Portia Placino

Repository of my thoughts and images of art, literature, travel, and life.

Daguerre and opening “Nothing to Declare”

Today is Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre‘s 224th birthday. I have memorized that name as an undergraduate student while studying Photography as Art under Prof. Eloi Hernandez. Ironically, it is also through her that I found out about his birthday. It is gut instinct that I sensed a Google Doodle in his honor.

Who is Daguerre? He was the inventor of the Daguerreotype. No, it is not the first camera. But, it is the first commercially successful camera. It is also a first in the fixing a permanent image on a plate, using a wet-plate process. The Daguerreotype was largely popular for portraiture, thus, the inspiration for the Google Doodle.

So, in honor of his birthday, I also unearthed by DSLR, which I have ignored for sometime because of my disappointment with a failed experiment on nude photography. The actual studio session with Jim Paredes was a success, I never thought I could photograph the body like that. But as my SD card was corrupted by some mysterious force of the universe, I was disheartened. An entire afternoon of studio work disappeared. Today, though, I bought a new SD card at CDR-King (cross-fingers), reformatted it using the MacBook Air, and set off to an exhibit I was actually waiting for.

I missed Nothing to Declare at Blanc Compound, Shaw Boulevard. I also missed the opening at the Yuchengco Museum, RCBC Plaza. There is no way that I am going to miss its opening at the Vargas Museum, UP Diliman. I have been waiting for this exhibit. I have heard of the difficulties in making this a reality. I have seen the struggles in social media. I am not about to miss it, and I didn’t.

I am not about to write a review right after the opening cocktails. I have not even absorbed the exhibit yet. I need to go back on a quieter day, though admittedly, this exhibit is difficult to maintain and I will no longer get the energetic vibe of the audience when I go back. But I need peace and quiet as I ponder the artworks. Moreover, I need time to reflect and digest this. It is the best part about a large exhibit with numerous installations, though it is often a challenge to analyze, it is still pleasurable to behold.

I always feel happy to see Vargas Museum filled with people. It was a very different case during my undergraduate years when it was nearly deserted. Now, every time there is an exhibit opening, people flock to it. There are also visitors everyday, there was never a time when there is absolutely no visitor in the museum, whenever I drop by; whether for a class or when I am simply looking for inspiration. In this particular exhibit, every single space is occupied, even the small exhibition area on the third level.

There are also various video installations that are to be viewed from the bench or participated to by the viewers. Admittedly, I am not a fan of crowds, especially when trying to reflect on artworks. I did not linger in the space. Again, I will come back for this on a quieter day, hopefully not causing too much trouble on the museum staff. Maintaining an exhibition of this size for two months, including video installations that must be synchronized, is far from simple.

Admittedly, I have some immediate favorites, even with the obvious lack of reflection. I have seen this being installed a couple of days ago as I passed by and was immediately stuck by it. What is the artists’ statement? It looks light, airy and pretty. But knowing the artists that exhibit in Vargas Museum, there is often more than what meets the eye. There is a deeper story behind these pretty things and I will investigate and reflect upon it in the coming days.

The right-wing of the museum was filled of installations more akin to Filipino sensibilities. The appearance of laundry and a gigantic bag reflects some obvious aspect of the Filipino culture. Right off the bat, I know this is something that will be very interesting to write about. I can almost hear the resonance of sampayan, bilad and even tiangge in the narrative. And I don’t even know the work’s titles yet. As I said, more on that, later.

When writing solely on the art, opening cocktail is not really the best time to see them and contemplate. But there are things that are only present during openings, such as the varied audience interaction. Yet that is not the most amazing part. What I enjoy most are the planned or more often unplanned events that happen only during opening cocktails–such as performances by the artists and their friends. Once the sun went down, there were performances, both on the inside and outside of the museum. While there is an interactive music performance in the lobby, there is an art writing performance happening outside. Though I was not able to capture the obscenities they have painted, I captured some drawings they projected on the museum wall.

*Note the glaring red cover of the small guitar case on the center. So Vermeer…

I cannot end this wandering of the mind on the exhibit without showing the plastic bottle caps. It follows you everywhere throughout the exhibit space, like plastic bottle caps of real life. They are literally just everywhere. They are the trash and non-trash.

As should be noted, I have not included the titles of the works here, yet. It will follow. Studying it would defeat my purpose of letting my mind wander aimlessly. As I said, I need to go back, then digest. I just felt the need to write what I saw and what I experienced, more on the event rather than the art itself. With Daguerre’s birthday, this is also an attempt for a photography exercise. It may not be as perfect as I intended, but it is a start. This is a journey that I need to sail back to; and I will sail back soon.

Nothing to Declare is “a multi-pronged, multi-venue and multi-media international art project conceptualized by Flaudette May Datuin (Department of Art Studies, College of Arts and Letters, University of the Philippines), Josephine Turalba (Dean, School of Fine Arts and Design, Philippine Women’s University) and Precious Leano (Executive Director, Filipino Visual Arts and Design Rights Organization or FILVADRO)” (Exhibition catalog).

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4 comments on “Daguerre and opening “Nothing to Declare”

  1. DC!
    November 18, 2011

    Wow, this post made me miss the Vargas Museum and DAS. Surprising and nice to find a fellow DAS grad here in WP😊 I’m subscribing.😊

    • Portia Placino
      November 19, 2011

      Likewise. This is the first time that I encountered a DAS person too. You should definitely see this show. It was a huge undertaking. And it was a success!

  2. asteorra
    November 19, 2011

    I was here! I missed the David Medalla performance though :S

    • Portia Placino
      November 19, 2011

      Too bad… It was nice. Different from the usual Vargas openings.

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