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Ocula Magazine  |  Insights   |  Curator and artist, Philippines

The 10th edition of Art Dubai will take place from 16th-19th March. Well regarded for a diverse line-up of galleries from the UAE and around the world, Art Dubai presents three programmes: Contemporary; Modern, devoted to masters from the Middle East, Africa and South Asia; and Marker, a curated section of artspaces that focuses each year on a particular theme or geography.

In 2016 Marker will focus on the Philippines launching the first showcase of Filipino artists at any major international art fair and the first such exhibition in the Middle East.

Under the curatorship of Filipino curator and artist Ringo Bunoan, Marker 2016 will highlight independent and artists run spaces in Manila in a group exhibition that draws attention to a new generation of Filipino artists.

Ringo Bunoan is an artist, curator and researcher based in Manila, Philippines. She was the co-founder of Big Sky Mind, an alternative space active from 1999 to 2004. From 2007 to 2013, she worked as the researcher for the Philippines for Asia Art Archive in Hong Kong where she initiated special research projects on artist-run spaces and Filipino conceptual artist Roberto Chabet. In 2010, she co-founded King Kong Art Projects Unlimited and was one of the lead curators of Chabet: 50 Years

, a series of exhibitions in Singapore, Hong Kong and Manila from 2011 to 2012. In 2014, she co-founded artbooks.ph, an independent bookstore focusing on Philippine art and culture.

Image: Ringo Bunoan, curator of Marker 2016. Courtesy of Ringo Bunoan.

Ocula spoke to Ringo Bunoan about the importance of nurturing cross cultural exchange and bringing the attention of the international art world to the Philippines.

With one of the largest migrant Filipino communities in the world, it seems fitting that Art Dubai will focus its attention on the Philippines in Marker 2016.  What are some of your key objectives as curator of the exhibition?

Marker 2016 will be the first time that there will be a Filipino exhibition in Dubai, so it’s a good opportunity to introduce contemporary Filipino art to the region. There are indeed many Filipinos living and working in Dubai but perhaps not so much in the art and creative industry. So as much as I would like to reach out to an international audience, I also hope to connect with the Filipino community in Dubai.

And were the local Filipino community in your thoughts when curating the exhibition?

Yes, I especially wanted to meet other Filipino artists in Dubai, if there were any. Then 98B, one of the spaces I’ve selected to join the show, proposed the work of Mark Barretto, a Filipino artist now based in Dubai. I hope that this will encourage more dialogue and connections between Filipino artists within the region.

With little in the way of conventional art-world infrastructure, independent artist run spaces have been instrumental in the development of the contemporary art scene in Manila. Can you tell us a bit about the Manila art scene?

What is there in the way of infrastructure and support for contemporary art? There are only a few public museums and cultural institutions in the Philippines and even fewer that show contemporary art. However, there are many commercial art galleries and artist run spaces, which in a way do the job of museums in terms of promoting and educating people about contemporary art. The local art scene is quite small, but in the past decade, I’ve witnessed a sudden boom and mainstreaming of contemporary art.

And what criteria did you work with when selecting spaces to participate in the exhibition?

I chose spaces, which are part of the new generation of artist run spaces in Manila. There are other significant artist run spaces like Green Papaya Art Projects and MO_Space, but they are very established already. 98B, Project 20, Post Gallery, and Thousandfold all opened within the last five years, two of them just last year. I feel it’s important to give the new spaces more support, visibility, and opportunity to present their work to a bigger public.

Filipino art will be new to many visitors. What aspects of the exhibition do you think will make the biggest impact?

Painting is the most dominant and popular form in the Philippines, and many Filipino painters are being recognised internationally. For this exhibition however I have chosen a wide range of works, including photography, video, installation, crochet and textile works. I also purposefully steered away from the usual themes that are commonly associated with the Philippines: poverty, calamities, politics, corruption, religion, etc. As much as art can be an agent to raise awareness about larger social issues, it also has the capacity to offer a pause, a space for reflection on other aspects of everyday life.

In 2015 the Philippines participated at the Venice Biennale after a 50 year hiatus and an increasing number of contemporary Filipino artists are attracting international recognition? 

Does it feel to you like a tipping point has been reached with respect to international awareness and engagement with the Filipino scene? Yes, there’s definitely more interest in Filipino art now globally and more opportunities for Filipino artists to show abroad.

As an artist and a curator what does the exhibition mean to you and how important is it to the development of contemporary art in the Philippines?

The topic of artist run spaces is personally important to me because I also ran a space with other artists in the 90s after we graduated from the university. We had different struggles then and definitely fewer opportunities than young artists today. It’s great to see that artist-run spaces continue to thrive and remain relevant today, despite the dominance of commercial galleries.

What are your hopes for the exhibition and how would you like to see the Filipino contemporary art community develop in the future?

I hope that this exhibition will present a wider, more inclusive view of Philippine art. I also hope that it will encourage more artists to run independent initiatives and provide a space for young artists to pursue works outside official narratives and commercial intentions. 

What else are you looking forward to Art Dubai 2016?

I’m very excited to see and learn more about the art and culture of the region. This will be my first time to visit the Middle East, so it’s all new to me. —[O]

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