Written by CLUTCH Vol. 7 Participant: Ria Manandas
For this week, we joined with the NAVIGATION men for a focus group session with Renjie Butalid regarding the Filipino Identity within the Diaspora. Renjie is currently gathering research for his thesis in order to better understand where people stand, associate, and identify while living in the Filipino diaspora.
One of the main concerns that we all had during the discussion was the lack of representation in the media and the importance of it being present in our lives. I realized that because there is such a lack of representation, we often look to other groups (ex. East Asians and their immigrant experience) where we can share similar experiences with and seek that common ground. However if we are characterized, it’s problematic and it further reinforces certain stereotypes and connotations. Some of us pointed out that others may associate us with certain professions and we are reduced down to being nurses, nannies, or temporary workers. This, too, also results in having insecurities of identifying oneself as a Filipino because we cannot evaluate how others will perceive us, whether in a positive or a negative light.
My peers’ thoughts and experiences also made me realize that I’m not alone in my insecurities of who I am as a Filipino. Living in a society where the ideals and values centre around the white (and most cases, male) community, and trying to break from that mold is extremely difficult, especially if that is what you always see around you. It also made me yearn for a form of solidarity among my peers because this is something that I never experienced and often rejected; to be able to share common upbringings, values and traits is important as part of creating a strong bond with our identity.
Because this topic had a lot of ground to cover, I wish we had more time as we had barely touched the surface. However, I think this allowed for many of us to reflect and be educated on how we see ourselves within our community, and create discussion on the differences and similarities within our own experiences.
Afterwards, we visited the Love Art Fair where we got to see artworks made by different artists from around the world. While it great to know that there is an avenue for artists to showcase their work and make it accessible to people, it was hard to disassociate the idea of consumerism and art commodity in a sense that similar art pieces could be found in the dreary halls of Walmart or jarring sections of Ikea. This also adds to the fact that it was hard to connect with any of the art I saw, unless it was associated with pop art. This statement is not to devalue the artists’ works in any way, although there is a concern for this type of art consumerism and whether there is a critical factor that is negatively affecting artists today.
In addition, the value and pricing of each artwork has made me wonder how they determine the value of the art and if there is a fair distribution of money going towards the artists themselves. I was discussing with Marbella about this and I was informed that in most cases, the artists only get half of the profit made from their work and the rest goes to the art exhibitors. While one can justify that art exhibitors create mainstream exposure for artists, I can’t help but to think that it somehow undermines all of the effort and work that the artist has made.
Overall, both the focus group session and the Gallery trip opened up new perspectives and critical thinking in how we see ourselves and in the arts community, and what kind of example or purpose we want to present. As always, I’m looking forward to see what else is in store for my CLUTCH and NAV peers.