Friday, May 8, 2009

Neo-Urban Plan report - Green Papaya Art Projects WOP Residency

Neo-Urban Plan | Mark Salvatus

January – February 2009

The projects that I did during my two-month W.O.P. residency at Green Papaya revolved around urbanism and urban culture. I was very ambitious when I proposed three projects—Neo-Urban Planner; Connecting Urban Spaces; and Street Art Locator Map. I am very happy with the outcome as I had virtually realized my dreams of being an urban planner and architect.

Neo-Urban Planner was an online project wherein I created a blog and called for ideas on how to improve or change our cities. The open call was an interactive dialogue between the city and its dwellers.

The project was to become a platform to present the people’s creative ideas for change in their cities and eventually present these ideas to city administrators, local government officials, or the MMDA. The online project sparked interest from different sectors—receiving “plans” from individuals and organizations of different backgrounds, thus creating a new breed of urban planners. Some plans received were from writer Lisa Chikiamco, media artist Diego Maranan, and illustrator Joan Medrano, among others.

From this online project, I also received invitations to facilitate workshops at the Museo Pamabata in Manila on mapping and clay city planning with the Children’s Advocates program, and an informal invitation from the Calapan City administration in Mindoro to make their city as a “laboratory” for the Neo-Urban Plan.

Urban Culture

Aside from the received suggestions from the online call, I also invited individuals and organizations who are dealing with our urban environment as their subject of interest and how they see our cities in different perspectives and to present their projects on the weekly W.O.P. gig. From talks, exhibitions and screenings, these presentations were very insightful, spontaneous, fun, and very engaging.

January 7, 2009 was the first presentation of Neo-Urban Planners and I invited photographer Gem Urdaneta to present her Flickr photos of our neglected city and become a guessing game in the end and it was really fun; media artist and radio hacker Jong Pairez’s presented his Postal Box project – an intervention of stickers in postal boxes and mapping as an immigrant in Tokyo, and Buen Calubayan’s sound installation of Manila’s chaotic streets was set up in the second floor of the gallery. It was packed with an eager audience; they interacted earnestly with the presenters and asked questions that ranged from light-hearted queries to more serious ones.

The next presentation (January 21, 2009) was very spontaneous and was not meticulously planned—but it was a hit! After coming back from Kuala Lumpur, I asked award-winning photographer Veejay Villafranca to show his Marked project—a series of photographs of gangs of Baseco, a shipping compound which is now one of the poorest neighborhoods in Manila. His black and white photographs show the underground culture of gangs and its daily muddle of poetry and malady in the dystopian paradise of Baseco.

We also had an instant talk show on stencil-making by graffiti artist Vermonyo of Pilipinas Street Plan—explaining his process of making large format stencils. A deck art exhibition and conversation on skating culture in the Philippines by Datu of 27+20, visual artist Ferdz Valencia and Okto of Pilipinas Street Plan was the funniest and most engaging part of the evening—they discussed the brief history of the culture of skating from the 80’s up to the present and how the movement merged with fashion, design, art, and sport.

And to cap off the night, I screened BCBruta’s video on their “bombing” of Barcelona. BCBruta is a group of street artists in Spain who are changing the colors of their city with manchas and pinturas.

The following week saw a multimedia exhibition that I curated, which brought together artists from Manila, Bangkok, and Madrid. The exhibition’s main theme was urban environment.

Visual artist Wesley Valenzuela made a huge poster of his graphic images that morphed layers of human figures with other familiar elements of the streets of Manila—jeepneys, stars, dogs, and guns, among others. Madrid-based cross-disciplinary artist Kristoffer Ardena showed his project Talking Walls (2006), a series of graffiti photos in Madrid. As a Filipino living in Spain, he collected these “texts-as-images” or “images-as-texts” that was both familiar and foreign—because these images can similarly be found in walls in Quiapo or Sta. Cruz or Madrid.

There were two video screenings that night; the first is from Filipino multi-media artist Mannet Villariba—Idolatry, a performance video he presented at the NIPAF in the streets of Shinjuku in Tokyo, Japan. The second screening was supposed to be of visual artist and music video director Jay Pacena, but did not get a copy of his video on time. Instead, I presented Silencio, a short film by Thai filmmaker Sivaroj Kongsaku. The film was shown at the 12th Thai Short Film and Video Festival in Bangkok last year. Andrea Teran’s Monthly Period Readings also graced the evening.

I was very excited that the subsequent weeks of presentations became very diverse—and even the audience became very diverse—people came in from the NGO sectors, and there were students and unfamiliar faces who are not members of the usual artsy crowd.

Upon Donna Miranda’s suggestion to look for the YP Design Challenge—we were lucky to talk to TAO-PILIPINAS, a women-led NGO of professionals in architecture and urban planning that gives technical assistance to urban poor communities. They presented their different projects and one of these is the YP Design Challenge—a competition open to all architecture students in Metro Manila to design sustainable houses, playgrounds, and other spaces for urban dwellers. Aside from the presentation, the Design Challenge winners brought their winning designs and had an instant exhibition of their plans together with the scale models. These designs are just models or suggestions for institutions like National Housing Authority (NHA) or Bahay Kalinga to consider sustainable designs—which are not only low-cost and environment-friendly, but also have a high aesthetic value. Another interesting presentation was from the Philippine FreeRunners, a group of parkour/free running practitioners shared their jumps and glides that made our cityscapes as their big playground. It was also funny that these architects and free runners have the same tastes regarding the different contours and forms of the urban landscape.

Connecting Urban Spaces

I curated a multimedia exhibition that started as a “virtual office” where we investigated, discussed, and developed multi-disciplinary works about cityscapes and urban environments to produce a physical space show. In line with the idea of connecting and researching these urban spaces with a nomadic perspective that the artist is working with, the artists documented their environments using digital technology such as photography, video, and sound for four months.

The project was a collaborative effort among artist-run organizations: web-based group from Germany, Emmay Thomas Gallery in Brazil and Green Papaya Art Projects in the Philippines.

Participating artists are: Adriano Casanova (Brazil/UK), Rafael Suriani (Brazil/France), Nick Buer (UK), Aline Vondder Assen (Germany), Samantha Orui (Brazil), Marcus Bastos (Brazil), Mark Salvatus (Philippines), Claudio Bueno (Brazil), Denise Agassi (Brazil), Nacho Duran (Brazil), Agustina Barthes (Argentina), Daniel Medina (Venezuela), Juan Estanislao Ortiz (Argentina), Noemie Benezeth (France), Sebastian Bravo (Chile), and Monica Meireles (Mexico).

The last presentation (February 25, 2009) was a quick run-down of what happened during the six weeks of presentations. I also met, for the first time, the ANA people who supported this project; they were in Manila for the peer panel meeting at Green Papaya.

The Neo-Urban Plan is by far the most unique and ambitious process-based project that I have done. Even if the W.O.P. program is over, the online project still continues. Many opportunities are opening up because of this project; the most recent is an invitation for a dialogue with the former Mayor of Bogota, Colombia, who will be visiting Manila this May. The meeting is organized and supported by the Ayala Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation.

Bibliography / Press

De la Paz, Gino. Draft Punk. Manila: Supreme, Philippine Star, January 2009

Mahino, September. City by Design. Manila, Garage Magazine, February 2009

Razon, Lila Anne. Urban Plan, Mark Salvatus urges everyone to rethink and reimagine the city. Manila, Stella Magazine, February 2009


projects/events at GP for WOP




Surely it has been said many times over that nothing lasts forever. No matter how strongly we delay such encounter, it is also at the same time inevitable. But endings are nothing but mere temporal constraints, fluid at the same time malleable. The means to transgress the boundaries will persist but not to be approached without caution. Mark Salvatus caps off his two month W.O.P residency, delivering a state-of-the-metro sorts for his last presentation. And because we like things to be auspiciously arranged according to the arbitrary arrangement of planetary constellation, be prepared for a hearty evening of talks, presentations, food, booze and sound as Arts Network Asia (ANA) throws a little reception for the evening. Lastly, Media Arts Manila (MAM) pays us a little visit with an excursion of field recordings and soundscapes of corporeal and imagined environments. So do pay us a visit, there is much in store for everyone in the family.


Feb 18, 2009

It is easy to dismiss virtual environments as pale renditions of our alternate lives, utopian visions and replacements for interpersonal interaction but its inevitability remains. While junkies attest to its necessity, cynics remain doubtful. And yet no doubt there is comfort in knowing that no one lives in isolation any longer. Almost dreadful in fact, you can run but never hide. Could it be true that each one of us will always long for some kind of connection no matter how strange, circumstantial, perverse or 'unreal' it is. Our favorite wise man once said that appearances work in so far to sustain our belief. Then there is also that question of increasing homogeneity masked behind divergence, plurality and open societies.

There remains the disputable dictum: the devil is in the details. Or is it god? Unknown to most, new nomadic communities have been cropping up thanks to that new dystopian universe called the web. This Wednesday as growing networks both oblique and congruent slide into each other's reality, Mark Salvatus continues with his residency presenting the online project Connecting Urban Spaces together with a nomadic artistic community built the last two years. If you are beginning to get used to our incessant calls to go out and get over the hump, here we are again calling out its never late nor too early the week to go out.


URBAN PLAN WEDNESDAYS OPEN PLATFORM February 4 When the notorious writing on the wall "No to work" appeared on the streets of Paris in the 60s little did we think that in the 21st century thousands of people would loose their jobs everyday. As of yesterday close to 11,000 overseas migrant workers were laid off in Macau. Meanwhile, the Department of Labor predicts that 800,000 workers in export-oriented industries such as electronic are at risk of losing their livelihood because of the global financial crises. The easy speak of crisis versus opportunities won't be so easy to grasp. The little obscure group of situationists in France must be boisterous and laughing secretly over wine, saying 'we told you so.' Obviously the only solution is to succumb and drift. To drop out of work and leisure and be drawn by the attractions of a ravaged terrain and encounters we find in the psycho-geographic subversion of crass cosmopolitanism. And because it is almost obvious that we have exhausted 'the world' it is only but logical to drop out and turn our heads away. Instead, listening to secret hum-drum of promoting sustainable communities. No this is not about buying those 'green' fabrics, environment friendly designer tote/shopping bags or even buying franchise coffee beans grown by poor farmers in Africa. This Wednesday, Mark Salvatus invites Philippine FreeRunners, TAO-Pilipinas, Diego Maranan and YP-Design Challenge Winners to present their winning designs to make the world a better place. Undeniably love will heal the world. So, come and feel the love! No, don't wait till that barbaric Valentines day, it may all
be too late.


Feeble attempts to conjecture cosmic collisions and astrological fluctuations should be shamelessly dismissed as purely superstitious. In no way can the backward movement of Mercury towards the sun affect interpersonal communication, business, travel and the like. Delays and introspection are of course, caused by more sinister emergent events such as a freak road accident, broken alarm clocks, crowded commuter trains, engine trouble, a new US president, police raid or even the partial eclipse of the sun. Still the only thing that can derail utopian visions of urban life can come from lack of inspiration or sleep, perhaps. So come over this Wednesday as we continue to sketch the cities we love most as Mark Salvatus invites Kristoffer Ardeña, Jay Pacena, Mannet Villariba and Wesley Valenzuela for another weekly affair. And because nothing is ever enough, Andrea Teran's Monthly Period Readings come back after a two months hiatus (thanks to that overdrawn holiday back in 2008) hosting Writers in Conversation between Mabi David and Mark Cayanan. As usual we expect you to beat that midweek hump, see you on Wednesday.



The reason for those jarring calls of apocalyptic renewal lies not in the obvious impossibility of tranquil afternoon strolls by the bay but in the delicate breakdown of city dwellers navigating the land-locked streets of Manila. Meanwhile, the cool pleasant breeze fails to soothe the mad morning rush. Drifting is probably not a bad idea after all. Perhaps an ultimate act manifest of the resolve to reject the all-encompassing aim towards productivity. Again, we take yet another undisclosed tour of the Metro this Wednesday as Mark Salvatus' Neo-Urban Plan brings us into the underbelly of our beloved city/ies with video screenings, stencils, skateboard deck art, and slide presentations by BCBruta (Barcelona), Vermon Yo, Okto+Ferdz and Veejay Villafranca. Come, be warm and coozy this Wednesday night at Green Papaya.



"Kidnap someone and make them happy." Wear your Sunday best and catch a ferry ride along Pasig River. Remember to close your eyes, lest you miss out on devilish details of history. Stroll along the least navigated paths; under the bridge; the dark, crowded, and rowdy eskinita and leave your markings. Never mind the looming disorientation, burning heat of the sun nor the sticky pungent city smells, our stories are woven in the streets. Our lives unfolding between the public and private. Should it all be too much to bear, there is nothing else left to do but throw kisses in the air. If you can't beat them don't even try.

How do we write the city? In varying degrees of love and hate? Mark Salvatus, WOP resident, embarks on a stroll of our beloved cities to investigate how artists, creatives, by-standers, and the public see the city in different perspectives. Taking a step further and begging committed actions. Yes, opinions will be strongly solicited. Kicking off his eight-week residency is an introduction to Neo-Urban Planner along with a presentation from Gem Urdaneta, sound installation from Buen Calubayan and Jong Pairez's Postal Box Project. The holidays are finally over, we can be normal once again! See you for the initial installment of Urban Plan.

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