SOAS University of London

Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

From Ephemeral Experiences to Lasting Legacies: Mapping Performance Art and Conceptualism in the Philippines in the 1960s and 1970s

Eva Bentcheva

Date: 3 May 2018Time: 5:15 PM

Finishes: 3 May 2018Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B211

Type of Event: Seminar

Seminar organised jointly by SOAS Contemporary Arts Research Seminar and Tate Research Centre: Asia

Contrary to the belief that performance art and conceptual practices are recent developments in contemporary Southeast Asian art, the visual arts in the Philippines have been a fertile ground for experiments in process, interactivity and participation since the 1960s. From the installation-like ‘environments’ of Roberto Chabet (1937-2013), to the community-centered compositions of José Maceda (1917-2004), and even the interactive performances of David Medalla (1938 -), Judy Sibayan (1963 -) and Raymundo Albano (1947-85), artists working during the 1960s and 1970s continually sought to navigate the boundaries between experimental practices, the cultural politics of the Marcos regime (1965-86), and international discourses around contemporary art and the ‘avant-garde’.

This talk presents findings and reflections from my ongoing research on performance art and conceptualism in the Philippines. It explores the different roles and contexts through which Chabet, Maceda, Albano, Sibayan and Medalla came to deploy ‘process-based’ tactics within their art. Notwithstanding the fact that they hailed from different backgrounds - Chabet, Albano and Sibayan all produced art alongside careers as curators and teachers in public institutions in Manila, Medalla devoted his life to art while traversing the creative circles of Europe and the Philippines, while Maceda was active as a composer and ethnomusicologist in the Philippines and internationally – seen together, they provide valuable insights into the evolution of both practice and discourse. This paper highlights the ways in which they contributed to the development of a rich discourse around process, performance, and conceptualism through their practices, writings and wider socio-political engagements over the course of the 1960s and 1970s. It further uses their works as the basis to challenge two oft-cited assumptions about performance art and conceptualism in Southeast Asia more broadly. First, that these media emerged largely outside institutional frameworks within the region. Second, that performance art and conceptualism in Southeast Asia served historically as tools for institutional and political critique.

About the Speaker:

Eva Bentcheva is an art historian and curator. She completed her PhD in art history at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Her research focuses on performance art from South and Southeast Asia, and their diasporas. In 2016, she was awarded a Visiting Research Fellowship at the Tate Research Centre: Asia to examine the performance practices of Philippines-born artist, David Medalla. She is currently an Adjunct Researcher for the Tate Research Centre: Asia, developing a research-led project on performance art and conceptualism in the Philippines. Since 2015, she has been co-director of Batubalani Art Projects, an independent organisation which promotes knowledge of Philippine modern and contemporary art across museums and universities in Europe.

Academic Organiser: Dr Pamela Corey

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