BBC2 clip on The Great British Parakeet Invasion

26 10 2009

I’m still not sure how this random story fits into my own project… but something in the idea of a displaced tropical bird finding a niche in London is appealing to me. I like the parallel narratives… I like that it’s light… I like that my search for these birds has been about as elusive as my search for a ‘Filipino-town’.


A question of why?

24 10 2009

I have plans to visit Earls Court tomorrow. This will be my first day out taking pictures of the PI community and I find myself asking why has it taken this long for me to get my hands dirty?

The most logical justification is that I’ve been doing a lot of planning, reading, writing and adjusting to my new life in London since I moved here over a month ago. All true. But, not exactly. Historically I’ve felt no hesitation talking to every Filipino store owner in the community, telling them of my art and asking permission to photograph their stores and homes. In fact, a good part of my creative process involved first going to the ‘field’ before I did any theorizing or planning. But it’s been different here. Why?

Pinoy Mini Mart, 2008

Pinoy Mini Mart, 2008 (Toronto, Canada)

I’m realizing that through this project I am trying to represent a community that I know very little about and possibly have less in common with. My tagalog is shabby and heavily accented and even my English is accented in this country! So I come back to this question, why? Allan Kazmer– Canadian copywriter guru who has work is in Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum and who helped me get my first post as an art director– once told me that in order to find the truth in what you are trying to say, ask yourself the question, ‘why?’, at least eight times. Of course he meant this as a distilling process to create better advertisements but it’s an exercise I have come back to time and again as a kind of litmus test of my true feelings. So…

Why the hesitation to get out there?

Because I don’t feel like I really belong. I feel like an impostor. I am not a British-Filipino, I am a Canadian-Filipino and to be even more transparent, I have often related more to my Canadian heritage than to my Philippine one.

Why don’t you feel you belong? Why are you an impostor?

I barely speak Tagalog. I am a vegetarian. I’ve only been to the Philippines twice. I feel like a loud and aggressive N. American unable to pick up subtleties of British parlay, let alone the how this has been translated in the Filipino community. I’m not even clear as to what being Filipino is to me! I feel displaced.

Why aren’t you clear on your Filipinoness? Why do you feel displaced?

I was born in Canada in the mid 70s to Filipino parents who both had their university educations and eventually got white collar jobs in Toronto. At the time there wasn’t a big Philippine community in Canada and a majority of the diaspora were of a working class background. I did not quite fit in with the pockets of Filipinos in Canada at the time, nor did I fit in with the sea of caucasian kids who filled the private school classrooms of my childhood.

Brown Sheep, 2007

Brown Sheep, 2007 (Images used to create this collage were taken in Toronto, 1979)

I guess I’ve been on an identity search since then. Of course now, I realize that most everyone has gone through feelings of marginalization at some point in their lives, be it because of gender, class, accent, dress, religion, physical or mental abilities or challenges, etc. Foucault once said that each of is both oppressor and the oppressed– empowered and disempowered. I’ll take this concept of relativity one step further to say that I can be both part of a community and displaced from it as well.

Although I am certain there will be many things that I can relate to when researching the PI community here in London, I must expect that a part of me will always take this outsider status. I am the silent spy with the perfect disguise until I open my mouth. I am the anthropologist in the field with the ideal ‘in’. I am the tracker of a community who studies their echoes and footprints. I am the frustrated bird catcher in the rain forest… I am… still looking for those parrots 😉 and in a way my own identity.

Reflective video post October

14 10 2009

Grey skies and green emeralds.

7 10 2009

It’s been a depressing week. Very grey and I’ve felt very, very stuck with the project. I’ve been told that a conscious effort at productivity through work or exercise is the best way to get over the blues (when you don’t have access to weekend jaunts in Barcelona). I have done neither (and I have never been to Spain). Coming from Toronto, Canada, three straight days of rain has me feeling that the sun has forgotten us and that something apocalyptic is brewing. I know I’m being silly. I spent half a year in Paris and three in Tokyo so I know what it feels to be constantly under an umbrella trying to stay dry… trying to stay warm. But still, I am hoping for a bit sun soon.

It didn’t help that I only went to one seminar this week. I was actually booked for two meetings but as they overlapped I only ended up going to school for the seminar. The seminar was facilitated by artist Sutupa Biswas. I came to the seminar prepared to talk about ‘The Politics of Aesthetics’ (a relatively heavy text by Slavoj Žižek regarding Jacques Rancière’s theories of aesthetics and its inherent connection with history and social dialogue), but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the seminar took on quite a different direction. Instead of finding answers, definitions and theories in the text, we located key questions, common problems and methods of viewing the world and its aesthetics in respect to our creative practice. My notes from the seminar are a mixed bag of my personal thoughts and quotes from Sutupa. They’ve been like creative springboards for me, helping me look at my artistic process through a different lens… keeping things fresh.

Always think of theory in respect to your practice… keep notes at the end of a critical day and relate it to your practice.

This is something that I am proactively trying to do more than ever in this project. The blog has been instrumental both as a physical forum for my thoughts and as a facilitator of ritual reflection and organization in my creative practice.

Failures are a good thing. In order to learn, you must be able to locate where you’ve failed.

Despite my planning, I’m certain things will not work out perfectly in this project. They never do. But it’s good to be reminded that this is all part of the creative process.

Unpick images to understand the means by which they are made… how do you personally respond to an image… What does this image tell us about aesthetics?

Hmmm. I think as artists we naturally go through this process of deconstruction. One must know their subject in order to create, recreate and produce something from it. One must be aware of the world around them in order to have something to say about it. One must understand the context of production in relation to the current society one is living in. But for most, myself included, we do these things instinctually. It is good to be mindful of this thought process though.

What are the things we borrow from to make art? How does life stick to you like velcro and bleed into your creative practice?

Sutupa talked of the serendipitous nature of creativity, a theme I have been hearing about in these last few weeks, but haven’t actually given due thought to it until now. I have been doing a lot of thinking about the visual nature of this MA project but I haven’t actually been writing much of it down. In truth a lot of the creative connections come to me in the early morning hour as I wake or just before I go to bed. Something that has been recurring is the South London Parrot.

In these moments of lucidity, I’ve seen flocks of green and yellow birds (I don’t even know what colour the parrots are but I imagine them brilliant greens and yellows) zig zagging London’s grey cityscape. Their streaks of tropical colour offer contrast to the cloudy trails of the jet planes that they fly alongside them. The planes are small like the birds. Or maybe the birds are big like the planes. Scale is not important. The birds glow as if illuminated by something other than the pale sun on this rainy day. They swarm through wet urban streets leaving a trail of feathers, like snowflake emeralds on the buildings, the pedestrians holding umbrellas, the cars churning noise and black smoke, the buses carrying sardine commuters and the trains… the trains are the veins of a city carrying life to each of her parts. The green gems are like shards of glass that embed themselves into an old grey dinosaur… then I hear Blondie’s “The Tide is High”… the Blondie bit doesn’t quite make sense yet but it may just be my subconscious making me feel guilty for ripping this song off the internet when I was last at Lewisham Library. I’m still not sure how lightly authorities take illegal downloading (it’s almost a non-issue in Canada) but I always worry about that sort of thing when living some place new.

Anyhow, coming home from the seminar I noticed several things. One, it was raining and grey. Two I was on a train. And three, more importantly, I started to notice the emeralds! They stuck to me like Sutupa’s velcro. I noticed the flashing disks of green light that urged commuters to press the ‘open doors’ button at each stop. I noticed the flash of yellow that occurred just before the lights turned green (this does not happen in Toronto, traffic lights simply go from a full stop, red to a full go, green) and thought about those seconds when the red and yellow lights were on. This is a moment and place of transition. Pedestrians and drivers are staying in one place but thinking about going. They are in a place of future movement. There is a mental momentum starting before the physical momentum even begins. In this transition place time is frozen. Time is caught in a loop until it is told it can go again with a green signal. Green like the speck of light on my power cord telling me my computer is charged. Green telling me things are ready to begin again. Recharged. New.

The London Parrots

16 09 2009

I’m still not sure where I’m going with this but I find this migration story fascinating. Parrots indigenous to Asia have managed to escape and find a home in the suburbs of London. I learned of this when I was staying with a family member in Bromley and haven’t been able to get the story out my mind. I heard these birds when I was there and found the whole thing surreal. This is a neat little transnational narrative of sorts and I’m wondering if it has legs to go on further… maybe incorporate it into the visual theme of my project.

Here’s the article: