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SYNAPSE Workshop 2015 | June 30 – July 4, 2015

Lightning Studies: (CTCCCs) presents PASÁ PASÂ

30.08.2016 | Blog

Artists: Felix Resureccion-Hidalgo (1853-1913), Megan Michalak and Giuliana Racco

Collections: The Philippine Journal of Science, Annual Reports of the Director of the Bureau of Science Philippine Islands, National Museum of the Philippines

Cement Laboratory

In the frame of Exposition at Lopez Museum & Library, Lightning Studies: (CTCCCs) presents PASÁ PASÂ, a curatorial study on translation in transition through artistic projects produced in two different time frames in Spain, archival materials on scientific and health reports in the early American period in the Philippines, and collaborative production/management across systems of the institutional and their corresponding infrastructures of showing. PASÁ PASÂ is a critical layout for contemplating the production of ‘public good’ shared between the vectors of the artistic, the scientific, and the civil. PASÁ PASÂ can be read through two presentations: as etiologies of bruising, and as being bruised all over despite good conditions, where ‘fictive polemical’, institutional critique, and histories of artwork are used as transitional devices to imagine alternative methods for gathering and organizing knowledges.

St Ignatius

The streams of PASÁ PASÂ start with the politics of ventilation and sanitation as reflected in the practice of conservation and the technological in a museological space. The scale of collaboration of anthropology and ethnography within the ideological engineering of public good through the terms of health and hygiene is exposed in a collection of photographs from the Philippine Journal of Science and the Annual Reports of the Director of the Bureau of Science Philippine Islands. The charts PASÁ PASÂ (Bruised all over) and PASÂ (Bruising) essay a new linguistic device of translating the civility of a former colonial subject into the liberal terrain of an imperial power. Around the museum rotunda with a closed vitrine at the center, the circulation of air guides the viewers in the vexed relationship of preservation across bodies, contexts, and horizons. PASÁ PASÂ terminates with a fumigated specimen of a poisonous plant known to have curative potential, enacting a political and ideological indeterminacy and agency in a landscape for the rhetoric of growth and progress.

Bureau of Science

Lightning Studies: Centre for the Translation of Constraints, Conflicts and Contaminations (CTCCCs) is an imagined, virtual, and fleeting institution for relational translation. The centrality of forming a speculative institution serves two purposes: as a reference for undoing the overdetermined proposition of the so-called pedagogical models, which could position translation as a critical method and praxis of pedagogy; and as a vector of exploring partially visible modes of organization, such as co-production of discursive elements, conceptual histories, and incidental alternatives through the interpellation and injunction of texts and images.  Fictionializing European Enlightenment’s and capitalist modernity’s transformation, it traces the archaeology of turns and omissions in translation, then archives the ongoing and futural translations of artistic impulses to configure a constellation of discourses.

The first iteration of Lightning Studies: Centre for the Translation of Constraints, Conflicts and Contaminations (CTCCCs) was realized through the Encura Curatorial Research Residency at Hangar in Barcelona in February 2016.

Lightning Studies: (CTCCCs) presents PASÁ PAS is part of EXPOSITION, a group exhibition curated by Dorothea Garing. EXPOSITION runs from September 1 to December 23, 2016.


Herding Islands, Rats and the Anthropocene—scenes of burden

04.11.2015 | Blog

Herding Islands, Rats and the Anthropocene
First Sessions: Intervention, Reaction and Violence
November 11-13, 2015
University of the Philippines – Los Banos

The series of sessions loosely grouped into Intervention, Reaction and Violence contend the discursive architecture folded in material and intangible infrastructures of development and integration. The terminal location—a point of definitive order—that intervention, reaction, and violence evoke shares a kinship with the recuperative articulation of the Anthropocene and with various techno-geopolitical engagements with the space called “South East Asia”. Herding Islands, Rats and the Anthropocene disintegrates in the same nomenclature to map out modes of access determined by the network of development and integration in order to reconstruct the sites of action into scenes to be contaminated.

The compilation of artistic registers and creative impulses curated by David Ayala-Alfonso, Grace Samboh with Ismal Muntaha, Juan Canela, Mahardika Yudha, Mi You, Sofia Lemos and Tess Maunder estimates the strength and vulnerability of ideologies, imagination and consciousness penetrating and embodied in the expanded system of development and the caustic logic of integration.  Seven screening programs present a diverse format of moving images, video works, documentation, and making films from 24 artists, artist collectives, and citizens that converge into a promise of resistance, autonomy and emancipation. They reconfigure their tenuous relations from polarization to ambivalence in action and thought, nostalgia and optimism, cohesion and fragmentation, cynicism and opportunism, and/or critical reflection and self-defeating essentialism. As the tension grows and overlaps across the surfaces of the projected media, the body of works assembled with their contextual framing locates an anxious visual reappraisal and an insecure position towards things that can be seen yet cannot be known or things that can be known and can be seen but cannot be acted upon—things usually rendered as knowable.

Alternating the display and viewing of an exhibition and cinema, Intervention, Reaction and Violence begin in a stubborn assertion: the paradox of taming and gathering things together in Cologne-based curator and academic Mi You’s Found Internet Resources featuring videos culled from Youtube and other online domains. It “deals with subjects of (re)action to the implications of Anthropocene in the context of modern China and beyond.” Annexing three stages within the tripartite program, Found Internet Resources stages a negotiation in a historical and political continuum through the image and structure of China in its political modernization, political management, and economic hegemony with palpable tone of decolonization and survival in the postcolonial world. The abruptness and coarseness of the materials anticipate the moments of transgression to be compiled and collapsed in succeeding programs.

The visible gaps pronounced by the transition of an article of visual stimuli into another group of associations can be occupied with Hind Spectrum, the lone screening program to discuss the particularities of violence. Curated by Berlin-based researcher and curator Sofia Lemos, Hind Spectrum acts as an adhesive that shows the intimacy of intervention and reaction. Here, the works of Alexandra Navratil and Mareike Bernien and Kerstin Schroedinger “probe the penalties of colored celluloid in the film industry beyond its chemical composition. Exposing the relationship between social and material concerns, the films complicate the particularities of violence within regimes of development.” As Hind Spectrum’s vectors attach themselves into other nodes, the films bring up some urgent questions: “How may we interrogate the representation of violence? What are the aesthetics of conflict?”

Data, information and material evidence accounting for facts and truths have been regarded as the reliable documentation of histories and memories. They are verifiable, and like what the positivism of scientific method promotes, they are claims and clues in achieving replicability. What happens when documents are corrupted? Whose memories are we living in or contesting to? How do we disrupt the custody of evidence? In Mahardika Yudha’s contribution titled Impairing a Memories, he follows two Indonesian artists’ (Irwan Ahmett and Hafiz Rancajale) process of displacing the confidence and sufficiency of represented and manifested truths in New Order’s illusions and fantasies. The notion of intervention as documentation flows into an interface where images and their potentiality are both seductive tools in breaking away from oppression and in naturalizing (via memorializing and monumentalizing) oppression.

In The Reflection of the Mineral, The (Re)Action of the Image, Alexandra Navratil, Basim Magdy, Carolina Caycedo and David Ferrando Giraut have inverted the anthropocentric narrative and remembering consigned in subjects of action. Curated by Barcelona-based Juan Canela, the images flashing one after another are temporarily cured from the dominance of human’s knowledge system in order to animate other things, to let things speak to us. The imposed inertia to the so-called non-living objects are made to “reflect about [their] own nature through form and content, swiveling between past and future as a possibility for movement.” While the set of works constitutes a practice of looking away, it critically shows the complicated construction of agency and position in a field of relations inhabited by living and non-living objects, and the esoteric that lies in between or around the edges.

Contra the sanitized gesture of criticality, the confrontational antagonism of Archie Moore’s works produces the necessary abrasion to the “neutral ground” staged for an overdetermined theatricality of “meeting a resolution,” “negotiating compromises,” and “hearing all parties involved.” The co-opted terms of engagement are exposed in the artist’s two works, together with the risky truth-telling that the complicit conviviality demands from subjects of violence. Aided by Brisbane-based curator and writer Tess Maunder, Archie Moore’s works appear in a constellation of Session Reaction arguing that while bodies always resist, the same bodies can be appropriated and instrumentalized. Consequently, these works intensify the strategic essentialism that the notion of reactionary elicits, suggesting another radical position within a networked corruption of action.

Outsourced from an ongoing project in West Java, Indonesia, Can You Hear the Owl Howl? finds resonance on the ground of a neighboring South East Asian country undergoing similar processes of development and integration through a curios-based interpretation of tanah (land/soil/mud/clay). Curated by Jogja-based curator Grace Samboh with Jatiwangi art factory co-founder Ismal Muntaha, Can You Hear the Owl Howl? is composed of various video materials produced by ‘makers’ (artists, citizens, or government workers) in the town of Jatiwangi in the past five years. Operating in a form of political pragmatism and opportunism, it collocates with the question of place (or perhaps, originary placement or future situation) of development by figuring out and clearing practical and direct registers of engagement. As it rejects the individualistic cynicism, 21 materials are collated as if to show a collective desire that commits to realize a communal action against “massive changes”.

When intervention is conflated into translation and mediation, how do actions form the public or how do these actions form relations between conscious and unconscious participants in a public realm? The contribution of artist-curator David Ayala-Alfonso lends some provocations through the works of Carlos Guzmán and Felipe Steinberg. The eventual fragmentation of consolidated actions (or inactions) erodes the differentiation of participation and intervention suggesting a rethinking of organization, solidarity, collectivity, and individual agency.

The formation of Intervention, Reaction and Violence as the dialectical instantiation of Herding Islands, Rats and the Anthropocene perversely communicates the burden of wrestling with the subjects of development and integration through a curatorial that is both personal and communal; in drafting a way of paralyzing the dominant discursive formation, the artworks initially cope with the epistemological trauma by inducting an architecture of introgression where moving images self-contaminate, cross-pollinate, and recuperate. Ultimately, with the intermittent navel-gazing and reflexive promiscuity of knowledges in either artistic or curatorial faculties, the first sessions ask: can “herded images” be grafted onto another stem, or do we “eat” them to become the ghosts or specters of development and integration?

Artists: Alexandra Navratil, Archie Moore, Arie Syarifuddin, Basim Magdy, Carolina Caycedo, Carlos Guzmán, David Ferrando Girault, Felipe Steinberg, Hafiz Rancajale, Hanyaterra, Irwan Ahmett, Ismal Muntaha, Irwan Ahmett & Tita Salina, Jatiwangi art Factory, Jatiwangi Kids, Julian Abraham ‘Togar’, Mareike Bernien and Kerstin Schroedinger, Pak Camat Band feat. Rizal Abdulhadi & Ahmad Thian Vultan, Taneuh Beureum, Tarling Padi, Yopie Nugraha, The Dangdans, The Nutrisi Besar, and Yuliati Shalihat.

Session Curators: David Ayala-Alfonso, Grace Samboh with Ismal Muntaha, Jewel Maranan, Juan Canela, Kevser Guler, Mahardika Yudha, Mi You, Sofia Lemos, Tess Maunder and Vera Mey.

Parallel program curators: Christian Tablazon, Romeo dela Cruz Jr. and Srinivas Aditya Mopidevi.

Herding Islands, Rats and the Anthropocene is conceived and initiated by Renan Laru-an in cooperation with the Office for Initiatives in Culture and the Arts-UPLB (OICA), College of Arts and Science-Arts and Science Fusion Program of UPLB, and SYNAPSE – The International Curators’ Network at HKW.

Venue partners
Vargas Museum and Filipiniana Research Center, Sining Makiling Art Gallery at the University of the Philippines-Los Banos (UPLB), Museum of Natural History at College of Forestry in UPLB, Riceworld Museum of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and MASIPAG Office.

Image cover: Still of Carolina Caycedo’s Spaniards Named Her Magdalena, But Natives Call Her Yuma (2013),  27 min. Sound and color. 


Herding Islands, Rats and the Anthropocene–initiating some thoughts and a collaboration with/through Southeast Asia

21.10.2015 | Blog

* Space of abundance

The stadium effect has unknown and unclear logic. It occurs when pest species of rats create a doughnut-like structure in an upland and terraced landscape of rain-fed rice paddies. Spiral without concentric points, each terrace is divided into two: the perimeter of the paddy is left without damage while the interior is completely mowed. As rats assert a topographical classification of territorial and nutritive boundaries in terms of the limit and capacity of sufficiency, it simultaneously annuls images and roles accumulated by every actor on the field. The stadium’s edges show a vegetative fortress that hides activities from human traffic and animal predators, yet it allows the inter-penetration of smaller animals into the porous border. Native rodent species expose introduced species, such as feral rats, in a series of competitive reclamation of nearby forest land, controlling the movement of destructive species into the field. Erosion and water seepage—induced by deep-burrowing giant earthworms, weaken the stadium’s walls. Rats feed on golden apple snails found in rice nurseries. It reinforces a hypothesis that rat breeding concurs with crop stage. This attachment of rats’ reproductive cycle and rice’s cycle of production complicates approaches to rodent management and damage control. Rats’ idiosyncratic use of an upland agroecosystem possibilizes a fleeting architecture with tight—if not intimate—relationship between abundance and insufficiency, competition and protection, and management and resolution.

* Space of contamination

The expansion of capitalist frontiers and the intensification of the so-called “Third World Colonialism” based on ecological plunder and staging of development has pushed indigenous communities tied to land cultivation out of their homeland’s fertile coordinates. Retreating to the surrounding hillsides, indigenous people have demilitarized their presence only to re-militarize their absence as a technology of resistance. In 1979, a group of T’bolis of Lake Sebu in South Cotabato signed a petition addressed to Asian Development Bank (ADB). The letter calls for a rigorous reconsideration of and expresses strong opposition to the funding agency’s commitment in the government-initiated construction of a hydroelectric dam. As a coordinated response, the triumvirate of the dictator’s regime (Ferdinand Marcos), corporate giant PEMCO (Philippine Electrical Manufacturing Company), and Asian Development Bank enervated T’bolis resistance by integrating it in paternalistic developmentalism and values of modernization through sophisticated employment of violence. However, before finally losing the chambers of the valley to speak, the T’bolis apprehended their subjugation to the terms of development: integration and displacement. In the letter submitted to ADB, they emphasized two statements:

This land and these lakes God has given us. We do not want this land to be destroyed by flood because it is precious to us, our ancestors were born and were buried here. We would rather kill ourselves and our children than to witness the terrible destruction this dam would bring. We have heard that new lands will be set aside for us in distant and foreign places. We would rather be drowned here and be buried with our ancestors than to live far away from our homeland.

The necropolitical position of the T’boli people, who believe that “The Land Cannot Be Owned  by a Few People Ever Since,” inverts the fantasy of the nutritive in the psyche of development. When they asked the electric company where they would hang the lightbulbs and when they marched towards the municipal hall to submit themselves for legal prosecution, they reappropriated the means of capture and contamination that their invaders had deployed. After becoming extracted from their ecological intimacies and relational sphere, they presented their injured beings only to ask if they could take them all in and that if were capable of subtracting themselves from being already extracted.

* Space of introgression

The project Herding Islands, Rats and the Anthropocene inducts itself through the space and reverberation of introgression, a plant breeding technique that relies on incidental cross-pollination, and relies on the intermittent loneliness and ecstasy of herding—of thinking and doing collectively, within the disjunctive unities of contemporary knowledge production. Or, naively, it crumbles at its germination with self-inflicting critical possibilities: How do we herd subjects that we don’t know? Can we herd things that we don’t know?

* Herding Islands, Rats and the Anthropocene—the project

Herding Islands, Rats and the Anthropocene is a multi-part, hybrid program of activities for reading discourses on development and integration. It seeks to attach a multi-layered and dialectical approach to the current modes of understanding and explanation of the Anthropocene. Deploying the (pre)determined and scattered articulations of the Anthropocene Project into the grounds of Southeast Asia, it gathers mediating structures and systems of exposition through the region’s political economy and knowledge scenes.

The practice of reading aims to be polyphonic and fractured, while allowing different impulses to collapse within the quandaries and histories of development and integration. The indeterminate and alternating coordinates for reading in Southeast Asia could chart speculative routes for new practices of mediation and translation:  releasing subjects and methods of reading from disciplinary self-containment and transforming codified discourses of development and integration.

Each session lays out the network of the Anthropocene, development, and integration in a complex situation where the procedure of knowing and not-yet-knowing relate to or come in conflict with one another.  The set of activities animates creative tension and collaborative determination across interacting knowledges beyond their territorial boundaries.

The initial reading of Herding Islands, Rats and the Anthropocene is focused on the Philippines and shared with international collaborators and local experts dedicated to problematizing development and integration. Composed of three sessions between Metro Manila and the province of Laguna, the broad scope of the iteration is funneled through the following vectors: intervention, violence, and reaction.


Introductory session*

Introducing Herding Islands, Rats and the Anthropocene is a presentation of new work produced by Munich-based artist Christian Illi titled Planting Rice, a video essay documenting his trip to the International Rice Research Institute and the farmer-led alternative group MASIPAG. The public briefing will feature fragments of the project and its trajectory to be led by project curator Renan Laru-an with additional notes in short conversations with collaborators. The session will close with a slideshow of materials from Jan Patrick Pineda’s Memorial of an Inquiry, as a reference to the development and integration image figuring into the artist’s appropriation of the PANAMIN Research Foundation.

*Held on October 14 at Vargas Museum and Filipiniana Research Center

Session Intervention begins with a lecture-presentation by project curator Renan Laru-an on histories of foreclosure and proceeds with propositions surrounding intervention, in the format of a video program. The session classifies artistic intervention and intervening images as processes of reading, then it complicates the discussion with the critique on how such reading unites with/diverge from knowledge-based interventions (i.e. the curatorial) and with broad disciplines, such as social sciences.

Session Intervention is co-curated by David Ayala-Alfonso (Bogota/Los Angeles) and Mahardika Yudha (Jakarta).

Session Reaction encounters reading scenes and practices of three institutions committed to development, integration and preservation. Visiting the University of the Philippines-Los Banos Museum of Natural History, International Rice Research Institute, and alternative research organization MASIPAG serves as an opportunity to discuss how these infrastructures communicate and represent their articulation of development and integration. The session concludes with a video forum divided into four screening programs, which expounds how the network of the Anthropocene, development, and integration forms subjects of action and intensifies critical thoughts and actions for response.

Session Reaction is co-curated by Juan Canela (Barcelona), Tess Maunder (Brisbane), Grace Samboh and Ismal Muntaha (Jogja), and Mi You (Beijing/Cologne).

Session Violence proposes to look into the particularities of violence within the regime of development and integration. Interspersed with video programs organized by curators from Turkey, Germany and South Africa, the session constellates with the research work of Filipino geographer Kristian Saguin on aquaculture in Laguna Lake, small-scale fisheries in Batangas Bay, and fish markets in Metro Manila. The session culminates with a polemical discussion, provoked by the question: Can we still talk about violence with(in) the Anthropocene?

Session Violence is co-curated by Kevser Guler (Istanbul), Vera Mey (Singapore), and Sofia Lemos (Berlin).

The initial phase of the project will unfold in November 11-13 at Sining Makiling Gallery, University of the Philippines-Los Banos. Comprehensive program and necessary details of each session will be released soon.

Herding Islands, Rats and the Anthropocene will be expounded as a long-term curatorial and research project from 2016 to 2017 in various sites in Southeast Asia.



Working group and session curators  David Ayala-Alfonso, Tess Maunder, Srinivas Aditya Mopidevi, Grace Samboh and Ismal Muntaha, Juan Canela, Kevser Guler, Jewel Maranan, Sofia Lemos, Vera Mey, Mi You, and Mahardika Yudha, and Christian Tablazon.

Participating artists and researchers (partial list) Jan Patrick Pineda, Christian Illi, Kristian Saguin, Alexandra Navratil, Archie Moore, Arie Syarifuddin, Basim Magdy, Carolina Caycedo, Carlos Guzmán, David Ferrando Girault, Felipe Steinberg, Hafiz Rancajale, Hanyaterra, Irwan Ahmett, Ismal Muntaha, Irwan Ahmett & Tita Salina, Jatiwangi art Factory, Jatiwangi Kids, Julian Abraham ‘Togar’, Mareike Bernien and Kerstin Schroedinger, Pak Camat Band feat. Rizal Abdulhadi & Ahmad Thian Vultan, Taneuh Beureum, Tarling Padi, Yopie Nugraha, The Dangdans, The Nutrisi Besar, Yuliati Shalihat, Meiro Koizumi, Tith Kanitha, Than Minh Duc, and Sok Chanrado.

Herding Islands, Rats and the Anthropocene is conceived and initiated by Renan Laru-an in cooperation with the Office for Initiatives in Culture and the Arts-UPLB (OICA), College of Arts and Science-Arts and Science Fusion Program of UPLB, and SYNAPSE – The International Curators’ Network at HKW.

Venue partners

Vargas Museum and Filipiniana Research Center, Sining Makiling Art Gallery at the University of the Philippines-Los Banos (UPLB), Museum of Natural History at College of Forestry in UPLB, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and MASIPAG Office. Cover image: Some of the senior staff of IRRI photographed in 1960. Image: Screenshot of the photograph (p. 30) from An Adventure in Applied Science: A History of International Rice Research Institute (Chandler, 1992), published by IRRI. Read the article with photographs here: