Death of an Independent Art Space?— 04.08.2021
I think it was in 2002 or 2003 when I first visited Green Papaya. At the time, I was researching contemporary art in the Philippines as a doctoral student at Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan. In my hand was a book with a yellow cover, “Alternatives - Contemporary Art Spaces in Asia,” published in 2001 by the Japan Foundation, which said that there were only four “contemporary art spaces” in Manila: CCP, Surrounded by Water, Big Sky Mind, and Green Papaya Art Projects.
Since the first day we met, when at that time I was a young man whom nobody knew, Peewee
was always very kind to me and I am very grateful for that. And I remember fondly the contemporary dance performance I saw at Green Papaya.
In 2005, I co-established Future Prospects Art Space with friends Gary-Ross Pastrana, Cocoy Lumbao, and Louie Cordero, but after only a few years, the space was gone. You can read Philstar’s article about the closing of this space online (the title of this essay comes from this article):
Compared to Future Prospects, it’s impressive and amazing how long Green Papaya has lasted. Time and time again, I have witnessed promising, progressive art spaces end far too soon for a variety of reasons. As you all well know, it’s difficult to maintain an art space, and you did it for 20 years! What an achievement, and I take my hat off to you and congratulate you all for what you have done.
You should all be proud of what you have accomplished with your vision and hard work, and for all that you’ve shared with the public and the art world. Through your tireless perseverance, you have created dialogues, opened eyes, allowed creative platforms for critical exchanges that posit difficult questions, and you have provided a space to experience a multitude of different and illuminating perspectives through a vast array of different media. And through these 20 or so years, you have been planting seeds, often unrecognizable, providing a fertile environment that allows research and creative endeavors to continue expanding, influencing, and engaging with future generations.
From my perspective, I can see how the end of Future Prospects was also the beginning of
commercialization. So I find myself wondering what does the end of Green Papaya signal the arrival of?
I really don’t know for sure. But I do know that it’s time to reconfigure art and politics in a different way. I hope to see more such initiatives between Japan and the Philippines in the future. And, hopefully, the descendants and those associated with Green Papaya will be the
main actors in this process and continuing development.
So, although it saddens me about Green Papaya ending, I would like to think that this is not a death but the beginning of some positive and crucial changes. And I look forward to seeing how the many seeds that Green Papaya has planted over these past 20 years take root in other ways and continue to blossom.
July 28, 2020