Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Camp and Existence

James Tailoring. Petal Attraction. Yehey. The legal, registered names of Filipino business establishments. Filipinos are supposed to celebrate these names as more proof of our creativity. They are certainly creative, the way jokes are creative. But why joke in the first place?

It is a commonplace observation that humour usually has roots in pain. Comics make schtick and routines about things that irritate and oppress them. Laughing is a kind of psychological judo, by which the mind overcomes/shelters from that which obssesses and oppresses it.

I find it more and more credible that these jokes are meant to overcome an abiding sense of falsehood. I do not mean "falsehood" in the sense of a lie, but in the sense of being an imitation. We feel oppressed by the sense of living a copy of real life. Real life being, of course, everything that happens 1) in America 2) on television 3) in English. This is the irritant that joking about buying something in "New York - New York,Cubao" refers to.

I am beginning to wonder whether our vaunted Filipino wordplay is actually a form of camp. Camp has been historically defined as gay sensibility. Drag queens practice a particularly pointed form of camp: A drag queen imitates a female, while making it obvious that he is NOT a female, but an imitation, a copy. He oscillates between longing and irony, aping femininity and mocking his efforts to do so.

It appears to me that Filipinos have generalized camp. We have taken the oscillating strategies of camp from the context of gender, and used it as a response to the psychological pressures of imperialism. To the pressures of economic inequality so deep it determines existential assumptions.

The jury is still out on whether camp is an empowering or self-defeating sensibility. That is what worries me. More and more it seems like the humour of those without hope.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Bosch Effect

I name this effect in honor of PEPITO BOSCH--- who was, until he died in XXXX, a kind of elder/wiseman/shaman figure in the Philippine art scene. More on that some other time. The Bosch Effect is this: When a fifty-something year old hangs out with twenty-to-thirty-somethings, he automatically becomes their wise man, IRRESPECTIVE OF HOW WISE HE ACTUALLY IS.

This is not meant to impugn Pepito Bosch in any way. This is an observation on the role of roles, and how groups create structure within themselves by apportioning roles to the likeliest candidates. The same effect can be observed currently drawing haloes around ROX LEE, TEDDY CO, and PEPE SMITH.

I observe this effect among creatives: musicians, filmmakers, painters and so on. One wonders whether it works among people who do not see themselves as rebels. Probably. It probably works among any group of people who see themselves as a group. A tribe.

The effect seems to indicate that when an assemblage of people begin to see themselves as a group, it sets up a drive in which they seek people to fill archetypal roles. The wise man seems to be a common or necessary role. One can easily think of 5 to 10 more which are not as often filled: The king, the princess, the martyr, the enemy, the traitor, and so on.

The interesting thing about the Bosch Effect is how like a dance it is: it takes two to tango. Just as the young are attracted by the need to look up to someone, the old are attracted by the need to mentor the young.

Okay, there are exceptions. The first one is: The older man CAN be given other roles. Sometimes he becomes The Fool. However, it seems that he must actively play the fool to get this identity. If he just keeps his mouth shut, wisdom is the first image the young project on his silence.