Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Chumpon Apisuk, photo by Danny Sillada © 2005.

The night had just started at 11 p.m. on the busy streets along the Remedios Circle in Malate. Metro hoppers – artists, poets, writers, corporate executives and young lovely women – flocked to one of the busiest bars on a Friday night in Manila.

One of those frequently visited bars by the artists is the Penguin Café – the haven of visual and performance artists, theater and dance artists, movie actors, poets and art enthusiasts. Chumpon Apisuk, founder of Asiatopia, an Asian Performance Art Festival in Bangkok, came and performed at the café with other Filipino performance artists headed by the founder and artistic director of PIPAF Yuan Mor’O Ocampo.

There were eight performance pieces that rapt the audience on the 14th of October 2005 – a one-night happening in honor of the legendary performance artist from Thailand – Chumpon Apisuk.

Performance Artists and their Live Art performances:

1. Ronaldo Ruiz “Revenge”
2. Yuan Mor’O Ocampo “Diaspora”
3. Danny C. Sillada “Sewing the Hole of Water”
4. Jethro Jocson “Drifting and Falling”
5. Mitch Garcia “Desserts/Stressed”
6. Lorina Javier “Submission to the Void”
7. Jeho Bitancor “Mirror Image”
8. Chumpon Apisuk “Five Actions of Body Performance”

RONALDO RUIZ's "Revenge"

Ronaldo Ruiz

Ronaldo Ruiz’s opening performance titled “Revenge” reexamines his trademark of sound using small electronic gadgets such as microphone, speaker, camera, electronic alarm and recorded sounds of frog and cicadas. As he moves his hands from one gadget to another, he produces different sounds creating an ethereal and discordant noise, resonating with the recorded nocturnal sounds of the frog and cicadas at the background.

One riveting gesture is the swinging of a small microphone near the speaker, creating a rhythmic sound in a circular motion, as if time and space converge in a g-force to create the poetry of sound and movement. On the other hand, there seem to be an internal incubation of crossness that was released inside the artist’s chest in the process of swinging the microphone, more liberating than the title itself “Revenge”.

Ruiz’s penchant for electronic gadget explores the sound like a conductor of an orchestra with his own hands. But unlike an ensemble of musicians, Ruiz has the control of manipulating the sound to his own liking in a random and spontaneous manner. There is a certain degree of playfulness in the process of his performance and his imagery evokes wonder and curiosity of a child.

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Photo by Danny C. Sillada © 2005. UGNAYAN Journal

YUAN MOR'O OCAMPO's “Diaspora”

Yuan Mor'O Ocampo

The second to perform was Yuan Mor’O Ocampo with his “Diaspora”. Here, Ocampo was tying the knots on the unused ribbons of medals, thus creating a long sequence of string with the color of the Philippine flag. He tied the other end of the string in one corner and the other end at the pillar located at the center of the bar. Then he asked the audience to tie the other ribbons on the string.

The dangling ribbons created an image of “banting”, which is typically used during the town fiesta celebration. Then, Ocampo began circling around the posts located at the center of the bar murmuring: “Life is hard, not here, not for me” until he completed wrapping the string around them.

Ocampo’s imagery of reality is powerful, addressesing the plight of 10 million overseas workers around the world and the knotted string dashed with ribbons symbolizes the convergence of overseas workers to make the Philippine economy afloat from the pit of perdition.

“Life is hard, not here, not for me” is like a Shaman's urgent call to reexamine our political and economic conditions; it is also a call for the overseas workers to bring back their broken dreams into their own homeland.

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Photo by Danny C. Sillada © 2005. UGNAYAN Journal

DANNY SILLADA's Sewing on the Hole of Water

Danny Sillada

The third performance was done by this writer (Danny Sillada) titled “Sewing the Hole of Water”. With a bowl of water, I began to lay the white thread with silver strand through a large needle’s eye, and after pulling the thread in equal length, I knotted both ends.

Then, I started to sew the imaginary holes on the water. With my eyes focused on the bowl, I dipped my right hand fingers with needle and thread into the water and pulled it up gently into the air as if I was sewing a sack of rice. A minute later, a liquid leached into the air turning my fingers and the water into red: an image of blood appeared on the bowl of water.

‘Is there really a hole on the water?’ I asked the audience with rhetorical question. I explained that while there could be a space in-between the molecular elements that composed the water (hydrogen and oxygen), ‘It is impossible to see ahole on the water through the human eye…’ But that was beside the point. What I was trying to sew, if not to say, on the water was the rotten hole of our economic and political conditions, the rotten hole of our constitution and the rotten hole of our political leaders.

The transformation of water into an image of blood symbolizes the anguish and the predicament of Filipinos who could hardly see a light of hope from in our tormented society.

Danny 2
Photo by Ronaldo Ruiz (c) 2005.

JETHRO JOCSON's “Drifting and Falling”

Jetro Jocson

Jethro Jocson, the fourth to perform, used his body with his performance “Drifting and Falling”, as he literally threw his body face down on the floor and got up only to repeat the same ritualistic action. Standing straight in a meditative mood, Jocson employed the rest and motion movement where he would remain immobile for seconds in front of the audience then throw himself on the floor. His action created tension in-between silences as the audience held their breath in his act of falling on the ground like a wooden pole.

“A man’s struggle,” Jocson said, “is in-between falling and drifting away from himself.” Surprisingly, Jocson is one of the youngest performance artists in the group and he seemed to be addressing his own struggle as a young performer. In similar manner, it could also happen to any artist at the moment of stasis that he or she can become a prisoner of success or failure. An artist can drift away or wallow between these two extreme conditions instead of moving forward, but one can always rise above from the trappings of one’s inflated or deflated ego.

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Photo by Danny C. Sillada © 2005. UGNAYAN Journal

MITCH GARCIA's “Desserts/Stressed”

Mitch Garcia

“Desserts/Stressed” was the fifth performance presented by Mitch Garcia. Sitting in front of the table with spoon and ice cream placed on the glass, she was relishing the sweetness on her palate. Every now and then, she would move her chair from corner to corner of the table as if she was trying to portray other imaginary persons eating with her. From time to time, she would wipe her mouth with unfolded tissue with an inscription of lipstick that said “Desserts/Stressed”. The two-word inscription was separated by a slash sign composed of the same letters but read differently with different meanings. When “Desserts” is read backwards, one can read “Stressed”.

Mitch Garcia’s performance is by no means an autobiographical feat about her diabetic condition. Suffering from diabetes in advantage stage, she struggles to balance her life and her career as an artist amid her pathological condition. When sugar diminishes in her body, she becomes weak and vulnerable to “stress” and to maintain the balance, she has to eat “sweet” food or inject insulin on her stomach to normalize the glucose level in her blood. Garcia’s performance brings her handicapped into a higher level of aesthetic pursuit and, as a performance artist, it becomes her own triumph.

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Photo by Danny C. Sillada © 2005. UGNAYAN Journal

LORINA JAVIER's “Submission to the Void”

Lorina Javier

In her satirical take on “Popular Religiosity”, the sixth performer Lorina Javier surprised the audience with her riveting performance titled “Submission to the Void”.

Clad with shiny purple shawl around her shoulders cascading down to her knees, she swallowed the rosary beads but leaving the dangling crucifix on her mouth; she knelt down with her arms stretched at a 180-degree angle in a devotional position. With her eyes closed and bent head, she seemed to be reenacting the typical gestures of the pious and the fanatics at the Catholic Church in a deep and undisturbed meditative mood. Minutes of silence had elapsed; she stood up brushing away her shawl and began showing the papers to the audience with Filipino inscriptions of a satirical version of “Hail Mary” referring to a Filipino woman as the “Binibining Maria” (Ms. Mary).

As if walking on the aisle toward the altar, she slowly unveiled the text on the papers one by one and after showing the written words, she stepped on each paper on the floor moving toward the audience. Texts such as “Aba Binibining Maria”, "Napupuno ka ng Muta”, “Mga Panginoon nila’y sumasaiyo” and “Babae kang nangangayupa at bumulagta”, among others questioned the common religious belief on the Mother of God in relation to the perception of an ordinary woman in our Filipino culture. Surprisingly, Javier took a radical stride from her religious belief as she presented an unpredictable piece compared to her previous self-conscious and feminine performances.

“Submission to the Void” is a typical experience among the disillusioned believers who, at some point their lives, spent their time on a fanatical devotion to the church but found themselves “void” of spiritual growth in the end.


Photo by Danny C. Sillada © 2005. UGNAYAN Journal

JEHO BITANCOR's “Mirror Image”

Jeho Bitancor

Jeho Bitancor with his suave body movements, the seventh performance, examined the “self” on a mirror using objects as device of juxtaposing the inner persona titled “Mirror Image”. Betancor defined his space with a rectangular 35 X 60” white clothe; with apple on his mouth, he was embedding a 25 cent coins on the apple by hammering it with the mirror. Then, he took the apple from his mouth and soaked it with synthetic copper paint on a plate daubing his hands and arms in the process down to his stomach.

The reflection of shimmering paint on his arms and stomach with an apple portrayed a different visual image which seemed to mimic a metallic sculpture, thus making part of the artist’s body as a medium of both visual and performative acts. After that brief lingering act on his stomach, he put the apple on the floor and crushed it with his shoes. He then dropped on the floor pushing up and down as if he was finally releasing all the energy that runs through the creative process of his performance.

“Mirror Image”, although a complete performative act by itself, it also simulates the aesthetic process using the body movements, devices and visual imagery as a form to achieve the anatomy of art making.

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Photo by Danny C. Sillada © 2005. UGNAYAN Journal

CHUMPON APISUK's “Five Actions of Body Performance”, Performance Artist from Thailand

Portrait of Chumpon Apisuk

The eight and the last performance was from the man himself Chumpon Apisuk with his piece “Five Actions of Body Performance”. Apisuk, in a playful manner, explained and acted out the five actions of body performance by touching his nose with his hand, his ear with right hand, his finger with another finger, his toes with his fingers and finally, touching his mouth by inserting a finger. Here, the artist seemed to be in a whimsical mood with humor on his lips, thus diffusing the heavier atmosphere created by the preceding performances.

The presence of Apisuk as a person evokes gentleness and compassion, a profound man who, at the heights of his success, remains humble and modest of his achievements in the artworld. Born on the 7th of November 1948 in Nam, a Northern Province in Thailand, he studied art in Changsilpa School, Silapakorn University in Bangkok and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. His involvement on social issues such as AIDS and Human Rights works, and the rights of sex workers in Thailand under the EMPOWER FOUNDATION, founded by his wife Chantawipa Apisuk, made him one of the powerful voices in his country.

In 1993, he founded an art space called the Concrete House, a popular venue for performance art in Thailand. He is also the founder and the director of “Asiatopia”, an Asian Performance Art in Bangkok hosting a regular festival for local and international artists. Apisuk has been promoting performance art since the ‘80s making him one of the well known and important performance artists in Asia. From 1996 onwards, he has been performing in Germany, England, Quebec, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, USA and Korea.

In 1998, his audio installation titled “ALIVE – a conversation with a friend living with HIV” was selected for exhibition at the Sydney Biennial and, almost at the same time, he was invited to speak at Asia and Pacific Triennial in Brisbane. His essay on the contemporary art movement in Thailand titled “Politic of Art in Thailand” was published in “Art Action, 1958-1998” by inter/editeur, Quebec.

As a Thai artist, Apisuk can be mistaken as a Filipino and his affinity with Filipino friends made him feel like one. In fact, on his way to Manila, a female tourist asked him from the airplane if he was a Filipino, he was quick to respond “I am...” That is Chumpon Apisuk, a man who feels not restricted by geographical distances or cultural differences, a man who belongs to any society or country for that matter, and a man whose passion for art and social causes made an immeasurable difference in his country and in other parts of the world.

chumpon 04
Chumpon Apisuk at Asia on the Road i RoskildeFoto: Wahidur Rahman Khandkar Czhoton.

©Danny C. Sillada 2005. UGNAYAN Journal