Saturday, April 15, 2006


Anti-Bahala-Ka-Na-Ism. A NEW MOVEMENT!!!

In Tagalog, Bahala ka na, which roughly translates as "It's all up to you," is the artist's stereotypical response to the question "what is this work about?" ? I have no idea how the rest of the world does it, but in the Philippines, artists are taught that it is improper to "explain" your work, that to do so is to some how violate the integrity of the work. In practice, I've gotten some fairly thoughtful answers from artists who saw me as, well, if not an ally, at least someone who was not a complete idiot. Still, this is the status quo, the partyline: THE WORK IS NOT MEANT TO BE EXPLAINED.

EXCEPT, that is, when some kind of curatorial statement is called for, typically in some art magazine, or on a sheet of bond paper glued by the door, or over the price lists. Typically this is some near-incomprehensible gobbledygook larded with abstract nouns and postmodernist buzzwords. And I say this as someone who has actually READ some Derrida. The works by Tagalog or Taglish speaking artists, snorting with good-natured laughter over pop-art references and limp jokes, must be framed by the most ornate, gilded, otiose, fringed,beribboned, sequin-spangled, curlicued, velvet chiffon french-english lark's vomit. Apparently the old-school writing principles of using concrete nouns, favoring the short word over the long one, the direct over the indirect, must be completely reversed for the purposes of talking about AHT.

If I were completely paranoid, which I am not, yet, I would suspect that this strangely claustrophobic state of affairs --where the artists seem either trained or determined not to speak about what they do or think, and yet are framed and legitimized by texts made indecipherable precisely by doing the OPPOSITE of what makes good writing-- to be the product of a deliberate conspiracy to defraud artists of the right or power to speak. It's like some paranoid fantasy out of Burroughs. The Puta Mayan Rice Caper. Alien Centipedes have taken over the control room and have cut the lines to thought, forcing all Filipino artists to talk like Cheech and Chong, and released a virus that infects ink, causing all written texts to grow prolix to the point of unreadability in order to keep the people under the control of the High Puta Mayan Centipede Priests.



1) The artwork exists in a context. It is like the punchline of a joke: it needs a setup.

2) The context is a web of ideas surrounding the work. In a time of whitewater, white noise makes it difficult to perceive the context. Therefore it is the artist’s duty to make that web known and visible.

3) Explanations do not detract from the experience of the artwork. Explanations enhance the experience of the artwork.

4) It is possible for an explanation to be bullshit. It is also possible for an artwork to be bullshit. It is possible that both or that neither is the case. Therefore it is necessary to experience both the art and the explanation to know what is what.

5) A real artist is not afraid to talk about his intentions.

6) A real artist does not have French postmodernist intentions.

7) A real artist is not afraid to speak for his work.

8) A real artist is not afraid of criticism. A real artist welcomes all attention, even negative attention. That which does not kill him only makes him stronger.

9) A real artwork is not afraid of explanations and contexts because it has the power to exceed all explanations and contexts.



PS Cheech and Chong don't talk like Cheech and Chong. Read the Playboy interview.

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