Untitled (on VIVA ExCon 2018) — 05.07.2020

Not many realize that Green Papaya's most ambitious project to date was the VIVA ExCon 2018 held in Roxas City, Capiz.

But how did Quezon City-based Papaya end up getting involved with the 15th edition of the longest-running arts biennial in the Philippines, the Visayas Islands Visual Arts Exhibition and Conference (VIVA ExCon)?

Ever since it started in the 90s, the last day of the conference has been reserved for a plenary which decides which Visayan province will have the responsibility to host the next VIVA ExCon. Bohol presented a strong case, but the VIVA ExCon 2016 plenary voted for Capiz to host the 2018 edition by a close margin. For some reason, the Capiz delegation was not present when the votes were being counted. On purpose, the delegation came late to the plenary because members were hesitant to accept and take charge of the mammoth undertaking. In the words of one of the senior artists, “How can we host VIVA ExCon when we can’t even find Grumbacher paints in Roxas?”

Two members of Papaya happened to attend the conference. Norberto "Peewee" Roldan and Merv Espina, along with their neighbor Lyra Garcellano (of Traffic, Teaching Exhibitions, MIKI BLUE, Atomo and Weboy, etc).

Born and raised in Roxas, Peewee was coaxed by his former colleagues from Bacolod, Iloilo and Cebu to take the challenge in behalf of Capiz. Peewee was of course no stranger to the biennial. A decade before he co-founded Papaya, Peewee was actually an active member of Black Artists in Asia, which in turn initiated VIVA ExCon in Bacolod back in 1990. So Peewee acceded with the condition that he brings in Papaya to undertake artistic and curatorial direction.
Until now, Green Papaya’s main workload during this lockdown includes the VIVA ExCon 2018 Catalogue and the VIVA ExCon 1990-2016 Community Archives, two publications to be released later this year.

VIVA ExCon Capiz 2018 website

30 years since it started, 2020's 16th VIVA ExCon goes back to Bacolod, with activities planned until the latter half of 2021 under Manny Montelibano's direction and Patrick Flores as head curator of exhibitions.

BISAN TUBIG DI MAGBALON (Don't Even Bring Water) exhibition view. VIVA ExCon 2018 main exhibition venue, Roxas City Civic Center. From left to right, works shown in full and in part by Charlie Co, Paul Pfeiffer, PG Zuluaga, Nunelucio Alvarado, Javy Villacin, Kitty Taniguchi, Lizza May David & Gabriel Rossell Santillàn, and the VIVA ExCon community archives project. Photo by Kiko M. Nuñez.