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Timeline of performance art


Mannet Villariba did his first performance with Ronaldo Ruiz in June 2005, ('Ambient Soundbed' at the closing ceremony of "Refreshed" Ruiz's solo painting exhibit in the ArtCenter, 4th Floor, Megamall, Mandaluyong City, Philippines). His first solo act was on September 21st, 2005, ( 'Uncooperative and Unpredictable', at the Philippine International Performance Art Festival (PIPAF) / "UGNAYAN '05" in Kuquada Gallery, Marikina Shoe Expo, Cubao, Quezon City (see black & white photo).

Eileen Legaspi-Ramirez: How did you transition into performance from traditional art production (2-D, 3-D), gallery-based work? What was your personal impetus for engaging in performance?

Mannet Villariba: As an inter-disciplinary artist, I find myself always drawn to a relentless interest in the live performance of visual imagery. This inner self-motivated leaning must have been linked to my toy-deprived childhood yet with that constant fascination with science-fiction, art and technology. Followed by this craving to go back publicly after a hiatus in the art-band scene in 2005.

E.L.-R.: For you personally, was/is the straddling between theater & other time/movement-based genre and visual art a conscious moving away from object-making?

M.V.: The migration from trad-art to time/movement based became a gradual phase for me. I have a very limited understanding at the time when I started collaborating in 2005 and doing my own solo visual performances. Until I chance upon the works of George Maciunas' Fluxus, reading on Beuys, Cage and eventually New Media based works by Dan Sandin and the more advanced works of Daito Manabe, and the likes.

E.L.-R.: Do you trace your creative lineage to a specific artist/movement/body/bodies of work?

M.V.: I actually have no concrete idea yet when I started, or where I do particularly belong on a conscious level. Sometimes it's a lot better to just focus on what we do and extend from there. But being so westernized it's difficult not to compare notes with who is in. And so I made my own research and gradually shifted on to what I do now.

E.L.-R.: What is the particular attraction to you of working in the performance genre as opposed to less transient/ephemeral media? Was/were there specific advocacy concerns behind your performances? Conscious identification with work at the margins?

M.V.: I think it's more of the instant response, self-gratifying, spontaneous and chaotic character that appeals to me. Not really an advocacy but more of an eye-opener for me, in terms of experimentation. Works that will constantly remind us that there will always be new and unique ways to solve problems. If we only give importance to those who adamantly pursues alternative resources, creative thoughts that will set us free from the manipulative ways of the global economy. A perpetual energy source of over unity is the key for an under-developed country to survive.

E.L.-R.: Are there specific conceptual/thematic concerns/motifs/images which you feel/felt would translate better through performance rather than through other genres? Do/did you pursue work in performance exclusively at any point in your career? Why/why not?

M.V.: Sound primarily exist in the nature of my works. I rely heavily on what I hear and let this be my guiding tool to influence my actions. In my academic years we call this the Synaesthesia effect, wherein we interpret what we hear in a painterly manner. The idea that music is linked to visual art goes back to ancient Greece, when Plato first talked of tone and harmony in relation to art. This had somewhat made a great impact on me in my formative years in the art department. Evoking sound through sight and creating a painterly equivalent of a symphony that would stimulate not just the eyes but the ears as well.

Synaesthesia, is a harmless condition that allows a person to appreciate sounds, colours or words with two or more senses simultaneously. The involuntary ability to hear colour, see music or even taste words results from an accidental cross-wiring in the brain that is found in one in 2,000 people, and in many more women than men.

E.L.-R.: Where do/did you situate your work in relation to Philippine art production? Do/did you see yourself aligned with any particular tendency? How would you prefer your art practice be located within Philippine art history?

M.V.: Most of my visual performance works tend to lean towards the new media, sound and technology. Harnessing these as my tool to evoke/augment a concept I have at a particular time.

I actually do not concern myself to be placed in the Philippine art history anymore, because I feel that in doing so, will only dampen the spirit of the creative process. I'd rather do works of significance to me than think of what other critics has to say about my work.

E.L.-R.: Did/do you purposely work toward lacing your work with a specifically Philippine/local inflection? How do/did you stand in relation to identity politics/essentialism/self-exoticization?

M. V.: Local flavor at times blends in favorably in terms of the elements we incorporate in our works. Although, we tend to become decentralized in terms of concepts mainly because of our colonial temper. I broadly focused on human creativity, culture and consciousness and do not rely on issues, agendas or history of art.

E. L.-R.: How do/did you see performance in relation to the larger project of resituating art in the everyday? To you personally, was the use of performance a means toward a more empowering exchange between artist and receiver/viewer or was it merely one among many options in your creative menu?

M. V.: Being an inter-disciplinary artist, I consider performance as merely one of the many options in the art making process. Although, there are situations wherein visual performance commands more empowering message to the viewer/receiver/participant.

E. L.-R.: How did/does structure/narrativity, chance/random encounters figure in your work? Did/do you consciously employ/invoke theatrical devices/idioms_(role-taking, Brechtian alienation/distanciation, Boal's forum theater, etc.) within your work?

M. V.: It's more of the blocking phase in my head that I go through before doing any act, since there are always elements I have to consider prior to the main scene. But once the act starts rolling, that's where I get most of the chance/random encounters. Its either a hit or miss target.

E.L.-R.: Are/were interactivity/translation/transmission/readability prime concerns in your performances?

M.V.: Previously, it was the transmission/readability that I seek for, but lately it's becoming more of the "interact" thing that tickles my fancy, possibly due to my boredom in what I kept on using often and I wanted to share what I have felt before in my initial encounters with what I've been doing.

E.L.-R.: Was institutionalization/appropriation ever issues to you?

M.V.: I think at some point "yes" it does, especially now that what I have been doing had gradually shifted my thoughts from a very traditional to a non-conforming idealism.

E.L.-R.: How did/do you stand in relation to liveness and documentation, presenting traces/remnants of your performances vis a vis its innately experiential nature?

M.V.: As we have experienced, there's nothing more exciting than to be in a concert hall of a live gig over a recorded concert. Documentations are just there to remind us of our past actions, that serves as our reference point of what we have achieved so far or basis of our missed target/s.

E.L.-R.: How does/did visuality/theatricality/spectacularization figure in your body of work?

M.V.: I always seek for that touch of magic in my work, that kind of thinking wherein, I have to be amazed first before my audience.

E.L.-R.: What were/are your personal benchmarks for successful work? Were there any particular works which you felt were more accomplished than the rest?

M.V.: The viewer's reaction I guessed serves a good benchmark. Although this can be too shallow to gauge, and thinking of the audience first, would mean a sell-out in the future. A very thin demarcation line in relation to performing arts. Yes there are certain situations where I could say a particular work does its best or not. Mostly happens at repetition works in relation to the surroundings, the type of audience, materials etc.

E.L.-R.: Can you identify any theoretical/tactical shifts in your body of work? Would you care to elaborate on why you stopped working within the performance domain?

M.V.: No comments as of the moment.

E.L.-R.: How much or how little did public reception affect the kind of work you were/are doing? Were you open/resistant to multiple readings; was indeterminacy/incoherence/subjectivity givens you readily worked with?

M.V.: I don't actually put my audience at my prime concern when I do my work. It is usually what I am ready at that I'm more focused on. The reaction is secondary or even tertiary to me. But multiple readings is very much welcomed, and it does interest me to find out how far I have gotten into their minds.

E.L.-R.: Do you perceive any continuities/discontinuities between your work and currently emergent performance/body art in the country?

M.V.: No comments as of the moment.

E.L.-R.: How do you relate to current trends toward transboundary/transmedia work, collaboration, the use of video/text/spoken language or sound elements, the employment of game motifs, self-criticality, and the situating of performance/actions within overtly public/mass-oriented venues/contexts?

M.V.: This idealism of bringing art much closer to the public has definitely found its way via visual performances. And the impact commands varied reactions to the spectators. Even sound art events had gone further than just merely presenting this inside a four-cornered wall to a much wider audience.

Now, with the recent opening of Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present, a long-building energy wave of performance art hits the museums & galleries at full force. Performance art has come a long way and is now being put into pedestals and to some at dismay. Could this be the deterioration of once was supposedly moving in all directions and in constant change, and is now being packaged?

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