Postscript to Throwback Thursday— 04.29.2021
The Throwback Thursday (TBT) online series of texts and images was initiated as a way to activate our archives by approaching Papaya’s history through various entry points in the hopes of engaging readers. On May 7, 2020, less than a week after Papaya’s 20th anniversary, the series was launched with a brief text on the biggest project Papaya undertook to date: the 15th edition of the country’s longest-running arts biennial — the Visayas Islands Visual Arts Exhibition and Conference (VIVA ExCon) — in Roxas City in 2018.
Since then, 47 other texts have been published almost every Thursday, at times posted to commemorate events like the uploading of the 1st phase of the Papaya archives on the Asia Art Archive (AAA) website in February, or to follow up on certain subjects such as the Galleon Trade exhibition (2007), Papaya’s space in Kamuning, the first and only issue of PAPAYA Magazine (2008), and various projects held in Roxas City.
Many of the earlier TBT texts were written to thank certain people and organizations who supported Papaya in the early years like Santiago Bose, Renaud Fessauget and Marcel Jouve, Bobi Valenzuela, Manny Chaves, and Roberto Chabet. Several subsequent anecdotes were published in light of the recent passing of individuals who had worked with Papaya to varying extents in the past such as former Papaya Executive Director Manny Chaves in October and Roxas City icon Alfredo Clavel (a.k.a. “Tioy Alping”) in November. Other texts, in response to certain events, were dedicated to staunch activists like human rights advocate Zara Alvarez who was assassinated in August, activist and cultural worker Amanda Echanis who was illegally arrested along with her one-month-old son in early December, and Roy Giganto and other Tumandok leaders who were murdered in late December.
As we were discussing landmark moments — the move to Kamuning in 2008 and the two 10th anniversary celebrations in 2010 — and notable projects — “PLEASURE + PAIN” (2003), an early off-site project of Papaya, the Galleon Trade (2007) show, and the Working Artists Group (W.A.G.) as proposed for the 2011 Kunstvlaai Festival — in Papaya’s life, several momentous events were occurring throughout: from the June 3 fire that destroyed the Kamuning space and threatened to decimate our archives to a painful dis-association with a former colleague, and from the renewed attention Papaya has been receiving as exemplified by our entry into ArtReview’s Power 100 list to the launch of the Papaya archive on the AAA website.
The anecdotes occasionally delve into the same funding problems a lot of independent arts initiatives are familiar with, examples of which include how the French Spring in Manila — the account that paid for Papaya’s basic upkeep since it started — lost its subsidy from the French Government in 2008; how Papaya almost did not make it to the Tate Modern for the “No Soul for Sale” (2010) festival after the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) denied Papaya’s funding application; and how Papaya co-founder Norberto “Peewee” Roldan failed to convince marketing guru Greg Atienza to help sponsor VIVA ExCon Capiz 2018.
Several proposals and anecdotes on projects that did not materialize were also discussed at numerous points throughout the series such as the Storm Signal Community Outpost and Design 4 Villages (D4V), two community projects revolving around disaster preparedness that were conceptualized in the first half of the 2010s; a proposal for a Negros Biennale drafted by Peewee and Manny Chaves in 2004; Kawayan de Guia and Nona Garcia’s work for the main exhibition of VIVA ExCon Capiz 2018 that did not make it to Roxas City in time for the biennial; and a major collective work by the Bacolod-based art group Dibuhista Nga Naghili-ugyon sa Negros (DIHON) for the same exhibition (of which a recontextualized version would also be proposed by Papaya for the Dhaka Art Summit two years later) that never materialized due to the death of Rafael Burdeos, Jr., the principal artist involved with the project.
Also narrated in some of the texts are the numerous occasions Papaya almost closed in the past like in 2008 when, as mentioned above, the French Spring in Manila lost its subsidy, and another time in 2009. Narrating the latter, Peewee recalls receiving a text message from Roberto Chabet saying, “See the lights peering through those cracks and fissures… Reconsider your decision. Green Papaya is important to the community.”
Indeed, several texts in the series indicate that Papaya may not have survived past 2008 had friends not donated their artworks for the Night Market fundraiser (among the first works sold were those Santi Bose donated shortly before his death six years prior). Papaya also would not have also made it to the Tate Modern in 2010 without the help it received from the community, and the same can be said for Papaya’s participation in Night Festival: New World 2010 in Singapore (with the help of a very generous grant from the Singaporean government through the festival's Artistic Director Ong Keng Sen) and the publication of the PAPAYA Magazine (with the help of Davide Quadrio who connected Papaya with the Prince Claus Fund).
We hope this sense of community could be gleaned from the excerpts from the transcribed talks, such as those of David Teh and Rafael Schacter at Green Papaya Extension (both in 2016), or the essays commissioned from friends of Papaya: Itos Ledesma, Iris de Ocampo, and Gina Osterloh on their experiences engaging with Papaya; Jay Lopez, Kabaitan Bautista, and Alyana Cabral on specific events Papaya hosted; Mizuki Endo and Ali Fyffe ruminating on Papaya’s inevitable death; and texts from Papaya members Yuji de Torres, Lesley-Anne Cao, Iris Ferrer, and Dominic Zinampan on working with Papaya.
We would like to thank our readers, the contributors, and everyone else who supported this project. We hope that our delving into the trials, tribulations, reconfigurations, and self-transformations in these first-person narratives, documents, proposals, and snapshots may enrich understanding of how independent arts platforms operate and demonstrate the invaluable role the community plays in sustaining initiatives such as ours.
Green Papaya Managing Editor
April 29, 2021