The Idiots— 04.29.2021
I first heard of Green Papaya during the first half of 2016 through my friends Yuji de Torres and Sara Rivera who were both looking for art spaces and initiatives for their mandatory OJTs. Back then, I was only starting to acquaint myself with the local arts ecology, paying attention to exhibitions and other artworld matters outside of my academic requirements in an attempt to develop my writing; up to this point, I had been mostly devoting all my energy to being in two bands (both of which would end up on hiatus before the end of 2016).
Sometime around mid-2015, I thought it would be a good idea for me and my friends to assemble a network of musicians and posture as a collective. In retrospect, we hardly achieved anything other than organizing a handful of gigs; our group functioned mostly as a symbolic label conjoining disparate acts rather than something like an actual record label effectively promoting its roster and helping with the distribution of records.
I forgot how some of us ended up dropping by the first Kamuning Public Radio (KPR) event at Catch272 but I remember being intrigued by the event description and I was eager to finally experience a noise/sound art/experimental music gig first-hand. My friends and I instantly got hooked and we began religiously attending the subsequent editions of KPR, occasionally dropping by other Papaya-organized programs — I recall watching Nollywood films at the Sct. Rallos garage, sleepily listening to an artist talk at Los Otros after a whole day of classes, and witnessing a heated debate about sound art at the Rallos living room, among the earlier events I attended. Eventually, our collective collaborated with Papaya for several gigs and through Papaya, we were invited as panelists for a talk titled “Independent Label Meet” as part of WSK 2016.
Unsurprisingly, our group did not last long and many of my fellow members would, understandably, prefer not to discuss it today. However, the reason I mention it is because we were a bunch of dumb and obnoxious kids who had no clue with what we were doing; we were mostly obsessed with the rituals of the historical avant-garde and reenacting these tongue--in-cheek, e.g. drafting juvenile and incendiary manifestos, scheming to stage mock trials, and provoking and trolling other musicians (on Twitter). I was surprised that Papaya welcomed us so openly, demystifying what I had perceived then as an inaccessible and insular artworld. Looking back, I feel like our serendipitous encounter was perfect; it seems that Papaya really is the platform that would be most sympathetic to our naïve aspirations and encourage us to think harder about our practice. For that, I remain tremendously grateful and lucky to have crossed paths.
Following the gradual dissolution of our collective, I continued to interact with Papaya, at times taking on various odd jobs for them throughout the latter years of my agonizingly prolonged stay in college — from assisting in inventorying archival materials to being commissioned to write a “gonzo” account of VIVA ExCon 2018. Shortly after finally submitting my undergraduate thesis in December 2019, I officially joined Papaya.
A lot has happened since I started writing this contribution to the Throwback Thursday series. At the time, we were individually coping with the global situation (which, in the local context, has only gotten worse both medically and politically). Just a few days after I completed an earlier draft of this text, we experienced a devastating fire that razed our space and almost wiped out our archives and, later in the year, we endured a painful dis-association with a former colleague.
Despite these unfortunate events, a lot of good things came our way last year. Immediately after the fire, we received tremendous support and generosity from friends, colleagues, and strangers which ultimately bolstered our spirits and reaffirmed our sense of community. Additionally, Papaya’s efforts were recognized by several international platforms and we were invited to contribute texts, participate in their programs, or sit down for interviews. Last year also saw the Papaya team grow in size, and we are currently in the process of working towards a more collective dynamic.
Papaya was initially scheduled to close on May 1 of this year, after 21 years of operating. However, considering the turn of events, Papaya’s closing has been postponed indefinitely. Papaya’s inevitable death is something I don’t look forward to but it is a decision I nonetheless respect; I think for it to have lasted this long is nothing short of outstanding; having worked with Papaya for more than a year now and having witnessed the difficulty of operating in this ecosystem, slowly realizing the immense emotional stamina this line of work requires, makes this feat all the more confounding. After all the good Papaya has done for me over the years, I am honored and grateful to be working with Papaya and being part of this chapter in its remarkable life.
May 25, 2020 / April 16, 2021