Dates: OCTOBER 8 and 9, 2002

Project Brief: The primary goal of Locus is to enable artists, curators, critics, academics, architects, designers, and allied cultural workers within the Asian region and across the increasingly global art world to situate their practices in the context of a contemporary discourse sustained by a specific mode of criticism and curation. It is a criticism and curation that is transdisciplinary, collaborative, responsive to the well-being of communities, and willing to discuss social issues that lie at the heart of the generation of art. 

Locus brings together workers in culture and producers of knowledge in a series of conferences which explores concerns among the various agents of contemporary art. The project will be undertaken in two phases, thus referred to as Locus 1 and Locus 2. 

Locus 1 is a national conference that hopes to provide participants from the Philippines the opportunity to evaluate gains and lessons from producing art that critically engages problematics of practice within the spectrum of Philippine art history and contemporary tendencies. As a run-up event to Locus 2, this national conference provides participants with a venue for assessing and re-thinking local art practices across time which inquire into prevailing conventions regarding art-its purposes, modes of production, consumption, and reception. 

Locus 1 seeks to come to terms with contentious questions centering on the notion of criticality in art, its responsiveness to historical exigencies, and its ideological intervention not only as a 'reflection' or a 'representation' of the 'social,' but an enactment of possibility, a transformative gesture, a moral and aesthetic will to invent and engage. It also dwells on the vital reconsiderations of the idea of the 'contemporary' as it converses with notions of modernity, change, progression, development, risk, and renewal, on the one hand, and rootedness, emplacement, tradition, settlement, and ground, on the other. 

Locus 2 is an international conference consisting of two streams of parallel sessions both of which will involve participants and resource persons working within the region and beyond. The first stream, Mediating Art: Sites and Practice hopes to gain insight into the practice of independent curators and curators affiliated with contemporary art spaces in the region. Mediating Art aims to look into a variety of exhibition models that continue to develop within Asia in relation with the rest of the world. The second stream, Critiquing Critical Art seeks to solicit an exchange of experiences among artists whose art address power relations in the political, social, and cultural spheres. It grapples with particular apprehensions of critique, contention, reconstruction, entitlement, alternativity, negotiation, and the tensions that conceive liminal or makeshift spaces. 

Contemporary art has increasingly embraced a greater range of practices (craft, video, installation, filmmaking, sound installations, and so on) and as such, the conditions of its production, its presentation, its reading, have all also found the need for reconstruction. Today, contemporary art insinuates itself within the greater realm of culture, entering areas otherwise previously unexplored. 

While it is ideal that the arts in general be seen as 'playing a prominent role in social change,' this ideal can only be realized if there is a better understanding of the disciplines which increasingly frame the reception of contemporary art by a potentially engaged public. This being the case locally, and regionally, this proposal seeks to highlight two crucial areas that directly affect art and its public: criticism and curation as practices in the remaking of art in a world ripe for revision.

Following is a preliminary conference outline of Locus 2: 

Mediating Art: Sites and Practice (Parallel Session 1)

Session 1 Beyond the Gallery and Back
Chair: Joselina Cruz, independent curator/curatorial consultant, Lopez Memorial Museum
Presenters: Judy Freya Sibayan, Scapular Gallery/Museum of Mental Objects, Philippines 
Ellen Pau, Director, Videotage, Hong Kong
Lani Maestro, artist, Philippines/Canada/France

This session follows the path from independence to institutionalization. With many initiatives taking leave of the traditional gallery system, whether through the creation of new 'alternative' or independent spaces, there is the inevitable mechanism wherein such initiatives and persons are co-opted back into the mainstream. Engendered in the hopes of undermining mainstream activity and production, such explorations, usually among young artists and curators, have found themselves, sooner, than later, adopting mainstream skin. The session will discuss the facility of institutions to co-opt peripheral actions, the efforts of artists and curators at resistance, and possible platforms, sites and practice which attempt to occupy both spaces simultaneously.

Session 2 Sites of Independence

Chair: Jose Tence Ruiz, artist/curator/writer
Presenters: Ringo Bunoan, artist/curator, Big Sky Mind / Lena Cobangbang, artist/member Surrounded by Water, Philippines
Vincent Leow, director, Plastic Kinetic Worms, Singapore 
Sharmini Pereira, independent curator, Sri Lanka/UK

Artists, curators, cultural theorists, writers, etc., in response to the sometimes stultifying state of institutions and validating agencies, have responded by creating situations and platforms upon which can be incurred current concerns: transdisciplinary agencies, cross-cultural sites, new media, new forms of practice and essentialising communities. Such responses have brought about new models of interventionist practice within current modes as well as formed new alliances with other disciplines to explore possibilities for projects.

Session 3 Social Space: Society and Practice

Chair: Ramon Lerma, curator, Ateneo Art Gallery
Presenters: Patrick Flores, Chair, University of the Philippines, Department of Art Studies, Philippines
Ingrid Swenson, Peer, United Kingdom
Ranjit Hoskote, critic and curator, India

The denseness of cities like Manila, demand that art placed in the public sphere should take on the complex context of urban geography and demographics, rather than the unproblematized monument. The operation between public and private agencies also brings the traditionally fraught relation between these two entities to the front. Public space (also too a social space) constitutes a site with a multiplicity of engagements, as well as a site that takes on a shared (and perhaps collective) memory, history, and experience of a particular social group. Public interventions too, have been created by both artists and curators, suggesting its potential for exploring urban topography, of social history, psychogeography, etc.

Critiquing Critical Art (Parallel Session 2)

Session 1 Alternative Modes of Production

Chair: Sid Gomez Hildawa, Head, Center for the Visual Arts, Cultural Center of the Philippines
Presenters: Patrick Flores, Chair, University of the Philippines, Department of Art Studies, Phil.
Niranjan Rajah, Professor, University of Malaysia in Sarawak
Jose Tence Ruiz, artist and curator, Philippines

The materialist appreciation of critical art does not only advocate politically correct or even cogent representations in art, but also insinuates a radical reimagination of the means of generating art itself. These means or modes rethink the very status of art and its multiple relationships with agencies implicated in its reception, from the artists themselves to the audience at large. Such radical requirement gestures toward an alternative system of making art that creatively engages the established scheme, challenges its limits, and reordains its premises beyond the traditional territories of the (nation)-state and the market: shifting communities, cross-border collaborations, translocal curatorships, transdisciplinary initiatives, virtual constituencies, and so on. 

Session 2 Interventions in Place

Chair: Corazon S. Alvina, Director, National Museum
Presenters: Joselina Cruz, independent curator/curatorial consultant, Lopez Memorial Museum, Philippines
Piyaluk Benjadol, Nuts Soceity, Thailand
Lee Weng Choy, Artistic Co-director, Sub-station, Singapore

Critical art creates new places of art making. It intervenes in the creation of this new terrain: para/sites, alternatives spaces, appropriated domains, flexible networks, and so on. The concept of intervention also intimates an encroachment, a poaching on everyday life that is increasingly aestheticized by media, transforming it into a lively forum of exchange, dialogue, and reciprocal critique. The very act of intervention in a place constitutes some form of critical practice that in turn stakes out a place of intervention in a reordered matrix of art making from which different subjectivities emerge to instantiate a more progressive aesthetic dynamic. 

Session 3 Self and Solidarities

Chair: Dr. Florina H. Capistrano-Baker, Director, Ayala Museum
Nguyen Minh Thanh, artist, Hanoi, Vietnam
Judy Freya Sibayan,Scapular Gallery/Museum of Mental Objects, Philippines
Jay Koh, director of IFIMA-International Forum InterMedia Art, Singapore/Germany

The artistic agency is contemplated as an intersection of selves that moves according to the logic of address as contemplated in the multileveled sense of destination, discourse, and engagement. Its mobility is motored by an "inclination outwards." It is a selfhood or a personhood that is open to its others and not suspended in the essence of a "humanist," "liberal," and "multicultural" identity. The self is engaged with transformative conversations with forces that it shapes and shape it. The notion of "solidarity" aspires to a more radically democratic ecology of responsibilities, complicities, encounters, accountabilities, and extensities. It is an exposure to the risk of forging connections and a melancholic negotiation of the lack and incompletion of the human project. 

Plenary Session
Niranjan Rajah, Jose Tence Ruiz, Lani Maestro, Vincent Leow, Sharmini Pereira, Jay Koh