Fantasy Island— 03.25.2021
How far will you go to support an artist in realizing their project? I never imagined that such a predicament would be insanely challenging, until I heard this story through the grapevine.
In 2007, San Francisco-based artist Jenifer Wofford organized the Galleon Trade - “a series of grassroots arts exchange projects in Manila and the Bay Area, focused on the Philippines, Mexico, and California. Taking the historic Acapulco-Manila galleon route as its metaphor of origin, these exhibitions, panels, performances and events sought to create new routes of cultural exchange along old routes of commerce and trade.” Three exhibitions were simultaneously held in Magnet-Katipunan, Magnet-BGC, and Green Papaya with California-based artists Michael Arcega, Stephanie Syjuco, Reanne Estrada, Christine Wong Yap, and Megan Wilson. Jenifer, Michael, Reanne, and Stephanie (whose father is artist Cesare Syjuco from his marriage to artist Angela Silva) have roots in the Philippines. The artists arrived in Manila about a week before the exhibition openings and worked on their pieces in situ.
According to my informant, things took a bizarre turn when one of the artists requested a block of hash for their work. Their original plan was to work on the "material" the night before the opening, document the whole process, discard the material, and exhibit the video as the final work. It sounded feasible and cool; I can only imagine how acquiring the hash was not only difficult, but very scary and crazy.
I heard that those who were asked to acquire the hash, in wanting to insulate the Papaya community from any direct responsibility, decided to go through a complicated process. They supposedly went through several layers of "contact tracing" to get to the supply chain and eventually got a third party to deliver the material. This lengthy message relay messed up the order — when the package finally arrived, it is said that it contained a brick made not of hash but of compressed dried marijuana. The artist, though dismayed, proceeded and worked on their plan B the whole evening. The result was the stunning "Fantasy Island".
Because the remnants seemed far more interesting than the video, I was told that they all agreed to exhibit the object, but only for the opening night, as they were all aware of its potential consequences. In the end, they decided to keep the work on view until the exhibit closed.
To this day, I’m still not sure if this story is true. Perhaps the object displayed was just soil and moss and this tale was circulated as part of the concept? That wouldn’t be surprising at all; it was, after all, titled “Fantasy Island.”
March 25, 2021