 / 6 pm How to Survive Life and Its Disasters
A Virtual Discussion on Archives with Donna Miranda, Lena Cobangbang, Lesley-Anne Cao, and Allison Collins
This conversation draws from artist’s materials that survived a fire in Summer 2020 at Green Papaya Art Projects, the longest running artist-run space in Quezon City, Philippines. Under lockdown and midway through a major archiving project, the fire took a drastic toll on the activities of the group, which has been active in the community for over 20 years. In the spirit of sharing knowledge and appreciation for the care and safeguarding of independent archives, the Recollective team, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, connected through shared community and resources to support the digitization of the Green Papaya tapes, to help preserve and bring the small collection of archival materials that survived the fire to old and new communities.
The Green Papaya Art Projects archive holds works by decades of artists who have been connected to Green Papaya. This talk highlighted elements of the video tape collection, showed excerpts of performance tapes by two artists: Donna Miranda, a co-founder of Green Papaya Art Projects, and Lena Cobangbang, an artist, community organizer, documentarian, and conduit of community knowledge. Cobangbang and Miranda, both based in the Philippines, were joined by artist Lesley-Anne Cao, representing the Green Papaya Art Projects archive, and Allison Collins, representing Recollective as the organizer of the event.
This talk was held in English, via Zoom, with simultaneous captioning. A commissioned response by artist and writer Christian Vistan was launched in December 2021.
Thank you to Tara Fraser for her vital preservation and remediation expertise and assistance on this project.
Foreward to "How to Respond (It's More Than That)," December 2021
By Allison Collins
How to Survive Life and Its Disasters was a small event that attempted to bring together various parties who through travel, memory, kindness, and expression have made impressions on one another. I became familiar with each as I travelled to the Philippines over the course of a few years working as a collaborator on the Kamias Triennial. It was a lucky circumstance to witness and participate in social events and the deep engagement and commitment of artists in the Quezon City and larger Metro Manila communities. Each new encounter offered a view into the building of small worlds of support for artistic practice. A particularly important locus for that activity, Green Papaya Art Projects, has left some of the deepest impressions. It is one of the oldest remaining artist-organized art centres in the Philippines (now 20 years old). Like many centres that it is networked with around the world, Green Papaya acts as a locus for international travel, ideas, and exchange of experience.
The talk followed the Recollective team's efforts to assist the Green Papaya team, who had suffered a devastating fire that coursed through their physical space in May of 2020. With Metro Manila in lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the central organizers were faced with an immense task of attempting to rescue their entire archive of materials, gathered in the process of documenting the 20-years of their existence, in advance of a future when the group would wind down.
The audio-visual materials in particular posed a challenge that Recollective could assist with. In hopes of preventing archival materials from slowly decaying further, the team at VIVO Media Arts Centre lent hours of their time to transfer a selection of VHS tapes from the Green Papaya Archive with the generous assistance of Tara Fraser, an art conservator and professor at UBC who teaches a course on Preservation, which was, at the time, being taken by Recollective Project Coordinator Emma Metcalfe Hurst. Grunt gallery's archivist, Dan Pon, and the rest of the Recollective team helped shepherd the materials across the border. The effort of interconnected skills and resources seemingly being the only real way to face this challenge.
The talk, How to Survive Life and Its Disasters, reflects on our collective attempt to rescue the damaged audio-visual materials to prevent further losses. Its nature is partial, assembling only three participants from a vast network of people who make Green Papaya what it is. The talk simply became another mode of representing the outstretched tendrils that come out of communal collaboration. We asked local artist Christian Vistan if he might witness and reply. His beautiful, impressionistic reflection offers a local window that highlights two important artists in the Philippines; each of whom hold up small worlds of activity in their own right. I hope this collection of materials (the digitized a/v materials, the talk, and the response) can offer a little insight into the larger contributions they've been apart of, and in which we all participate in when we bring our small, temporary art worlds together.
Donna Miranda is a choreographer living and working in the Philippines. Miranda relocates choreography from the site of the individual body to that of collective political actions. She works as a freelance consultant for international development organizations concerning gender justice, public health and disaster risk reduction. She also does volunteer work as co-convenor for SAKA, an alliance of artists supporting genuine agrarian reform and rural development in the Philippines.
Lena Cobangbang (b. Philippines, 1976) studied Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines in Diliman QC. Her work is broad-ranging, moving across video, installation, and found objects to embroidery, cookery, performance and photography. Integral to her art practice is doing collaborations with other artists, such as with Yasmin Sison under the created fictional identity as Alice and Lucinda; and with Mike Crisostomo as The Weather Bureau. A part of the seminal artist collective Surrounded By Water, her art practice extends to doing art administration and exhibit organizing, having been a fellow at the 2008 HAO Summit for emerging artists, curator and art managers in Asia in Singapore in 2008, and having undergone an artist/curator research residency exchange between Green Papaya Art Projects and Pekarna Magdalenske Mreze in Maribor, Slovenia in 2010. She was also part of the touring exhibit Bastards of Misrepresentation, curated by Manuel Ocampo which has been held in Berlin, Hamburg, Bangkok and New York and the Manila Vice show in Sete, France. In 2005, she was nominated for the 3rd Ateneo Art Awards. She received the Cultural Center of the Philippines Thirteen Artists Award in 2006 and was one of the participating artists in the 2008 Singapore Biennale.
Lesley-Anne Cao is a visual artist based in Quezon City, Philippines. Her work is a series of processes and divergent practices that revolve around art-making, the exhibition, and fiction. Recent works use recognizable materials such as books, plants, debris, precious metals, and money, enacting displacements and substitutions by way of creating sets and narratives. Cao holds a BFA from the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts - Diliman. Recent exhibitions include The hand, the secretary, a landscape at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (2018), a knowing intimacy or a life at the U.P. Vargas Museum (2019), and the New Cinema Competition program at the 15th Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival in the UK (2019). She has been granted artist residencies in Taiwan and Finland and has also presented work in Australia, Seoul, Hong Kong, and Indonesia.
Allison Collins is a curator, writer and researcher. Her practice has investigated and participated in artist-run centres both contemporary and historical for over a decade. She is part of Kamias Special Projects Collective (with Patrick Cruz and Su-Ying Lee) which organizes the Kamias Triennial, in Quezon City, Philippines, and a co-organizer of Pacific Crossings, an ongoing conversation and public presentation series that draws participants from various regions and nations adjacent to the Pacific Ocean. She holds a BFA in Visual Art, University of Ottawa, and an MA in Art History (Critical and Curatorial Studies), University of British Columbia.
Christian Vistan is an artist, writer, and curator from the peninsula now known as Bataan, Philippines, living and working in Vancouver and Delta, BC on the unceded and traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, Tsawwassen, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. They make paintings, texts and collaborations that describe a hybridity in form, folding together elements of biography, material exploration, poetry, and abstraction. This work is rooted in their inquiries into place, language, and memory, as well as water as a material and agent in painting and in personal and migrant-settler histories. Their artwork and curatorial projects have been presented in galleries and institutions in Canada, US and the Philippines. They received their BFA from Emily Carr University of Art + Design in 2016. Christian Vistan, along with Aubin Kwon, run dreams comma delta, a platform for artist-led projects and exhibitions located inside Vistan’s family home in Delta, BC.
Friday, March 5, 6pm Pacific Standard Time (Vancouver)
Saturday, March 6, 10am Philippine Standard Time (Manila)
This event was organized by Allison Collins and Green Papaya Art Projects, with support from Recollective and VIVO Media Arts.