Kawayan de Guia (The Philippines)

Kawayan de Guia (Filipina, 1979)


De Guia merupakan salah satu perupa kontemporer Filipina yang dikenal malang melintang di medan seni rupa internasional. Berbasis di Baguio City, karya-karyanya sering hadir melalui media yang bercampur. Banyak darinya merupakan lukisan, namun ia juga sering menggabungkannya dalam hubungan dengan retorika konseptual ke dalam bentuk- bentuk instalatif, fotografi, dan video. Gagasan- gagasan dalam karya de Guia seringkali memberikan perhatian kepada persoalan yang khas dalam pertemuan di antara keinginan material urban Kebarat-baratan dengan akar bahasa dan praktik dalam kria lokal. Hal ini menjadi isu yang bergema baginya sebagai perupa berkebangsaan Filipina yang memiliki darah keturunan Jerman dan berpenampilan bule. De Guia seolah menciptakan “relikui baru,” sebagai gambaran perpanjangan interaksi dan sikap geopolitis di antara elemen pengaruh kolonial Barat dengan realita lokal yang terpraktikan.

Kawayan de Guia menjalankan program residensinya di FSRD-ITB, pada November 2016. Pada mukimannya, Kawayan mengangkat kisah Robert Villanueva yang ditugaskan lembaga kesenian Singapura pada awal dekade 1980- an untuk mendokumentasikan kehidupan seniman-seniman di Indonesia. Dalam kaitan regional, gema lokal, dan keterhubungannya, proyek fotografi Villanueva juga berakhir ketika pemerintahan Marcos berakhir di Filipina pada tahun 1986. Ia kemudian hidup di pengasingan, dan tidak hingga 1995 negatif-negatif film yang diambilnya kembali ke Filipina, ketika ia meninggal dunia. 30 tahun kemudian, Kawayan ingin mengembalikan gambar-gambar yang diambil tentang Indonesia tersebut, dan menjalinnya dengan kaitan kota dan pribadi di antara Bandung dan kota Baguio.

De Guia is one of the internationally renowned contemporary artist of the Philippines. Based in Baguio City, he works with various range of media. Many of which are paintings, yet he also often combines the medium and the sense of approach with more conceptual forms of installation, photography, and video, among others. The ideas of his works keenly gives concern to the particular issue between material longings of the urbanized- Western ideal and the language and practice in local crafts. Being a Filipino artist of German descent, such concerns persists. In working, de Guia seemed to produce “new relics,” which reflects a geopolitical stance on the long history of struggle between colonial, historical, Western influence, and local practiced realities.

Kawayan de Guia did his residency program in FSRD-ITB, November 2016. During his stay, Kawayan evoked the lost project of Robert Villanueva, who was commissioned by Singaporean art institution to document the lives of artists in Southeast Asia, which included focus on Indonesian artists

such as Affandi. Villanueva’s project ended abruptly when Ferdinand Marcos’ rule ended in the Philippines in 1986. Living afterwards in exile, it was only in 1995 when the negatives he took came back to the Philippines. 30 years after the initial project, Kawayan wanted to bring back the diary of images.


Sumber Biru

Negatives in Cyanotype, Prints on Ceramics, Installation Variable Dimension 2016

In the early 1980’s the Filipino artist Roberto Villanueva was tasked by a Singaporean art institution with a project that involved the documentation of Indonesian artists like Affandi: those that were, at that time, at the forefront of a convergence in Indonesian art-making, an unconsolidated but distinct movement towards expressing Indonesia as ‘locale’ in art. This focus on the regional, on South East Asian artistic voices expressing a unique locality, was an informing approach for Villanueva’s project and was within the foment of the region. At the same time the Philippines was undergoing a political flux that would end in the ouster of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986. Villanueva existed in that context: a home country that he was separated from by political circumstance, and a regional mood towards sense of place. His artistic practice also traversed pre-modern and pre-colonial culture, performance and installation art. Caught in those years of “self-exile” in Thailand, Singapore, and Germany, Villanueva’s photography project never saw the light of day, it remaining only as 35mm negatives.

It was only after his death in 1995 that Villanueva’s negatives returned to the Philippines and, in 2013, were handed over to Kawayan de Guia. Now, 30 years after Villanueva captured Indonesia through his lens, de Guia has aptly chosen to work on the negatives for the 4th Jakarta Contemporary Ceramics Biennale. Employing a documentarist gesture, de Guia processed the negatives in cyanotype, a photographic printing process prominent in the 19th century botanical photograms of photographer Anna Atkins. He set the types on ceramic tiles as things to be unearthed by the viewer to uncover the now nostalgic images. The use of film negatives as material shows a continuation of concern with others of de Guia’s works, in particular his sculpture of the Statue of Liberty for “Secret Archipelago” at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris in 2015. That work, broken resin pieces of the statue of Liberty carefully covered with film negatives, thematically addresses a similar topic as his work here: the confrontation of a subject as it historically comes full circle – the Statue of Liberty handed to America and back to France; Villanueva’s negatives returning to Indonesia. Of working with Villanueva’s negatives, de Guia says, “It’s like opening someone’s diary and you’re trying to figure out everything and all you can do is just presume. And all I’m highlighting is the gesture of that journey that never saw the light.”

As part of this presumption and negotiation of space, de Guia concretizes the parallels between Bandung (his Biennale residency area) and Baguio (his place of birth and residence). As artistic hubs, both share a position as extemporaneous birthplaces of “regional” art in their countries, and both exist in a dichotomized relationship with their national capitals where art is characterised by a sequestered art trade.

Even further back as chapters to a shared narrative, before Villanueva’s involvement in the formation of Baguio as a regional art capital, de Guia shares a story of personal significance: In a state visit to the Philippines after the war, President Sukarno makes his way to Baguio and meets with Mayor Virginia de Guia, the city’s first woman mayor and Kawayan de Guia’s grandmother. It is rumoured that Sukarno took cues from the development of Baguio City as a tourist town and the country’s summer capital and adapted them in Bandung. De Guia further explores his hybrid construct between these two cities over time and space with Sumber Biru. For de Guia both the Philippines and Indonesia as art centers “come from a very unique angle that I think is still somewhat traditional but that has the complexities of any western trained school of art thought.” In both of those regional settings where artists of Villanueva’s generation (mostly trained abroad) have created art locales, de Guia suggests that now the contemporary art cities “have broken free from western schools, although always mirroring a western practice. I hope now it will be the opposite: the western practice mirroring us.” (RC)