BS1: Back to basics

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Friday, December 13, 2013


HERE’S a rather cool artists’ group that local art enthusiasts might want to know better. So cool, in fact, that I won’t be surprised if our local artists have already gotten themselves familiar with BS1 or Back to Square 1. At the Manila-based group’s recent visit to our city, it organized a conference at the Museo Negrense de la Salle at USLS to allow the artists to get to know the local cultural scenario straight from the chosen panelists.

Back to Square 1, through the conference, hopes to address the needs of “artists, educators and cultural workers who wish to squarely situate their work within public domains that make for productive exchange between the makers of art, critical advocates of culture, and audiences who may not initially be inclined to look at art as productive enterprise.”

Back to Square 1 teamed up with Museo Negrense de la Salle, the Negros Museum, and Gallery Orange for the two-day event. The first day was made up of a day-long roundtable discussion and exchanges on Art Education and Curation: Activating Spaces for Community Engagement.

Here, matters such as “broadened notions of art and learning, activating community imagination, modes of collaboration and self-education, and the engagement of publics from within and outside institutions such as schools and museums” were taken up to inform local cultural workers and at the same time educate the BS1 group of artists themselves.

The conference started with UP Los Baños Professor Eileen Ramirez’s talk on “On Broadening the Notions of Art/Learning Spaces.” Art Education via Museums/Institutions was tackled by Balay ni Tan Juan’s Clem del Castillo, Negros Museum’s Tanya Lopez and Museo de la Salle’s Lyn Marie Mapa.

Artists as Community Enablers practical applications seek to give rise to creative ideas that may improve the present socio-physical conditions of our communities. For example, Radel Paredes discussed how he worked with the children among the Yolanda survivors in his talk Mobilizing and Enabling Artists for Disaster Response.

Claro Ramirez and Marika Constantino talked about BS1 initiatives in UPLB, Philippine Women’s University, Museum of Three Cultures – Siete Pesos and various aritsts’ spaces, and 98B Collaboratory on Future Market, respectively.

For a more local flavor, we learned about Expanding Reach: Figuring In and Out-of-School Publics where Irene Gaston spoke on the Western Visayas museum community initiatives and Jade Snow-Dionzon talked about the Negros Summer Workshops in USLS. Dennis Ascalon shared personal experiences organizing programs and activities of the BAA (Black Artists of Asia)/Produksyon Tramontina filmmakers; Cristina Taniguchi, on the Mariyah Gallery/Dumaguete Terracotta Biennial; and Antonio Alunan Wenceslao for the Foundation University on Viva-Excon.

The second day involved artists’ talks and Survey of Contemporary Art Practices at the Orange Gallery and free marathon video screenings at Museo Negrense de la Salle to continue its exploration of the intersections between art practices and art education.

What was exciting about the Back to Square 1 initiative is that the artists sought to present art in an undefiled manner. Claro laments over the obstruction of beautiful natural landscapes by signs and huge ones at that. Over in Baguio, he took pictures of huge obnoxious letters erected to form the name of a fast food chain. Lush vegetation was cleared to accommodate all eight letters on the mountainside a la the famed Hollywood sign.

On another spot, the earth was dug up so that the giant emblem of an international social club can be accommodated in effect destroying nature’s garden. Art comes in many forms; some in its pure state, others embellished. Yet, if art desecrates instead of beautifying, if it destroys and does not build up, why call it art? Back to Square 1 wishes to see the day when art adds to beauty and soothes and heals.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on December 13, 2013.

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