Experiments with Pedestrian Footage

24 04 2010

Inspired by some of the ideas that came up from a recent tutorial, I’ve started playing around with cutting the screen in three fields. I like the plains of view this creates and will use this to better direct the eye. Further work is needed to the general visuals of the project to avoid things from becoming to busy. Next I will experiment with creating fixed points of focus.


Jose Rizal’s ‘Noli me Tangere’

19 04 2010

“Fate presented itself to some like a chinese fan–one side black, the other side gilded with flowers.” (Jose Rizal from Noli)

I’m still trying to work through my images and figure out how I’m going to visually and thematically represent the quintessential Philippines in London. In searching for Philippine nationalism I was reminded of an old book I came accross when visiting the Philippines in my late twenties ‘finding my roots’.  Asking relatives, friends and aquaintances if there was something that I could hang my hat on as being distinctly Filipino, I received a slew of varied opinions many of which took on a humourous slant similar to the popular ‘You know your Filipino when…’ lists as seen on jeepneygang.com (http://www.jeepneygang.com/bola/pinoysgn.htm).

That said, one lasting and resounding opinion (heard from a few older pinoys) was that Jose Rizal (1861-1896) was for all extensive purposes the unabashed national hero of the Philippines. This was corroborated by the fact that Rizal is honoured with a national holiday, is found on the 1 peso coin and has monuments in the Philippines and around the world from Singapore to Seatte.

Rizal fought for reform in the Philippines, then a Spanish colonoy, and among other things was famed for his book Noli Me Tangere.   Noli critiqued the hegemonic class structure maintained by the Spanish colonialism and Roman Catholocism. ‘When it was written (in Spanish) and published (in Berlin in 1887), the Filipinos were only beginning to think of themselves as Filipinos rather than as members of various tribes scattered among 7,000 islands between Borneo and Taiwan. Their segregation of their fellow Malays after the colonial wars of the East Indies were settled, and the consciousness that the Spanish oppression was suffered by all in common, had given rise to a feeling of separate nationhood..” (excerpt from the English translated Noli by Leon Guerrero, Capitol Publishing Inc: 2002).  Referenced by post-colonial Bendict Anderson in his seminal text Imagined Communities, Noli is cited as an example of how a book had created a national idenity.

This is a copy of the original cover from 1887 taken from http://www.gutenberg.org

Soon after it’s publication, Noli was banned as ‘subersive’ and ‘heretical’ by the Royal and Pontifical (Domincan) University of Santo Tomas and recommended a prohibition of its import, reproduction and circulation in the Philippines. Rizal would later be excecuted by firing squad in 1896 and become the martyr that sparked the Philippine Revolution in the same year.

I am distilling a few ideas to use images of this book in my installation of which I will post shortly but for now I thought it useful to post this historical background…

Benito Vergara Jr. and Pinoy Capital

29 03 2010

Lately as I delve into further resarch into the Philippine diaspora I’m coming back to Benito Vergara Jr. Vergara is an Fil-American social anthroplogist who has recently wrote a book called ‘Pinoy Capital: The Filipino Nation in Daly City’ about the largest community of Filipinos in the United States located in California. Vergara interviewed a cross section of the 33,000 population (as a point of reference the Commission for Filipino Migrant Workers estimates there are between 40,000-50,000 Filipinos in London) and several recurrent themes. Vergara identifies a common guilt engendered by the money that the Fil-Am community makes as it is undoubtedly considerably more than members of their families back ‘home’.  He also deconstructs the concept of transnationalism in regards to the Fil-Am community and eplains how this is problematic to true integration. Please see the video below for a partial introduction of the ‘Pinoy Capital’ from Vergara himself at a US book launch.

Visit to Earls Court

26 10 2009

According to a 2007 report from the Manila Times, London has over 120,000 ethnic Filipinos and Earls Court is home to the single largest community of them. And so I went to Earls Court today to take pictures and to talk to some Filipino-Londoners for the first time. Coming out of the tube station I interrupted a transaction between a caucasian fruit vendor and a Filipina customer to ask (in English) where I could find ‘Filipino-town’. Having lived in Toronto, Paris, Montreal and Tokyo each time failing to find a ‘Filipino-town’ I already knew that it was likely that none would exist in London either. The question was received with confusion from both the vendor and the Filipina. I clarified that I was looking to find the centre of the Philippine community in London, like Chinatown but for Filipinos. I’m not sure if it was my accent or the question but I was still no further ahead for an answer. Finally I asked where I could buy some good Filipino food around the area and to my surprise it was the caucasian vendor who answered first telling me what general direction to go in.  After she bought two large bags of fruit, the Filipina later elaborated on the specific roads that I should go to. I then realized right away that her level of english was such that it made sense that the vendor would answer first to my question phrased in my loud, rapid-fire Canadian delivery. I did not make eye contact and raise my head and eyebrows with a smile (typical Filipino body language equivalent of a ‘Hello, can I ask you something?’). I interrupted with the typical Canadian passive, polite, aggressive, “I’m sorry but…”

The day went on as I bumbled my way physically and culturally through several streets, shops, banks and restaurants that catered to the Philippine community. I asked the question, “Where is Filipino-town?” to several more Filipinos working in the shops and walking the streets and each time I was told that there was no such thing in London. Of course I knew this, even before I came here. This is the reality of the Philippine diaspora. There wasn’t a Filipino-town when I was growing up in Canada, and even now when Filipinos represent the third largest ethnic visual-minority group in Toronto, there is still no Filipino-town. This speaks to the displacement and assimilation of the Filipinos who leave ‘home’ and make a new home in their host countries while keeping ties with the Philippines. It is in these scant shops, restaurants and money transfer agencies that a space between their current reality in London and the life they left in the Philippines physically meet. It is from these spaces in between that I begin my image making process.