The 13th instalment of the Visayas Islands Visual Arts Exhibit and Conference (Viva Excon) returned to Negros Occidental last Nov. 13-19, and successfully gathered different artists and artworks from the islands. Theme was “Inspire.”
“This is the fourth time that Negros Occidental hosted Viva Excon, and it is a pleasure that it goes back to where it originally started,” said top Bacolod-based artist Charlie Co, one of the founders of Viva Excon.
The art group Black Artist in Asia founded Viva Excon 26 years ago. It is the largest artist-run art exhibition and conference in the Visayas. It tours the region every two years with the help of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.
“The idea of this is to showcase the creative works of Visayas and to have a voice in the Philippine art scene,” Co said. “We would like everyone to know that we also have a good number of talents here.”
Manny Montelibano, Viva Excon 2014 festival director, said organizing the event was made difficult because of logistical issues only worsened by the recent calamities that hit many areas of the Visayas.
But Montelibano said public response to the festival was “overwhelming.” He added that despite scarce resources, the festival invited artists from Luzon, Mindanao and even outside the Philippines.
“We were able to gather works and artists from Samar, Leyte, the Panay islands, Negros and Bohol,” Montelibano said. “Artists from Southeast Asia, Korea and Japan also participated this year.”
Co said the festival afforded an opportunity for Visayan artists to interact with other artists, and art lovers outside Visayas and the Philippines.
Kim Seon-young, a curator from Korea, said that Viva Excon was a great learning opportunity for artists both in the Philippines and Korea.
“The cultures of my country and the Philippines are very different, but we share similar experiences such as social change and colonial rule, and this has been a great [interaction],” she said.
Keizuke Osawa, the Japanese curator brought by the Japan Foundation, said Viva Excon was “an interesting frame to seek other possibilities to think about how culture in the archipelago is formed compared, for instance, to that of the globalized city [like] Manila.”
“I started thinking about politicocultural layers in the Philippines for I came across different languages, legacies from the colonial era [and] retired Japanese migrants,” he added. “This as a whole seems to dissolve a concrete idea of the Philippines, and rather reflects plural histories and cultures in one country.”
Osawa compared his Viva Excon experience to the one he had in the Okinawa islands in Japan, where the atmosphere was more relaxed and the artists’ works less politically charged.
“Both Okinawa and Visayas have complicated histories and issues on which local artists could have worked,” he said.
Bohol artist Sam Penaso showed his mixed-media works “Metalscape” 1 and 2 in the exhibit, “Life Force: Contemporary Art in the Visayas” at Gallery Orange in Bacolod City. He also did a performance art titled “Yolanda” during the opening ceremonies.
“I was in New York when the earthquake in Bohol happened, [and] many Boholano artists were affected,” Penaso said. “It has been a year since the disaster in Bohol and Yolanda so I dedicated a performance art about them for this event.”
Viva Excon also exhibited the works of Visayan modern artist Jess Ayco collected from different private owners. The exhibition, “Fugue Frolic: Jess Ayco in Bacolod,” was held at Balay ni Tana Dicang in Talisay City.
Aside from art shows, there were public discussions among artists, curators, collectors, museums and galleries.
The festival recognized the achievements of Visayan artists Raul Agner, Nicolas de Ocampo, Raphael Paderna and Jose Yap Jr. in “Garbo sa Bisaya.”