IN the dark future, there’s a small light shining just bright enough to show a glimpse of hope of what’s in store for the human race. True enough, this “hope” which takes a people’s preserved identity and culture amid the rapidly changing industry, is compacted and displayed in one store—a sari-sari store—that remains untouched.
Luckily, a sari-sari store from the future is available at present for Cebuanos to see when they visit the 856 G Gallery in A.S. Fortuna St., Banilad, Mandaue City, Cebu.
The exhibit Sari Suki 2050 is the brainchild of three wonderful, playful and futuristic minds from New York, USA namely Noah Emrich, Sophia Callahan and Chris John Fussner. Together they form the group VSOON, an abbreviation for “very soon,” as most of their masterpieces hope to predict or provide alternatives for the near future.
“It’s obviously impossible to predict the future. The farther you go the harder and harder it gets. So we’ve tried to be playful and semi-realistic. We’re not trying to predict the future; we’re only offering plausible futures,” shares Emrich.
Sari Suki 2050 is VSOON’s first international interactive installation in Cebu of a simple sari-sari store that is supposed to be from the year 2050.
Fascinated as they were of the Cebuano culture and the existence of sari-sari stores, VSOON thought of preserving the iconic image and making it represent an optimistic side of the usually-thought-of dystopian future.
“You don’t see optimistic futures all the time. They’re usually dark and dystopian, unless, they’re like pristine utopia, which everyone knows is always dystopic anyway. So part of why our sari-sari store was optimistic in a way is because we’ve heard that they are being pushed out with new subdivisions and 7-Elevens moving in. And so the optimistic point of choosing a sari-sari store is that we wanted to preserve it,” says Callahan and Emrich.
According to a “scenario pamphlet” that is distributed in the gallery for would-be guests, Sari Suki talks about the last hope of a transhumanist whose tissues were rapidly degrading as a result of the experiment he did on himself. A transhumanist is a person who edits the genetic make-up of natural born humans in the future, who is afraid of being defeated by superior human beings in the year 2050.
In the near future, VSOON predicts that the sari-sari stores will be containing the last unregulated products that are useful for the many Cebuanos who would seek help from their community.
“Being from America and seeing the heavy American influence here, we were thinking, ‘You know, to be modern doesn’t have to mean to be western. Like, you can have your own future that doesn’t follow the global western trend.’ So, since sari-sari stores have been here for a long time like it’s the very stamp of the Filipino culture, why not? Why does it have to turn into a 7-Eleven? Why can’t it have its own natural longevity?” expresses Callahan.
Having arrived in Cebu by the end of June, the group immediately proceeded to work as they began to immerse in the Cebuano culture for one month.
“It was our first time doing a project together,” shares Fussner about VSOON. “I’ve been to Cebu before, like I come back in the summer, but not really immerse in the cultural fabric I would say. So we all basically dropped in and had to digest as much cultural information as we could.” says Fussner, who is half-Cebuano himself as his mother is Cebuana.
Discovering for themselves the wonderful treasures that make up the Cebuano identity, ones that are usually taken for granted, Noah, Sophia and Chris found a sari-sari store and fell in love with the concept.
In addition, the group learned and was interested about the suki system which sari-sari stores here in Cebu are often accustomed to, thus the exhibit’s name.
“We call it ‘sukinomics,’” quips Callahan, “when the corner store can give you a line of credit if you don’t have any money for that day as long as you’re a suki.”
“And people can go to the corner store and know who’s working there, learn everything about the community too—like you have this community gossip.”
The most fun and playful element of Sari Suki 2050 is its products from the year 2050. These include extra virgin canned air, a reaction to the rising levels of nitrogen in the air in the possible future; canned crickets, an effect of the failure of meat producing industries to sustain meat production which made the government resort to looking for other sources of protein; and the most interesting product VSOON was able to conceptualize is its synthetic sausage, which is purely vegetarian and has the DNA of Manny Pacquiao called Pacman’s In-Vitro Sausage—a product of the effort of the government to curb carbon emissions of meat processing industries in the world. More products are exhibited in 856 G Gallery and a product catalog is provided to people who visit the installation.
The group reiterates that even though the products they have seem quite extraordinary, the possibility of the future they are offering is that these are grounded on reality and current researches which makes their exhibit plausible and not only imaginary.
VSOON does not want to impose or predict a future they think would exist but simply offers a possible outcome for the year 2050. The group hopes that the installation opens up a topic for discussion and puts into perspective the possible outcome and effect on the Cebuano culture the current trends and events that would definitely shape the future of the city.
“We are inviting reactions for the alternative future we are showing. People can say something against it and it opens up more topics,” adds Fussner.
With the help of different artists and collaborators in Cebu like Ariel Igot, Dennis Jumao-as, Louie Inez, John Rey Sanchez (Vito Selma Studio), Francisca Boctot, Glendale Tamjius, Sandra Tan, Felix Tan and Samantha Tan (Creative Image & Insignia Clothesline Inc.), Gianni Chen (Luca’s Kitchen), Christie Lee, Workers & Artisans, Ronyel Compra and the Lokal Brand, VSOON was able to launch its installation to the public last Aug. 20. The exhibit will run until Sept. 10.