y excuse for so far not really posting very much about art on this art-centered blog has been that I want to start with posts about artists, including their sound files, and I'm having trouble transferring their sound files. And this is true.
I've also been silent because I've been processing everything. Also true.
However, those are not the only reasons I've found it difficult to talk about the existing work.
Before I went to Manila, I did stop to consider if the work the artists were bringing was going to be big enough. Most of the Galleon Trade artists work relatively small in any case, and had deliberately chosen cheaply transportable work--Christine Wong Yap even going so far as to make her work out of standard sized shipping boxes. I somehow had it in my head that expanding horizons meant BIG galleries.
That turned out not to be the case. The galleries were, if anything, smaller even than typical storefront community spaces in the real-estate-starved Yay Area.
Despite all of that, the work was still too small. By this, I don't mean that I hold it in any disdain, or that, after moving into an international context, I suddenly saw the poverty of the artists' point of view. It was rather that the work was made by artists who hadn't been on the Galleon Trade trip yet. The work wasn't triangulated to three points. It worked in its context, and out of its context it became ... well, not trivial, but almost beside the point. (Two possible exceptions are Megan Wilson and Mike Arcega because they made their work while in Manila, but I'll talk about that in other posts.)
Because the trip, the exhibitions, weren't about the artwork actually, at all. It was about the artists themselves, about their waxing, their ebb, about their arc through Manila. The artwork they brought was by way of credentials, yes. It was their gauntlet thrown down, a bit. It was their conversation piece, the thing that got the kids in the neighborhood talking to them.
But also, it was--or it will be--a growing mark on their doorposts, against which everything they make subsquent to Manila will show significant growth ... significant expanse.
But hey, no pressure, right?
A concentrated gaze is to an artist like sunshine to anything vegetable. (Well, the artist has to be ready. I've noticed that really green artists experiencing their first public success are far more likely to be stopped in their tracks by the attention--by the combination of fear and ego--than to flourish under it. But more seasoned, yet still emerging, artists who have cut their teeth, filed them, and had some fillings put in as well, know how to use the energy-concentrate that attention offers them.)
Just as plants in a greenhouse grow faster and out of season, I'm expecting a more radical growth in Galleon Trade artists within a short period of time. Because they have just been placed in a greenhouse.
Observe the picture at the top of the page, the one with the artists in a row, half-surrounded by an attentive local crowd. I went through our trip photos looking for one of these to symbolize the artists' experience in Manila, only to discover that it wasn't symbolic at all. It was literal. I have dozens of such photos, because the artists were in tons of such situations. Of the six evenings of Galleon Trade events, three were about attention to the artists' work and three were about attention to the artists. There was an opening, followed by a panel discussion, followed by another opening, followed by an "artists grill" Q & A, followed by another panel discussion, followed by another opening, followed by another Q & A.
A full week of nothing to do but talk about yourself as an artist.
But all artists have similar--if not so concentrated--experiences like this if they push on through. What made this special was that these were mostly "minority" or "ethnic" artists who, regardless of their success level in the mainstream, were always conscious, or made to feel conscious, of their otherness. Additionally, many are "1.5s," those who immigrated as children and are therefore neither fully immigrants, nor fully second generation American-born. They are transnational, but in a way peculiar to 1.5s: their connection to their birth culture being that of child, even though they are now adults.
All Some of the Fil Am Galleon Trade artists had only ever visited the Philippines with their families before--as children, or as adults still stuck in a child's role. This trip was their introduction to their, or their family's, country of origin, not only in an adult role, but in their chosen profession as artists.
Visiting Manila for this cultural event was profound enough for those of us with no other connections there. But visiting Manila with this pile-up of passages was earth-shaking for the Fil-Am artists of our group. I expect there to be a pause. Then I expect there to be new work: very different, very rich new work.
Am I expecting too much?