Filipinx identity, diaspora, and art practice with Alexis Convento and Miko Revereza

binaricorn
TRYTOBEGOOD
Published in
3 min readJan 1, 2017

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I invited two Filipinx artists, and friends, to speak on the topic of ethnic, cultural, and political identity as part of their practice. Alexis Convento is a curator and producer working in contemporary dance and choreography, and interested in models of art production that support communities. Miko Revereza is a narrative and experimental filmmaker, teacher, “Undocumented Immigrant” and fine artist. Both find their work challenging the institutions that hold power.

Aesthetics and accessibility

Miko was already interested in Japanese and European cinematic traditions when he met kindred spirits Tito & Tita, a Manila-based collective making experimental films, and started creating more narrative works about the diaspora and his state as an undocumented immigrant and artist. Miko on how he found his aesthetic:

“I wanted to make beautiful French New Wave or Wong Kar Wai films, but I knew I didn’t have access to those tools. Instead of going that route, I just found a VHS camera at the local thrift store and just started messing around with settings on my TV, and stumbled upon experimental video art that way.” — Miko Revereza

“I didn’t know what i was trying to say with that film. or rather, that ‘I don’t know what i want to say‘ can be attributed to not knowing what my voice was anymore, to cultural erasure, and to the Americanization of my past. I also can’t related to my grandparents and my parents. I guess it was just like a punk film about forgetting.” — Miko on his film shot on Super8. Droga!” means “drug” or “drugs”.

His latest short film, “Does Los Angeles Dream of Manila,” a poignant piece musing on the unattainability of the American Dream for those without statuses, bridges the generational memory gap by showing his grandparents exploring Manila through VR and Google Street View.

Transparency and diversity

Working with the Field Leadership Fund, a fellowship that offers opportunities to performance artists engaging in issues around equity and access, as well interacting with the New York chapter of Gabriela, a women’s organization connecting Filipino diaspora to struggles in the Philippines, has further impressed upon Alexis the importance of being mindful of how diverse voices can be heard, both through the performers themselves and from the audience. Alexis’ curatorial work for The Current Sessions in the past year has tackled themes around social issues, identity, lineage, and narrative. With her producing work at Imprint Projects, she connects creators in her community to the more commercial projects which members may not have access to.

Curators, administrators, and producers need to be asking: Who is in the room? Who gets the opportunities? Do the work. Show up. Be present. — Alexis Convento

For Miko, his invitation to participate on the NEA’s ArtWorks grant selection panel committee, then subsequent denial (due to his lack of US status), has made him realize that the more transparent a person is about their circumstances, the more insidious forces in systems reveal themselves. The message is: immigrants don’t have a say in contemporary art. The process of questioning these hidden structures in the art world has become part of Miko’s practice. (Similarly there are 9 male artists to 1 women artists who receive the Ars Electronica’s Golden Nica prize.)

Collage by Alexis Convento

Filipino identity and exports

Present in Alexis’ collage pieces are explorations of traditional attire, the banana leaf which symbolizes and dominates the image of the Philippines, and of exports like a tin of SkyFlakes (exported to the Filipino diaspora worldwide starting from Guam in the 1970's). In this piece to the left she muses on what U.S. staples and sustenance were available to soldiers in World War II.

Miko adds, “there’s a certain amount of culture we can’t get back. Filipino culture is already American or Spanish. I have no knowledge of anything prior to that.”

Families and strength

Alexis is inspired by the sacrifices of Filipino women in the waves of immigration to provide for themselves and their families, how many stories lie in the strength of the matriarchy, and is excited to explore the affective potential of telling these stories through involvement of the family and community, and through performance.

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binaricorn
TRYTOBEGOOD

Fei, human of the mid '80s. Designer, artist, writer, cultural activist. http://trytobegood.com