For 18 days beginning Feb. 12, from Vito Cruz Street to Intramuros, Manila will claim its official title of Bohemia this side of the world by donning its manton de Manila, the signature many-tendrilled-edged fabric symbolizing its own arts, in order to welcome Fringe, billed as “The World’s Largest Arts Festival.”
Fringe Manila joins more than 200 destinations in the worldwide family of the festival that champions artists and the arts community. Its artist-driven events feature local and foreign presentations in all art genres sans any screening process.
Fringe Manila will hold over 300 performances and exhibits in some 20 venues.
“There are a lot of opportunities that I felt Fringe could provide, and that gave us the sustenance and stimuli to realize that Fringe does have a place in the year-round calendar here,” said Brett McCallum, Fringe Manila executive director.
The festival was introduced to the press not by fanfare of drum roll but by the iPhone-amplified ululations of Christopher Aronson. For the fest, he said he would perform his “Songs of an Electric Soul.”
Perhaps as mystifying as Aronson’s performance was the sneak peek of “Quanto Salto: A Flow Art Show,” a riveting exhibition of object manipulation.
Fringe gathers different artists across the broadest genres, combining traditional and contemporary art forms.
Festival director Andrei Nikolai Pamintuan talked about his experience with Fringe New York City.
“During my first year there, I was really immersed in my work as a venue director,” he said. “I was interacting with artists and seeing their process of creating. At the same time, I was dealing with venue managers and working at the Fringe office. I witnessed creativity, camaraderie and collaboration, and I think we already have that in the Philippines.”
Fringe, he added, is “a growing renaissance of art by future movers and shakers in the industry that create works driven by their experience and social consciousness.”
A representative Fringe piece would be Daloy Dance Company’s “Canton atbp.,” a depiction of the sex worker’s plight, whose choreography both involved and repelled the audience.
Meanwhile Russ Ligtas, depicting the aftermath of a breakup, enjoined viewers to feel his pain by having each person hold his “heartstrings”— elastic bands that made up a ball he called the remains of his heart—while he was dancing and creating a web about the audience. An engaging interactive metaphor for the radiating angst of the scorned, the exercise surely elicited empathy as people literally felt pulled and scared to let go lest they hurt themselves or someone else with the stinging backlash of tautly stretched rubber should they have released the heart sinew that they held.
Ligtas’ piece will be shown at the SDA Black Box Theater at the College of Saint Benilde (CSB), while “Canton atbp.” will be shown at the Tanghalang Huseng Batute of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
Fans of theater dramas and musicals may enjoy local theater groups’ offerings, such as “Boy in the Bathroom,” “The Pillowman,” “Friction: A New Musical” and “Tunkgol Kay Angela.”
Among the 20 or so venues are Fo Guang Shan Mabuhay Temple, Sev’s Café, De La Salle University (DLSU), University of the Philippines (UP) Manila, 1335 Mabini, 98B Collaboratory, Mabuhay Restop and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) Gallery.
In particular, the NCCA Gallery in Intramuros will mount such exhibits as Brazilian Paolo Abe’s “The Banned Library,” Indonesian Kelvin Atmadibrata’s “Vitamin C Kingdom: Weight of Living” and Romanian Daniel Nicolae Djamo’s “Birds.”
UP Manila Fiesta 2015, meanwhile, will mount the Faura Project, which will cast the spotlight on Padre Faura Street as a cultural heritage site.
“We at the NCCA embrace Fringe Manila and salute its efforts to give utmost opportunities to artists and audiences alike,” said Robert Bjorn Santos, head of the National Committee on Art Galleries.
Leeroy New’s “The Chrysalis Series” and Greek Christos Marmeris’ “On Human Rights” will be on show at the CSB.
Meanwhile, the DLSU Culture and Arts Office, with the Japan Foundation Manila and Dramatis Personae Productions, will present “Mishima: Confessions of a Mask” at the Taft campus’ Marian Quadrangle.
“It’s all about freedom of expression here, and what Fringe does is it allows people to perform without any judgment, without any curation, without any censorship,” said Carlos Celdran of Viva Manila. “Some shows will be absolutely amazing and some shows you watch might be absolutely horrible, but actually what this is all about is an exercise in freedom of expression, which we desperately need in this country.”
For more details, visit fringemanila.com.