Fire Notes 05 — 09.12.2020
After months of paperwork, securing permits for shipping out recently obsolete optical media, further encumbered by various degrees of lockdown, we finally managed to send some miniDV and VHS tapes from Papaya's conflagrated archives.
Receiving them in Vancouver are our friends from the media archive initiative Recollective, who have banded together and kindly volunteered to help in the rescue and restoration of these rare works.
The materials consist of miniDV and VHS of artists' moving image and documentation of performances and various events held in Papaya the last few decades: Donna Miranda's choreographic projects; documentation of Papaya's 10th anniversary celebrations; miniDV of early noise, media art and WSK events; Tad Ermitano's only remaining analog copy of his film, The Retrochronological Transfer of Information (1994); and a few VHS tapes that collect the early video experiments of Lena Cobangbang. Most of these were fire-damaged, wet and moldy, a true challenge for any archivist, regardless of media.
Between 2014-2015, back when we had working VHS players, Papaya and Los Otros managed to make crude digital reference transfers of some materials, like Tad's and Lena's, and Katya Guerrero's (luckily returned to her before the fire!). Tad's was included in the first edition of the Kalampag Tracking Agency screening program. While attending a media archives workshop, co-led by former National Film Archives director Bono Olgado, artist-curator Con Cabrera transferred materials from one of Lena's VHS tapes labeled Green Strip '97. This tape collected 5 video works, and a collaborative, all-analog audiovisual performance at Surrounded By Water in Angono, 1998.
The generated interest and research surplus turned into an advocacy that eventually led to an independent archival project between Papaya and Los Otros. Lena's Torch Song was included in Post Gallery's Instructions exhibition that Shireen Seno (Los Otros) and Merv Espina (Papaya) curated, and thanks to Romeo Lee's trusty VCR, it was even shown in its original format as a VHS-loop. The need for aggregating and encouraging further research into Philippine experiments with the moving image led to Light Leaks, that was launched at and hosted by Ateneo Areté in September 2018.
It took 2 years, but the next Light Leaks eventually found a partner with MCAD through its MCAD Platforms program this September. The current edition features some of these crude digital transfers of Lena's and Katya's works, combined with the independent archiving efforts of Jean Marie Syjuco and Art Lab. To learn more about some of these Philippine artists' moving image histories, please join us tonight for a discussion with Lena and art historian Eileen Legaspi Ramirez:
Lena's works are now on view until 15 September 2020:
Thanks to Don Gervin Arawan of the National Film Archives of the Philippines and Roman Carreon of the Film Development Council for helping us secure the certificate from the Optical Media Board to clear us for shipping to Vancouver. Our deepest gratitude and respect to Allison Collins, Dan Pon, Emma Metcalfe Hurst, Karen Knights, Tara Fraser, grunt gallery, VIVO Media Arts Centre, and the Recollective family for extending much needed love, support, resources and archival expertise in these troubling times.
Many have forgotten that it is wrong to kill, or that Manila's name came from a mangrove, Ixora manila, that once thrived along our shores and riverbanks. During these days of easy murder, morals are twisted, violent hate crimes are easily pardoned, and the state continues to whitewash and white sand their corruptions, we continue to be thankful to have friends who, regardless of geography and geopolitics, still share the same values and continue to care and to remember. To remember is to resist.
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