Spain reconnects with the Philippines through Artistic Residencies » Manila Bulletin Lifestyle



The opening of door for four Filipino and international artists to explore their craft outside their respective communities through an artist-in-residence project called El Ranchito, an initiative of Matadero Madrid, the Spanish capital’s benchmark in avant-garde culture centers, and brought to the country by the Embassy of Spain, the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) and the Instituto Cervantes de Manila along with the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the Metrobank Foundation, and Bellas Artes Projects.

98 COLLABoratory’s office

The program aims to reconnect Spain and the Philippines through artistic residencies by tying up with prestigious institutions around the world and this year the local artist-run initiative 98B COLLABoratory has been selected to partner with Matadero Madrid to pave the way for this two-way cultural and artistic immersion with Manila hosting two invited artists for six weeks, while their Filipino counterparts will travel to Madrid in October.

The residency program El Ranchito is designed for artists, curators, thinkers, and other cultural practitioners to encourage production, innovation, and experimentation in a bid to invigorate the art scene. The invited artists share an apartment located at the Legazpi quarter of Madrid and near Matadero, a space where they can create new works, experiment on new approaches to cultural production and establish international art communities.

Luciana Rago

Luciana Rago

98BCOLLABoratory provided space for invited artists residing in Spain: Luciana Rago who hails from Argentina and Brazilian-born Theo Firmo. Founded in 2012 to respond to a need for alternative venues in the Philippine capital, 98B is multi-disciplinary group and multi-functional space that seeks to bring together creative talents, professional, and otherwise, from different disciplines, making available to them a platform and avenue to interact and work together.  Its founders have conceived it as a platform for critical discourse, experimentation, exchange, information, and presentation of contemporary art in the Philippines.

Visual artist Luciana Rago works mostly on painting and installation, utilizing fragile materials such as paper made from vegetable fibers manufactured in China, Korea, and Japan and tempering it with ink stains and evanescent watercolors to create a limitless game of visual effects and plastic transformations in a discreetly and seductively charming manner. She has held exhibits in her home country and around Spain, with several works of hers garnering prestigious Spanish art awards.

Theo Firmo

                    Theo Firmo

Her project A Visit to the Philippine Islands embraces wabi-sabi, the traditional Japanese aesthetics based on the beauty of imperfection and transience. She proposes to create at least two facilities using banana leaves with the prospect of applying other materials that one can come across on the streets as well as pictorial signs that may not necessarily be on paper.  She chooses to employ banana leaves for their abundance in the Philippines, where at least 57 varieties of banana are found.

Sao Paulo-born Theo Firmo, who lives and works in Madrid, is the other invited artist from Spain. With a degree in linguistics, he poetically analyzes communication processes and transforms into matter their emotional and tactile significance, creating traces of movement, conversation, and touch. Although his works consist mainly of drawings, he has also engaged himself in sculpture, painting as well as video and installation works. It is very clear in his works that he opts for simplification in response to a world inundated with narratives and meanings.

He brings with him The Sound of Doubt, which he says is a project about directing one´s voice so that he or she can be heard and is thus about one´s diaphragm, lungs, throat, vocal chords, palate, teeth, tongue, and lips. He claims language is not a means of expression but a way to get through one´s daily life and likens it to a labyrinth that in the process of going through it, doubts which way to go just as one is in a continuous struggle to make oneself understood or to express clearly an idea.

During his stay in Manila, he will try to recognize, isolate and enlist the spaces and sounds of doubt: an unfamiliar repeated phoneme, a strange intonation that cannot be easily distinguished as happy or sad.  He intends to record all these and use them as a source of doubt.

Luciana Rago and Theo Firmo will work with Filipino counterparts Kat Medina and Miguel Lope Inumerable both in the Philippines and in Madrid, engaging in cultural activities, talks, field trips, networking and other activities designed to produce fruitful and informative residencies.

With the assistance of the 98B Team, the four artists will embark on a process of discovery and rediscovery of local sights, history, culture, contemporary art practices and way of life in relation to their own artistic process. Among the scheduled activities is a workshop at Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar held by the four Filipino and Spanish artists. This two-day trip is organized by Bellas Artes Projects, a non-profit, non-collecting institution that supports and engages with art that is experimental, educational, and as accessible as possible to all audiences.

El Ranchito aims to build a relationship of understanding using contemporary art, creativity and cultural language and heritage as the medium of communication.

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