Back to the beginning

19 03 2010

In going through the reflective process of curating my project for assessment, I dug up the initial proposal I applied with. When compared to where I have taken the project to date, a marked progression becomes quickly apparent! It is exciting to see how much the project has changed and how much I have already developed in my art and research practice.

Below is my initial Proposal and Supporting Statement that I applied with.

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Methodology (first draft)

10 10 2009

Below is the initial draft of the Methodology section of my proposal.


In the creation of this work I intend to use images of Philippine storefronts, housing communities, newspaper circulations, online screen grabs of wikis and websites, as well as local advertisements available in the London area.  I will also interview individual community members gathering their views on identity and nationalism. Where do their affiliations lie? How long have they lived in London? Where do they consider home to be? After this data collection, I intend to create a series of digital collages of moving images through digital cropping, layering and morphing techniques. Furthermore, I wish to acquire image making skills that add a 3D aspect to these images. Specifically I will learn the basics of creating lenticular prints and try to apply this to screen-based images. Next I will create moving audio/visual collages that best utilize this technology using software such as Flash and Pure Data. This creative process will be documented in a blog which will serve as a venue for recording my field research, displaying my experimentations and facilitating self-reflection throughout the project.

The Context Section (first draft)

9 10 2009

Below is the initial draft of the Context Section of my proposal.

My current creative process, research interests and visual aesthetic are informed by seminal theories of space and society from new media theorist, Lev Manovich and cultural theorist Homi K. Bhaba as well as several artists who have addressed similar issues in their work.

Manovich links concepts of postmodern spacialization (privileging space over time and consequently flattening time and narrative) with the advent of Human Computer Interfaces (a literal realization of this hierarchy of space over time and history) [78].  The result is a new visual aesthetic that Manovich refers to as ‘spatial wandering’. I intend to apply and reinterpret this concept of ‘spatial wandering’ in the creation of a digital collage of moving, fading and morphing spaces looped temporally but evolving spatially.

My visual aesthetic has been influenced by the ‘joiners’ of David Hockney. Hockney’s pre-digital photocollages flattened time to unite a series of moments and points of view (Polaroid exposures) to give the essence of a landscape. It is in these flattened moments of time that I feel the transnational community can be viewed in its entirety. Moving from Hockney’s purely aesthetic exploration, I wish to represent the paradoxes of a transnational identity and to capture the contradictions of existing in two places and times at once– feeling both integrated and displaced.

As further framework to my image making, I will use Manovich’s deconstruction of digital compositing and its influence on the montage aesthetic. He identifies new digital dimensions to visuality in 1) the spatial order of layers, 2) the virtual space constructed through compositing and 3) the movement of layers in relation to the image frame [157].* (a further dimension of ‘linked information’ was part of Manovich’s list new digital dimensions but it does not apply to this project) These digital dimensions are then qualified as ‘spatial montages’ under these two conditions: “(The) Juxtapositions of elements should follow a particular system, and these juxtapositions should play a key role in how the work establishes its meaning, and its emotional and aesthetic effect” [158]. Evaluation and guidance for this project will then be measured against Manovich’s new visual aesthetics and his consequent definition of the ‘spatial montage’.

Bhaba’s theories on transnationalism and postmodern space will further serve to define my priority of place over time in this project. Specifically I will address Bhaba’s interpretations of a ‘Third Space’.* (In Bhaba’s article “How Newness Enters the World: Postmodern Space, postcolonial times and the trials of cultural translation”, Bhaba deconstructs Fredric Jameson’s theories of transnationalism and late capitalism and adds further critique to Marxist insights on space.) Bhaba concludes, “What is at issue is the performative nature of differential identities… (that) find their agency in a form of the ‘future’ where the past is not originary, (and) where the present is not simply transitory.

Artists Coco Fusco and Guillermo Gomez-Peña have, for me, addressed these issues of ‘differential identities’ in their individual art practices and in their collaborations. In a collaborative performance piece, Two Undiscovered Amerindians Visit Buenos Aires (1994), Fusco and Gomez-Peña commented on the ‘otherization’ of people.  The work displayed fictional caged natives (the artists in costume) in a museum setting performing ludicrous but stereotypical acts of an ‘untouched, pure’ native. In this work colonial history is uncomfortably brought to the present.  The artists, cage and unknowing audience become players in a space where time, history and accepted narrative is confused. I wish to represent a similar essence of confusion, illusion and uncomfortableness to reiterate Bhaba’s ‘Third Space’ where identity challenges time and borders.

A week of seminars, lectures and workshops (part 1)

2 10 2009

It’s been a busy, busy week of taking in information, scrambling to digest it and writing it all down. Happily, an initial draft of my Bibliography and Aims & Objectives sections of my proposal have come out of this week, and so I am still keeping up with the workplan. I read somewhere that the best way to learn something is to teach it. This certainly was the case for the workshop I gave regarding my workplan. Although I had the main ideas and timelines hashed out on paper, it was planning for the workshop that really forced me to think through all the details in my timeline and look for any holes in the planning. In reality I think I benefited most from of all of it. Now all I have to do is try and stick to the plan 😉

Also this week, I was a part of two very engaging but different seminars. The first was led by TrAIN’s Oriana Baddeley and we discussed the merits and context of Mandan Sarup’s article on ‘Home and Identity’.  Sarup’s article was subjective and auto-biographical. His writing style is unassuming but he manages to slip in so much relevant theory that ones hardly realize how deep everything is getting until one is in the thick of it all 😉 Everyone in the seminar agreed that his writing is a refreshing difference from the  much of what you see in academic articles.

More importantly for me, Sarup broke down the main differences between Marixist and Heideggerian thought in the context of place and nation and ultimately identity. Essentially, Marx defined places as being created through movement of capital. Furthermore, Marx stated that ‘capital is about technological change and the (consequent) expansion of places.’ In last week’s Methodolgy Lecture, David Cross mentioned that his process was influenced by Marx and he referenced the Marxist tenant that clearly defines differences in use value (the physical and practical worth of a commodity or service) and the exchange value (the market worth of a commodity or service). This becomes relevant to my project as much of the migration of peoples is effected by individuals looking for a better life in a different place from where they were born.  A ‘better’ life can then be translated to more exchange value for their work. Thus, following this logic one can state that the migration of people is a consequence of a migration of capital which in turn is technological change. People follow technology. Of course things are not as simplistic as this in reality, but I find the connection quite between people and technology quite relevant. My coming to London to study digital art is in itself reaffirming this logic.

Sarup also summarized some Heideggerian theories relevant to place and the experience of the individual (Being).  Heidegger deals with issues authenticity and inauthenticity of place. Heidegger places more emphasis on the social construction of places and tackles issues of roots and rootedness in a place. Diaspora narrative will ultimately lead to themes of displacement and assimilation which for me is essentially the shedding of old roots and the finding new ones. In this en masse movement of people, an evolving transnational identity forms and ultimately changes the landscapes of the places it passes through. and the land in which they wish to settle. It is this aspect of the Philippine-London diaspora I wish to represent and refer to in my current project.

I hope to be able to find physical evidences of displacement and assimilation in London’s urban landscape. Specific transition points where this may occur could be in the evolving storefronts of specialty shops (Philippine variety shops that are a mainstay in both the Philippines and many metropolitan cities I have observed so far- Paris, Tokyo, New York, Montreal, etc.) as well as the line of consumer goods (both imported and exported) that these stores choose to carry. Restaurants are another good point of transition. Evidences of displacement and assimilation will be found in the menus of the Philippine restaurants of London. What dishes are commonly considered traditionally Filipino in London? What dishes can easily be made in London? How have dishes evolved in the cultural integration process of the community?

I am reminded of my time living in Tokyo and my first visit for breakfast at a Denny’s (a chain diner in North America that I had always known to serve a proper ‘Western Breakfast’ of sausage, eggs, toast and coffee or the standby Canadian preferred alternate of pancakes, eggs, pea-meal bacon and maple syrup). The Denny’s chain in Japan carried a similar menu of toast, eggs but little sides of seaweed, rice, fermented beans and green tea had slipped into the menu to fit the Japanese palette. As with most people who have left their ‘home’, food can be an immediate reminder that you have changed place.

Things will not and cannot be exactly the same as the place you left. For me this is often a good thing but for those who fight it, displacement can be profoundly felt. That said, I still am thoroughly frustrated with the ridiculous amounts red tape required to cut through to get internet access at home. It has been one month of trying to open a bank account to get a valid debit card, call British Telecom to set up a landline and finally get a modem installed in my flat and still no internet! Hot spots abound in my neighbourhood so I shouldn’t really complain, but it is just one of those points of transition where I am forced to accept my own feelings of displacement.

Oriana commented on levels of displacement between individuals and each of us in the group discussed how in some way or another we play the role of ‘the other’- the foreigner without place in society. She also noted that recently in London the Philippine migration has occurred through populations of women who are domestic staff to wealthy Saudi families that have moved to the UK. The levels of displacement these women are two-fold. Firstly, they are in England and must deal with assimilating to British culture from a South-east Asian background. Next they are tied to a family of Saudis who are going through their own assimilation and displacement.  I should also mention the obvious master/servant/division of class these women must also feel. Do the employers of these Filipina women relate more to their domestic staff now that they too are foreigners? With English as the primary language in the UK do these women feel more/less empowered in London? What influences if any have these women made on the existing Philippine community? How have they changed the visual landscape?

Lots of questions to answer. It seems like the closer I get to finding something, the more questions I get.

Aims & Objectives (first draft)

1 10 2009

Below is the initial “Aims & Objectives” Section for my proposal.

The primary aim of this project is to better understand the ways in which migration, immigration and movement of transnational communities are visually represented in London’s urban landscape. In particular, I will focus on visual representations of the Philippine diaspora. London arguably has the largest population of Philippine migrants in Europe but where is ‘Filipinotown’? How is this diaspora visually changing the city? What footprints (discreet and indiscreet) are being left in the landscape by this migration/settlement of people? What aspects of Philippine culture have been diffused, morphed or have remained intact in the integration process to the UK?

To answer these questions and achieve this aim, my first objective is to locate, observe, interview, record and photograph evidences of the Philippine community. I then intend to distill the collected data under my ‘subjective lens’ to find several underpinning themes. I stress the subjective nature of this project as I am a Canadian born Filipino living in London temporarily with my French-Canadian wife and mixed race baby. I acknowledge my unique narrative and influence it will have on this project. My diaspora story carries with it varied levels of displacement, biases and assumptions inherent to my life experiences. With the collected data, gained experiences and realized themes I will then create a series of digital collages that best illustrate my findings and the personal process I went through in searching for ‘roots’ in London.

The secondary aim of this project is to locate points of connection between digital art and the phenomenon of global diaspora. Specifically I want to better connect my digital art practice and interest in new media to my own research interests in transnationalism. How can I best utilize the immersive nature of digital media to represent the organic fluidity of transnational communities? Is there a need to make such a connection? To what extent have other artists and academics bridged these two possibly disparate themes?

To achieve my secondary aim I will start by locating any relevant discourse, key artists and primary schools of thought in digital and transnational art.  I intend to pinpoint, infer and possibly create further bridges between these two fields of study/art. My next objective is to acquire further digital imaging skills that better express themes of organic urban change, layered urban narratives, cultural displacements/integration and memory. These themes have been relevant for me in analyzing my diaspora narrative and have structured much of my current digital art practice. Finally I intend to create a series of works that digitally represent an essence/aura of a specific diaspora– that of the Philippine-Londoners of 2010.

Bibliography in progress

30 09 2009

This week marks the end of my initial bibliography research and I’m feeling pretty good about the material I’ve been able to gather. There certainly is a lot of it anyways. It seems like every exciting book I come across leads me to at least five more relevant resources!

I applied to the course with some theoretical knowledge and context to my work. Key artists like Ken Lum, Manuel Ocampo, Byron Kim, Coco Fusco and Niki Lee have been influential in introducing me to themes of transnationalism, diaspora identity, migration and assimilation. Furthermore, travelling exhibition “Cities on the Move” (curated by Hou Hanru in 1999) introduced me to a slew of diasporic artitsts in Asia and how they tackled pertinent themes of multi-modernities and glocalism. On the technological side, I have been influenced by artists Marcel Duchamps (in regards to his ‘readymades’ and the debate it started over authenticity in art and has lead to my ‘made_ready series’), David Hockney (for his visual cut, paste and layered landscapes) and Nancy Burnsen (for her earlier digital manipulations profile distillations). Media theorists such as Marshall McLuhan, Jean Baudrillard and Walter Benjamin have also provided theoretical underpinnings in my artistic practice… I should probably add cultural theorist Epifanio San Juan for his specific work on the post-colonial Philippine diaspora and the ubiquitous Edward Said for his much referenced ‘Oreintalism’ as well.



That said, in the last few weeks I have been introduced to so much more!

Some key names that come to mind are digital theorist Lev Manovich who in turn got me into Friedrich Kittler and Peter Weibel. Other new media theorists that have come may way in the building of this bibliography are Christaine Paul, Andrew Murphy and Rachel Greene. Key transnational/diaspora theorists I have been introduced to are Homi K. Bhaba, Olu Oguibe and Mandan Sarup. More excitingly I am starting think about my work under the context of Marxist and Heideggerian theory (specifically in regards to space and movement of capital and consequently people) as well as thought from David Harvey who has offered a post-modern analysis of Marxism.

Ultimately the result over these last few weeks of visiting libraries and combing through bookshelves is a working bibliography which I’ve divided into three themed sections:

1) Transnational, Diaspora and Asian Art Theory

2) Media, Digital and Visual Art Theory

3) Philosophy about Society, Space and Movement

In the search for these texts, I discovered that there is an overwhelming amount of discourse regarding digital art and an equal amount for transnationalism– both, interestingly enough, are relatively new fields of study in academe and seem to carry a trendy, sexy buzz around them. But, I am having trouble finding any writing that addresses both themes, specifically in regards to digital media and urban diasporas. Of course there are artitsts who have instinctively incorporated both themes in their work. Maria Lucia Cattani immediately comes to mind as I just heard her speak at the FADE (Fine Arts Digital Environment) Lecture today about her methodology which involves a process of bringing ‘the original’ to ‘the multiple’ and back to ‘the original’ again. Her creative involves scanning fictional script, laser cutting a dye caste (not sure if this is the correct terminology), making prints from the dye, then destroying these prints to create original books that are in libraries in the UK and Brazil! Brilliant really. She clearly flows between themes of reproducibility and global movement as well as cross cultural communication and what get lost in the translation. I love it and hope to touch on her elegance of message in my own work.

Ok, that was a mouthful.  CAVEAT: I’m not claiming to know these artists’ complete life’s work or to have read a complete text by any of these authors (with exception to Marshall McLuhan, Walter Benjamin, Christaine Paul and Lev Manovich… authors I couldn’t put down when I got hold of their texts), but what I am doing is starting to scratch the surface. More importantly, I am starting to discover is that there is a massive world of thought and really thoughtful art out there and that my little old project just might have a place in it. 😉

25 09 2009

Work PlanIn trying to address all the overwhelming amounts of work ahead of me (this being not just what I have to do, but mainly all the things I WANT to do). I thought it best to resist all my impulses to jump right into action and instead do some planning. ‘Focused action gets results’… as my old creative director back in the advertising days once told me. He told me a lot of nonsensical stuff, mainly when he was drunk, but this gem was worth remembering.

When making this workflow plan I factored a few things in. I planned in time for delays and time for reflection. I planned in ‘pauses’ throughout the year and a ‘soft completion’ date to allow for the inevitable delays that might occur and more importantly to give me a little time to take a few steps back a evaluate the direction I am going in.