Sunday, August 11, 2013

I Love Kusama at the Ayala Musem

There’s no place else to go but the Ayala Museum for the I Love Kusama exhibit. Mounted for the first time on such a large scale, the exhibit is home to the Philippines’ possibly largest collection of paintings, prints, installations, and merchandise of the famed Japanese designer Yayoi Kusama.

Kenneth Esguerra, senior curator and head of conservation for the Ayala  Museum. Photo by the Ayala Museum

Minister Setsuo Ohmori, Head of Chancery of the Embassy of Japan. Photo by the Ayala Musem

Yayoi Kusama became a mainstream hit when she was tapped by Marc Jacobs to design a series of bags for French luxury label Louis Vuitton. In true Kusama fashion, she draped colored dots on the handbags, shoes, jewelry, and clothes, adding a touch of whimsy on a storied brand. But even before her historic partnership with Jacobs, she has wowed the art world with her experimental take on art.

Infinity Nets of Love / 1998 / acrylic on canvas and Gathering of Souls / 1988 / acrylic on canvas and Sprouts (Transmigration of the soul, metempsychosis) / 1990 / acrylic on canvas

Sex Obsession / 1992 / acrylic on canvas (diptych)

Imagery of Human Beings / 1987 / oil on canvas (triptych)

Anyone familiar with Kusama’s art knows that she is known for her repetitive series of dots that take over her canvases. What many do not know is that these dots, or “infinity nets” as she would call them, are a result of hallucinations that began in childhood. According to her, “One day I was looking at the red flower patterns of the tablecloth on a table, and when I looked up I saw the same pattern covering the ceiling, the windows and the walls, and finally all over the room, my body and the universe. I felt as if I had begun to self-obliterate, to revolve in the infinity of endless time and the absoluteness of space, and be reduced to nothingness.”

Flower / 1989 / acrylic on canvas and Phantom Flower / 1989 / acrylic on canvas and Mushroom / 1989 / acrylic on canvas

Mirror Boxes, where a viewer can peep into a peephole and see small mirrored balls reflected infinitely

Woman with a Shadow of a Bird / 1975 / acrylic and collage on paper and Dots Obsession / 2003 / acrylic on canvas

She began “obliterating” items with dots as early as the age of 10, using canvases, everyday items, gourd installations, and penis-shaped intrusions that were another trademark of hers. Kusama is also known for her Mirror/Infinity rooms, an installation where an entire room is lined with mirrors and neon-colored balls to create the illusion of a never-ending space. Equally popular are her Body Festivals in the 60s where naked participants were covered in dots.

Mimosa / 1980 / marker pen on paperboard and Hat / 1978 / watercolor on paperboard and others

Statue of Venus Obliterated by Infinity Nets No. 2 / 1998 / mixed media and Sex Obsession (Gold Dress) / 1999 / dress, stuffed sewn fabric, gold paint

Yayoi Kusama merchandise

Because of her hallucinations, Kusama is voluntarily staying at the Seiwa Hospital for the Mentally Ill, where she continues to make art. Her influence is such that she is a respected artist in the avant-garde genre and has inspired artists like Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg.

Yayoi Kusama merchandise

Yayoi Kusama merchandise

Today, Kusama’s works are revered around the world, with exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, the Tate Modern in London, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in LA, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, among many others.

Collector Kim Camacho

Lito and Kim Camacho

Lito and Kim Camacho are two of the leading Filipino collectors of Kusama art, mounting for display their vast collection of art and merchandise. The couple first saw Kusama’s art in 2004 at the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo for Yayoi Kusama: Eternity-Modernity. Some time later, the couple got to meet the artist in her hospital residence. According to Kim, she showed up in Kusama sunglasses, dress, wellingtons, and bag. Kusama was amused and ended up signing the bag and the wellingtons. According to Kim, this may be the only signed Kusama merchandise in the world.

I Love Kusama is part of the Ayala Museum’s Collectors Series, a program to showcase the selections from leading private collectors in curated thematic exhibitions. The Ayala Museum launched the exhibit for the 40th year of the ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation and the Philippines-Japan Friendship Month. The museum has also invited Akira Tatehata, one of the world’s leading experts on Kusama and the curator the Japanese Pavilion during the 45th Venice Biennale in 1993 (when Kusama represented the country) for a one-time lecture on Aug. 10, 4 p.m., at the Ground Floor Lobby. The exhibit will be on display until September 1.

This article first appeared at When In Manila.

Ang Bonggang Bonggang Batang Beki + Anong Pangalan Mo Sa Gabi?

Recently, there has been a growing interest in the LGBT community, thanks to My Husband's Lover. Its cultural impact is so broad that it trends on Twitter almost every night, and even spawned a proposed bill in the government (which I think is ridiculous). I don't care much for the series but I'm glad that the show is breaking stereotypes and showing that gender expression is fluid and isn't limited to effeminate types.

From a literary perspective, books about homosexuality are also enjoying the press and attention it so rightly deserves. Just recently, Rhandee Garlitos wrote Ang Bonggang Bonggang Batang Beki, the first children's book to tackle effeminacy among young boys, and the UP Babaylan, in partnership with the UP Center for Women's Studies published Anong Pangalan Mo Sa Gabi? At iba pang tanong sa mga LGBT, a photobook featuring common questions asked among the gay community.

If my memory serves me right, the last Filipino book that dealt with homosexuality was Louie Mar Gangcuangco's Orosa-Nakpil, Malate, which raised awareness on HIV-AIDS while weaving a tale of young love and heartbreak.

Like Orosa-Nakpil, both Bonggang Beki and Anong Pangalan attempts to raise awareness for the LGBT cause. Both are entertaining, but beneath that is a core that struggles for acceptance.

Rhandee Garlitos' Ang Bonggang Bonggang Batang Beki

Ang Bonggang Bonggang Batang Beki is a children's book written by Rhandee Garlitos, with illustrations by the talented Tokwa Penaflorida. It's about a young boy whose favorite color is pink, and while his sexuality is not the focus of the story, it shows the power of family and love.

The idea for a children's book to tackle this sensitive topic is great because it eases children who may feel that effeminacy is not normal, that it's something that needs to be changed. After all, we all have that one uncle who tries to "man us up" through basketball.

I interviewed both Rhandee and Tokwa for Supreme, and I got into a brief argument with someone on Twitter who felt that effeminacy automatically equates to homosexuality. I felt sorry for his misguided beliefs (his sources date back to 1963) and his insistence that there is, and should be, only black and white when it comes to sexuality. He claimed to be an expert on sexuality but it was highly doubtful so I ended the conversation.

Ang Bonggang Bonggang Batang Beki will formally launch at the Manila International Book Fair on September 11-15. Read the Supreme interview here.

The UP Babaylan and the UP Center for Women Studies' Anong Pangalan Mo Sa Gabi? At iba pang tanong sa mga LGBT

Anong Pangalan Mo Sa Gabi? (What is your name at night?) aims to address the misconceptions about the LGBT community by answering the most common questions asked of them. Some are innocent and well-meaning, but many are offensive and downright ignorant. Questions like "paano kayo dumadami?" (how do you have children?) and "paano ka umiihi?" (how do you pee?) are just some of the ridiculous questions asked, but answering them is the only way to enlighten people and inform them that gay people are exactly the same, who do the same things the same way straight people do. The answers are serious, witty, engaging, and hilarious.

Here are some of my favorites (most of them have been shortened):

Q: Anong klase kang bakla? (What kind of gay are you?)
A: Special kasi with egg. So, ikaw naman ang tatanungin ko. Anong klase kang straight? Asado o bola-bola? (Special with egg. How about you? What kind of straight are you? Asado or bola-bola?)

Q: Gay ka ba? O bi lang? (Are you gay or bi?)
A: ...para tumaas ang halaga sa pamilihan, maraming gay ang nagpapanggap na 'bi' lang sila. Hindi original pero Class A sa mga peke. (To increase their market value, many gay guys pretend to be just 'bi'. They're not original, they're Class A fakes)

Q: Sinong lalaki, sinong babae? (Who is the man and woman in the relationship?)
A: Kailangan ba laging may babae at lalaki? Hindi ba sapat na ang dalawang tao ay nagmamahalan? (Is it important to have a man and a woman? Isn't it enough that two people love each other?)

Q: Ayaw mo bang magkaanak? (Don't you want to have children?)
A: Ang pagtataguyod ng pamilya, pagpapalaki ng anak at pagiging isang mabuting magulang ay wala sa kasarian kundi ito ay nasa kakayahang magsakripisyo at magmahal. (The ability to raise children and be a good parent doesn't rely on gender, but the ability to sacrifice and to love.)

Anong Pangalan Mo Sa Gabi? is available at the UP Center for Women's Studies. Read about my article for Supreme here.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Hong Kong.

I'm in Hong Kong! I just got here last night and will stay until Wednesday. I just need to get away from the stresses of Manila so I decided to fly to Asia's world city. I know I've said before that I don't like generic cities, but I got more than my fair dose of culture in my trip to Bangkok last year. Now I just want some city action. I'm travelling alone and it's my first time to do so. So far so good! I'll post my Hong Kong Diaries when I get back.

See you when I get back, Manila! I hope I'll be well-rested when I return.


When you're traveling, it's important to have a sturdy bag that can carry all your important items, items that you will need to pull out in a flash - like your passport, camera, or a guide book. I've always relied on sling bags because they're just by your side, but lately I'm becoming obsessed with backpacks. I used to think backpacks were reserved for students, but labels are coming out with sleek versions any one can carry, whether or not they're studying. Below are some backpacks I wouldn't mind carrying around the world:

From Jansport

From Eastpak
Eastpak's collaboration with Kris van Assche

Prada's classic nylon backpack

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