topic

Colonial and imperial legacies

For the last five centuries, the Philippines has been a nexus of colonialism and neocolonialism, militarization, migration and globalization, and in obvious and subtle ways, the legacies of these colonial and imperial engagements reverberate through Filipinos’ daily lives.

 

The history of US imperialism especially looms large. For example, Filipinos have variously been classified as US citizens, as having a “special relationship” (and hence priority immigration status) with the US, and as being as “foreign” as other immigrants; they have transformed from imperial possessions to cheap guest labor to unwelcome intruder in response to changing US domestic and imperial policy. Meanwhile, the Philippine state, responding to neocolonial imperatives, has oriented its economic and social development programs towards supplying global demand for cheap, unskilled labor.

"The Wong Street Journal" - the Sizzle Reel! Political Performance Art Comedy!

Kristina Wong

2014 - 2015 Video of solo performance Duration: 2m 26s Courtesy of Kristina Wong

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Kristina Wong

b. 1978
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Kristina Wong is a third generation Chinese American, born in San Francisco and living in Los Angeles. Her work encompasses original solo performances, comedy, personal essays, acting, short films and textile work. She was recently featured in the New York Times’ "Off Color" series that “highlight[ed] artists of color who use humor to make smart social statements about the sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious ways that race plays out in America today.” She has created five solo shows and one ensemble play that have toured throughout the United States and the United Kingdom. Her longest running touring show, Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, looked at the high rates of depression and suicide among Asian American women and toured to over 40 venues since 2006. It’s now a broadcast quality film distributed by Cinema Libre Studios. Kristina’s been a commentator for American Public Media’s Marketplace, PBS, Jezebel, xoJane, Playgirl Magazine, Huffington Post, CNN and a guest on Comedy Central’s “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore” and FXX’s “Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell.” Her work has been awarded with grants from Creative Capital, The Map Fund, Center for Cultural Innovation, the Durfee Foundation, National Performance Network, five Artist-in-Residence grants from the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, and a residency from the MacDowell Colony. Kristina has twice given the commencement speech at the University of California, Los Angeles, her alma mater. She graduated with double degrees in English and World Arts and Cultures with a minor in Asian American Studies. She is also trained as an actor at the Steven Book Studios and improvisation at the Upright Citizens Brigade. Television credits include General Hospital, Nickelodeon’s “Nicky Ricky Dicky and Dawn,” and Myx TV’s “I’m Asian American and Want Reparations for Yellow Fever.” This Fall, she is a guest professor at California Institute for the Arts in the M.F.A. Creative Writing Program. Her mail order bride site is www.bigbadchinesemama.com.

I believe that as an artist, my job is not to “fix” the wrongs of the world with easy answers, but instead, to further complicate the question by making the invisible visible, and hopefully, creating some space for public discourse. I would describe my aesthetic at its best as subversive, humorous, and endearingly inappropriate. My non-traditional, multi-disciplinary approach logically mirrors my own multi-layered identity that has been influenced by innumerous cultures, religions, political thinking, technology and post-modern performance art. My nebulous identity continues to shift within the communities I live, evolve and interact with. I see my performance work as a humorous and ephemeral response to the invisible and visible boundaries that shape my world, rather than a hermetic declaration of my identity. I’m interested in guerilla performance as culture jamming– creating performances that subvert the use of space not intended for “performance.” I experiment with interactive, improvisational performance that blurs the roles of “artist” and “audience”— recasting unsuspecting bystanders as co-stars to my performance personas -– unearthing the masks, disguises and performances hidden in the most mundane of daily life. I adore “culture jammers.” Some of my favorites are the street interventions of Michael Moore, the “identity corrections” of the Yes Men, and the feminists who crashed television beauty pageants when I was growing up. Their performances are disguised within daily life to subvert, manipulate, and explode the status quo. I also appreciate the simplicity and elegance of interactive work like Yoko Ono’s. Much of my own guerilla theater work similarly offers social commentary and bypasses theaters and galleries—staged on the internet or alternative spaces. My theater work is informed by my site specific performance sensibilities. In my theater work, I challenge my relationship as a performer to my audience. I also confront the expectations of my genre and my subject matter within the work. My stage performance work differs from the Eurocentric theater traditions of 19th and 20th Century American Realism where actors apply “realistic” emotions to pre-written scripts. I see my “characters” as archetypal extensions of my own persona. I almost always break the fourth wall and let my audiences inform the direction of the show. My creation process is very organic. Some of my shows are living ritual exercises with the audience. I find that pre-scripting my work line-by-line at my computer and then rehearsing emotion into those lines is a very confining process. I prefer to generate lists of ideas and doodles, talk them out with trusted collaborators, improvise with a mix of media during rehearsals and then string up the best moments in a logical (or illogically logical) order for public performance. Some of my scripts actually look like a set list that a stand-up comic would use.

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  • Born: San Francisco, CA, USA
  • Based: Los Angeles, CA, USA

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Authority Figures

Francis Estrada

2012 Gouache, collage, and gold leaf on paper 7" x 9" Courtesy of the artist

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Francis Estrada

b. 1975

Born in the Philipines and currently residing in Brooklyn, Francis Estrada is a visual artist, museum educator at the Museum of Modern Art, and freelance educator of Filipino art and culture. Francis has a fine arts degree in painting and drawing from San Jose State University, and he has taught in a variety of studio, classroom, and museum settings to diverse audiences, including programs for adults with disabilities, cultural institutions, and after-school programs. He was also an administrator and educator at the Museum for African Art, where he enjoyed teaching about the amalgamation of art and culture through objects. Francis exhibits his work nationally, including online publications. His work focuses on culture, history, and perception.

I investigate relationships between characters and their environment. I incorporate pieces of personal, historic and/or ethnographic photographs, text, and motifs (most of which broach the combined themes of history, sentimentality, and nostalgia).  Using some or all of these pieces, I compose scenarios with which I find personal connections then arrange them without providing a complete image or narrative. By de-contextualizing visual images (figures, symbols, motifs) from their original source, I attempt to create an ambiguous space for the viewer to complete. I interrogate how context is created through combinations of these visual elements.  How does the viewer identify with the images presented, and does the composition create a narrative?  How do the combinations of images create notions of space, place, history, identity, or memory?  By creating drawings that assimilate text, photographic reproductions, and symbols, I provide the viewer with a space in which they can decipher the visual clues and “complete” the work.

My art is a tool through which I confront how our understandings of culture are mediated, and the methods through which history and memory are created and perpetuated. I think of my work as "partial portraits" that are activated by the viewer.

I believe that my work speaks to the theme of Storm: A Typhoon Haiyan Recovery Project by connecting to how the media represented the country through images from the aftermath of the storm.  Also, various fundraising events brought out a vast array of artists and performers who used their talent to share Filipino customs (dance, song, martial arts).  Between the media and these events, people were able to see and experience various aspects of Filipino culture.  I feel that my drawings similarly portray various aspects of Philippine culture through the images that I choose to show. 

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  • Born: Manila, Philippines
  • Based: Brooklyn, NY, USA

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He Is Not Eating for Love of You

Francis Estrada

2012 Gouache, collage, charcoal, and gold leaf on paper 7" x 9" Courtesy of the artist

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Francis Estrada

b. 1975

Born in the Philipines and currently residing in Brooklyn, Francis Estrada is a visual artist, museum educator at the Museum of Modern Art, and freelance educator of Filipino art and culture. Francis has a fine arts degree in painting and drawing from San Jose State University, and he has taught in a variety of studio, classroom, and museum settings to diverse audiences, including programs for adults with disabilities, cultural institutions, and after-school programs. He was also an administrator and educator at the Museum for African Art, where he enjoyed teaching about the amalgamation of art and culture through objects. Francis exhibits his work nationally, including online publications. His work focuses on culture, history, and perception.

I investigate relationships between characters and their environment. I incorporate pieces of personal, historic and/or ethnographic photographs, text, and motifs (most of which broach the combined themes of history, sentimentality, and nostalgia).  Using some or all of these pieces, I compose scenarios with which I find personal connections then arrange them without providing a complete image or narrative. By de-contextualizing visual images (figures, symbols, motifs) from their original source, I attempt to create an ambiguous space for the viewer to complete. I interrogate how context is created through combinations of these visual elements.  How does the viewer identify with the images presented, and does the composition create a narrative?  How do the combinations of images create notions of space, place, history, identity, or memory?  By creating drawings that assimilate text, photographic reproductions, and symbols, I provide the viewer with a space in which they can decipher the visual clues and “complete” the work.

My art is a tool through which I confront how our understandings of culture are mediated, and the methods through which history and memory are created and perpetuated. I think of my work as "partial portraits" that are activated by the viewer.

I believe that my work speaks to the theme of Storm: A Typhoon Haiyan Recovery Project by connecting to how the media represented the country through images from the aftermath of the storm.  Also, various fundraising events brought out a vast array of artists and performers who used their talent to share Filipino customs (dance, song, martial arts).  Between the media and these events, people were able to see and experience various aspects of Filipino culture.  I feel that my drawings similarly portray various aspects of Philippine culture through the images that I choose to show. 

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  • Born: Manila, Philippines
  • Based: Brooklyn, NY, USA

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Cover

Mik Gaspay

2012 Print. 50 in. x 36 in. Courtesy of the artist.

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Mik Gaspay

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Mik Gaspay is an interdisciplinary artist who primarily works with found objects, painting and sculpture. His practice investigates translated meanings of commonplace products and structures: drawing from the tension between functionality, purpose and language he conjures up expressions fused from readymade signification, history and uncertainty. His work queries for meanings embedded in the materials within objects we consume and encompass our lives with.

Mik Gaspay was born in Quezon City, Philippines and migrated to Palo Alto, California at the age of 9. He received a B.F.A. in Illustration/Design from the California College of Arts and Crafts and later attended the California College of the Arts for his M.F.A. He currently lives and works in San Francisco, California.

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  • Born: Quezon City, Philippines
  • Based: San Francisco, CA, USA

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In the Clothing Archive

Luisa A. Igloria

2009 Poem. Courtesy of Luisa A. Igloria. from Juan Luna's Revolver, University of Notre Dame Press.

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Luisa A. Igloria

b. 1961
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Luisa A. Igloria grew up in Baguio City, in the northern Cordillera, Philippines. She earned her doctorate from the University of Illinois at Chicago, her M.A. in Literature from Ateneo de Manila University (where she wrote a thesis on Foucault and the discourse of power in colonial texts pertaining to the Igorot), and her B.A. Humanities (cum laude) from the University of the Philippines, Baguio. Since November 20, 2010, she has written (at least) a poem a day, and these are archived at Dave Bonta’s Via Negativa site. Luisa is the author of Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser (Utah State University Press, 2014), which was selected by Mark Doty for the 2014 May Swenson Poetry Prize; Night Willow (Phoenicia Publishing, 2014); Juan Luna’s Revolver (University of Notre Dame Press, 2009), which won the Ernest Sandeen Prize; Trill & Mordent (WordTech Editions, 2005); and eight other books. She currently directs the M.F.A. Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University.

 

Photograph by John-Henry Doucette.

The space of writing is the space of improvisation, curiosity, invention, experiment--- Here is where the mind’s veering and suggestive tilt can be brought to bear on meanings and connections other than those that are “given”; this to me seems the most fertile condition for poetry. As a woman, and as a writer of color in the diaspora, this perspective is additionally relevant when I consider the ways in which histories are typically written by those who have access to the most power. To improvise is to engage in little revolutions, is to overturn the sense of given expectations. This kind of virtuosity can be a source of great creative and political power.

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  • Born: Makati, Philippines
  • Based: Baguio City, Philippines
  • Also Based in: Norfolk, VA, USA

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Clare Counihan

b. 1977
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Clare Counihan earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in English Language and Literature from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and her B.A. in English Literature from Duke University. Her research focuses on contemporary southern African experimental literature and the relationship between narrative form and national belonging for unbeloved subjects. She is also deeply interested in food: eating it, cooking it, understanding the ways it reflects and mediates our identities and interactions.

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Sarita Echavez See

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Sarita Echavez See was born in New York City but raised as an "embassy brat" moving from city to city around the world. She received her B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, where she first became involved with U.S. women of color politics, especially the arts and culture movement. She obtained her Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. While studying in New York City, she met the Filipino American artists and writers who inspired and continue to inspire her teaching and scholarship. In 2013, she joined the faculty of the University of California, Riverside, where she is an associate professor of Media and Cultural Studies. She previously taught at Williams College, the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and the University of California, Davis. Her research and teaching interests include Asian American and Filipino American cultural critique, postcolonial and empire studies, narrative, and theories of gender and sexuality. She is the author of the book-length study The Decolonized Eye: Filipino American Art and Performance (University of Minnesota Press, 2009), in which she argues that contemporary Filipino American forms of aesthetic and performative abstraction powerfully expose and indict the history of American imperialism as itself a form of abstraction. She is at work on the book-length project “Against Accumulation,” which is a study of the politics of accumulation in the American museum and university and of the politics of anti-accumulation in Filipino American theatre, writing, and visual art. She was one of the core organizers of the 2011 conference "Critical Ethnic Studies and the Future of Genocide" held at the University of California, Riverside, and she has served as a member of the working board of the Critical Ethnic Studies Association. In her work with the Center for Art and Thought and its focus on the contemporary medium of the digital, she envisions CA+T to be a transnational venue for more meaningful, reciprocal encounters between artists and scholars, and she is committed to fostering new forms of literacy, rather than tutelage, and to the transformation, rather than the mere transmission and replication, of knowledge.

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  • Born: New York, NY, USA
  • Based: Los Angeles, CA, USA

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Why Sinigang?

Doreen Gamboa Fernandez

1988 - 2014 Criticism. 6 pages. Courtesy of the family of Doreen Fernandez. Sarap: Essays on Philippine Food

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Doreen Gamboa Fernandez

b. 1934-2002

Doreen Gamboa Fernandez was born on 28 October 1934 to Aguinaldo Severino Gamboa of Silay, Negros Occidental and Alicia Lucero Gamboa of Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija.

She obtained her A.B., major in English and History in 1954 from St. Scholastica's College, Manila and completed her M.A. in English Literature (1956) and Ph.D. in Literature (1976) from the Ateneo de Manila University. She began teaching at the Ateneo de Manila in 1972 and chaired the departments of Communication, English and Interdisciplinary Studies. She was a member of the editorial boards of Philippine Studies, Filipinas Journal of Philippine Studies, and The Asian Theatre Journal. She would have rendered thirty years service in October 2002.

In 1998 she was recognized with Metrobank Foundation's Outstanding Teacher Award.

She taught literature, composition, creative as well as critical writing, and journalism. Her research included cultural, literary, theater and culinary history, on which she has written for scholarly and popular publications and had regularly been invited to speak at international conferences and symposiums.

She was twice a recipient of the Fulbright Asian Scholar in Residence Award (1983, Ohio University Southeast Asian Studies Summer Institute; 1992, Michigan University Seminar on Southeast Asian Literatures in Translation).

A prolific writer, she authored the Iloilo Zarzuela: 1903-1930 (1978); In Performance (1981); Tikim: Essays on Philippine Food and Culture (1994); Face to Face: The Craft of Interviewing (1995); Palabas: Essays on Philippine Theater History (1996); Fruits of thePhilippines (1997); Palayok: Philippine Food Through Time, On Site, In the Pot (2000). With Edilberto N. Alegre, she co-authored "The Writer and His Milieu (1984) and Writers and Their Milieu (1987, recipient of National Book Award); the Lasa series on dining in Manila and the provinces (1989, 1990, 1992); Sarap: Essays on Philippine Food and Culture (1988); and Kinilaw: A Philippine Cuisine of Freshness (1991).

She wrote video scripts as well: Tikim, a video documentary on Philippine food (1989, Philippine Information Agency); Panitikan on Philippine literature (1992, CCP), which earned first prize, video documentary category from the Film Academy of the Philippines; and Dulaan on Philippine contemporary theater (1994, CCP).

She was a columnist of The Manila Chronicle, Mr. & Ms. magazine, the Philippine Journal of Education, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and Food magazine. She has contributed numerous articles in journals, periodicals and books, including to The Oxford Companion to Food (1999, Oxford University Press).

She was editor and contributor to the CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art (1994, Cultural Center of the Philippines); contributor to the Encyclopedia of Post-Colonial Literatures in English (1995, Routledge), and with Resil Mojares to Modern Southeast Asian Literature in Translation: A Resource for Teaching (1997, Arizona State University); and editorial consultant as well as contributor to the 10-volume Kasaysayan: The Story of the Filipino People (1998, Asia Publishing Co Ltd).

She was co-founder of the Babaylan Theater Group (1973, with Nicanor G. Tiongson), and the Cultural Research Association of the Philippines (1975). She was a member of the board of trustees of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), and the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation, among others. She was also a member of the Manila Critics Circleand of the judiciary for the Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature.

She received the Achievement Award from the National Research Council in 1997, and in 1999 she was recognized with the CCP Centennial Honors for the Arts (Cultural Center of the Philippines and the Philippine Centennial Commission), honoring 100 Filipinos who helped shape the arts in the Philippines in the last century (1898-1998).

She was married to interior designer Wili Fernandez.

 

Photograph by Stella Kalaw.

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  • Born: The Philippines
  • Based: Manila, Philippines

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Culture Ingested: On the Indigenization of Philippine Food

Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett Doreen Gamboa Fernandez

2003 - 2014 Criticism. 13 pages. Courtesy of Gastronomica, Stella Kalaw, and Christina Quisumbing Ramilo.

Gastronomica 3.1 (Winter 2003): 58-71.

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Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett

b. 1942

Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett is University Professor and Professor of Performance Studies at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in Folklore from the University of Indiana after majoring in English Literature at University of California, Berkeley. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett has served as a Fellow and Past President of the American Folklore Society, on the Smithsonian's Advisory Council of Center for Folklife Programs and Cultural Studies, and with the National Foundation for Jewish Culture. Her fellowships and honors include the Distinguished Humanist Award from Ohio State University; the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching from the University of Pennsylvania; a fellowship with the Center for Advanced Jewish Studies at the University of Pennsylvania; a fellowship with the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study in the Social Sciences; time as an Uppsala Winston Fellow with the Institute of Advanced Studies at Hebrew University, Jerusalem; leading an Advanced Research Seminar at the School of American Research, Santa Fe; Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar, 1995-1996; Getty Scholar at the Getty Center for the Study of Art and the Humanities, Santa Monica; a Bellagio Residency at the Rockefeller Foundation; Folklore Fellow at the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters; an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship in East European Studies; and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett's more recent books include Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums, and Heritage (University of California Press, 1998); The Art of Being Jewish in Modern Times (edited with Jonathan Karp; University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008)); and the edited volume Writing a Modern Jewish History: Essays in Honor of Salo W. Baron (Yale University Press, 2006), which won a National Jewish Book Award in 2006.

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Doreen Gamboa Fernandez

b. 1934-2002

Doreen Gamboa Fernandez was born on 28 October 1934 to Aguinaldo Severino Gamboa of Silay, Negros Occidental and Alicia Lucero Gamboa of Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija.

She obtained her A.B., major in English and History in 1954 from St. Scholastica's College, Manila and completed her M.A. in English Literature (1956) and Ph.D. in Literature (1976) from the Ateneo de Manila University. She began teaching at the Ateneo de Manila in 1972 and chaired the departments of Communication, English and Interdisciplinary Studies. She was a member of the editorial boards of Philippine Studies, Filipinas Journal of Philippine Studies, and The Asian Theatre Journal. She would have rendered thirty years service in October 2002.

In 1998 she was recognized with Metrobank Foundation's Outstanding Teacher Award.

She taught literature, composition, creative as well as critical writing, and journalism. Her research included cultural, literary, theater and culinary history, on which she has written for scholarly and popular publications and had regularly been invited to speak at international conferences and symposiums.

She was twice a recipient of the Fulbright Asian Scholar in Residence Award (1983, Ohio University Southeast Asian Studies Summer Institute; 1992, Michigan University Seminar on Southeast Asian Literatures in Translation).

A prolific writer, she authored the Iloilo Zarzuela: 1903-1930 (1978); In Performance (1981); Tikim: Essays on Philippine Food and Culture (1994); Face to Face: The Craft of Interviewing (1995); Palabas: Essays on Philippine Theater History (1996); Fruits of thePhilippines (1997); Palayok: Philippine Food Through Time, On Site, In the Pot (2000). With Edilberto N. Alegre, she co-authored "The Writer and His Milieu (1984) and Writers and Their Milieu (1987, recipient of National Book Award); the Lasa series on dining in Manila and the provinces (1989, 1990, 1992); Sarap: Essays on Philippine Food and Culture (1988); and Kinilaw: A Philippine Cuisine of Freshness (1991).

She wrote video scripts as well: Tikim, a video documentary on Philippine food (1989, Philippine Information Agency); Panitikan on Philippine literature (1992, CCP), which earned first prize, video documentary category from the Film Academy of the Philippines; and Dulaan on Philippine contemporary theater (1994, CCP).

She was a columnist of The Manila Chronicle, Mr. & Ms. magazine, the Philippine Journal of Education, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and Food magazine. She has contributed numerous articles in journals, periodicals and books, including to The Oxford Companion to Food (1999, Oxford University Press).

She was editor and contributor to the CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art (1994, Cultural Center of the Philippines); contributor to the Encyclopedia of Post-Colonial Literatures in English (1995, Routledge), and with Resil Mojares to Modern Southeast Asian Literature in Translation: A Resource for Teaching (1997, Arizona State University); and editorial consultant as well as contributor to the 10-volume Kasaysayan: The Story of the Filipino People (1998, Asia Publishing Co Ltd).

She was co-founder of the Babaylan Theater Group (1973, with Nicanor G. Tiongson), and the Cultural Research Association of the Philippines (1975). She was a member of the board of trustees of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), and the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation, among others. She was also a member of the Manila Critics Circleand of the judiciary for the Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature.

She received the Achievement Award from the National Research Council in 1997, and in 1999 she was recognized with the CCP Centennial Honors for the Arts (Cultural Center of the Philippines and the Philippine Centennial Commission), honoring 100 Filipinos who helped shape the arts in the Philippines in the last century (1898-1998).

She was married to interior designer Wili Fernandez.

 

Photograph by Stella Kalaw.

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  • Born: The Philippines
  • Based: Manila, Philippines

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Pig Face: A Love Story (Sisig)

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik

2014 Watercolor on paper 5 in. x 7 in. Courtesy of the artist.

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Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik

b. 1981
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Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik is conceptual artist working with craft and food to tell the stories of migration. Sita holds a B.A. in Studio Art from Scripps College, and an M.F.A. in interdisciplinary art and an M.A. in Visual and Critical Studies from California College of the Arts. Raised in Los Angeles and based in Oakland, she is Indian and Japanese Colombian American. Sita has exhibited and collaborated in the US, Holland, Ireland, Hong Kong, and Mexico. Her projects include installing curry powder in a European castle, importing artisan goods over the US-Mexico border, and leading workshops about food, migration, and memory in Hong Kong. Her most recent project, Estamos contra el muro | We are against the wall, involved the collaborative construction of a border wall made entirely of piñatas. The East Bay Express described it as "the most joyous political critique of the year."
 
Sita is also a co-founder of the People's Kitchen Collective (PKC), who were named in 2016's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ YBCA 100 list. They are recipients of the Center for Asian American Media’s (CAAM) Advocate Award and were awarded support by the Kenneth Rainin Foundation Open Spaces Program. PKC recently exhibited with For Freedoms, the first artist-run super PAC at Jack Shainman Gallery in New York and at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center's Crosslines pop-up museum. The goal of The People's Kitchen is to not only fill our stomachs but also nourish our souls, feed our minds and fuel a movement.
 
See also peopleskitchencollective.com.

Photo credit: Rachyel Magana



 

For the Love/Hate of Curry

A golden, aromatic spice blend that is prized by some and reviled by others, curry powder is a polarizing substance. Over the past five years I have used it as a dye, perfume, and pigment in my art practice. But I rarely eat the bottled stuff.

What, exactly, is curry? It is a delicious dish and an inadequate word. As food historian Thy Tran once told me, it is a word that falls short because it attempts to use the language of the colonizer to describe the many foods of the colonized. The first reference to curry powder was published in Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1961), a book to aid British housewives in the particulars of maintaining a proper home in the colonies. I began to trace my own history through an alternative spice route. Being Indian and Japanese Colombian American, we ate curry all the time in our house. Indian cooks don’t usually use curry powder--but my mother, who is Colombian-born Japanese, made the kind that came out of a box. She mixed it with chicken, carrots and potatoes to create one of my favorite meals (coincidentally, the most popular brand of curry powder happens to be my initials, “S&B” and so I took it as a sign that I was meant to work with the material). Why does Japan’s #1 dish come from a package? Japan was introduced to curry by the British who made a roux of flour and fat with the spice blend. The Indian varieties? Those were more difficult to define. My father is from a small village outside of Kolkata. I still have no idea what is and isn’t a “curry.” Neither does my family. It’s just food in sauce – but it’s so much more.

After my first installation with curry powder in 2008, I searched the phrase “smells like curry” online. I suppose I expected to find a racist joke or two and a few recipes. Instead, I found thousands of entries referring to the way Indian people smelled. The one I will always remember was a posting on Yahoo! Answers:

Q: Help, my neighbor’s house smells like curry.
A: Call the INS.

I became obsessed with this anonymous entry. For the first time I realized that race is constructed by more than what we see.

Over the next few years I sprinkled curry powder through the streets of Oakland, opened a Curry Institute (2011) at Whitman College, where visitors could chart their own Curry Cartography, and worked with perfumer Yosh Han to create a curry perfume called Gilt (2010) just because I wanted everyone to have the right to smell like curry. Eventually the spice pieces made their way onto the walls themselves.

Although my ingredients span the globe, I always source my materials from family-owned businesses. I had been purchasing ingredients from Bombay Bazaar, a hidden grocery store that had closed and re-opened in San Francisco’s wildly gentrifying Mission district. The last time I went in to say hello, the store had disappeared. Shelves, fluorescent lighting, and all. It is with the last batch of spices purchased at this shop that I created Dear Indian Grocery Store both in the bathroom of 18 Reasons in San Francisco and at the San Jose Museum of Art in November 2013. Feeling yet another loss in a city I recognize less and less, I wrote an open letter to the grocery store. This letter always accompanies the installation. As with my previous installations, the excess curry powder collected from the installation will be used to dye napkins and tablecloths for a sliding-scale community dinner. The curry powder is reserved for the art - it is rarely used in the cooking of the meal.

Most Indian cooks would never be caught with curry powder in their kitchens - it limits the complexity and variety of a dish. This powder is India concentrate. This is the myth we expect in Indian supermarkets, restaurants, and, yes, even people. But this complicated blend has also been transformed into the unique flavors of comfort all over the world.

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  • Born: Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • Based: Oakland, CA, USA

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Pig Face: A Love Story (Greetings from Clark Air Base)

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik

2014 Watercolor on paper 4 in. x 6 in. Courtesy of the artist.

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Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik

b. 1981
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Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik is conceptual artist working with craft and food to tell the stories of migration. Sita holds a B.A. in Studio Art from Scripps College, and an M.F.A. in interdisciplinary art and an M.A. in Visual and Critical Studies from California College of the Arts. Raised in Los Angeles and based in Oakland, she is Indian and Japanese Colombian American. Sita has exhibited and collaborated in the US, Holland, Ireland, Hong Kong, and Mexico. Her projects include installing curry powder in a European castle, importing artisan goods over the US-Mexico border, and leading workshops about food, migration, and memory in Hong Kong. Her most recent project, Estamos contra el muro | We are against the wall, involved the collaborative construction of a border wall made entirely of piñatas. The East Bay Express described it as "the most joyous political critique of the year."
 
Sita is also a co-founder of the People's Kitchen Collective (PKC), who were named in 2016's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ YBCA 100 list. They are recipients of the Center for Asian American Media’s (CAAM) Advocate Award and were awarded support by the Kenneth Rainin Foundation Open Spaces Program. PKC recently exhibited with For Freedoms, the first artist-run super PAC at Jack Shainman Gallery in New York and at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center's Crosslines pop-up museum. The goal of The People's Kitchen is to not only fill our stomachs but also nourish our souls, feed our minds and fuel a movement.
 
See also peopleskitchencollective.com.

Photo credit: Rachyel Magana



 

For the Love/Hate of Curry

A golden, aromatic spice blend that is prized by some and reviled by others, curry powder is a polarizing substance. Over the past five years I have used it as a dye, perfume, and pigment in my art practice. But I rarely eat the bottled stuff.

What, exactly, is curry? It is a delicious dish and an inadequate word. As food historian Thy Tran once told me, it is a word that falls short because it attempts to use the language of the colonizer to describe the many foods of the colonized. The first reference to curry powder was published in Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1961), a book to aid British housewives in the particulars of maintaining a proper home in the colonies. I began to trace my own history through an alternative spice route. Being Indian and Japanese Colombian American, we ate curry all the time in our house. Indian cooks don’t usually use curry powder--but my mother, who is Colombian-born Japanese, made the kind that came out of a box. She mixed it with chicken, carrots and potatoes to create one of my favorite meals (coincidentally, the most popular brand of curry powder happens to be my initials, “S&B” and so I took it as a sign that I was meant to work with the material). Why does Japan’s #1 dish come from a package? Japan was introduced to curry by the British who made a roux of flour and fat with the spice blend. The Indian varieties? Those were more difficult to define. My father is from a small village outside of Kolkata. I still have no idea what is and isn’t a “curry.” Neither does my family. It’s just food in sauce – but it’s so much more.

After my first installation with curry powder in 2008, I searched the phrase “smells like curry” online. I suppose I expected to find a racist joke or two and a few recipes. Instead, I found thousands of entries referring to the way Indian people smelled. The one I will always remember was a posting on Yahoo! Answers:

Q: Help, my neighbor’s house smells like curry.
A: Call the INS.

I became obsessed with this anonymous entry. For the first time I realized that race is constructed by more than what we see.

Over the next few years I sprinkled curry powder through the streets of Oakland, opened a Curry Institute (2011) at Whitman College, where visitors could chart their own Curry Cartography, and worked with perfumer Yosh Han to create a curry perfume called Gilt (2010) just because I wanted everyone to have the right to smell like curry. Eventually the spice pieces made their way onto the walls themselves.

Although my ingredients span the globe, I always source my materials from family-owned businesses. I had been purchasing ingredients from Bombay Bazaar, a hidden grocery store that had closed and re-opened in San Francisco’s wildly gentrifying Mission district. The last time I went in to say hello, the store had disappeared. Shelves, fluorescent lighting, and all. It is with the last batch of spices purchased at this shop that I created Dear Indian Grocery Store both in the bathroom of 18 Reasons in San Francisco and at the San Jose Museum of Art in November 2013. Feeling yet another loss in a city I recognize less and less, I wrote an open letter to the grocery store. This letter always accompanies the installation. As with my previous installations, the excess curry powder collected from the installation will be used to dye napkins and tablecloths for a sliding-scale community dinner. The curry powder is reserved for the art - it is rarely used in the cooking of the meal.

Most Indian cooks would never be caught with curry powder in their kitchens - it limits the complexity and variety of a dish. This powder is India concentrate. This is the myth we expect in Indian supermarkets, restaurants, and, yes, even people. But this complicated blend has also been transformed into the unique flavors of comfort all over the world.

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  • Born: Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • Based: Oakland, CA, USA

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