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LOOK: Art as idea, not object

Czyka Tumaliuan
LOOK: Art as idea, not object
Photographer Czar Kristoff brings his work around Manila in a traveling exhibit he calls 'Operation Latag'

MANILA, Philippines — Photographer Czar Kristoff squatted in front of seven of the most prestigious local art galleries along Chino Roces for 30 minutes to exhibit and sell his works on Friday, July 6.

Kristoff looked like he just cut a used balikbayan box into two, sandwiched his prints inside and held his works together with a masking tape. Known for his conceptual photography that often eludes comprehension, Kristoff matter-of-factly said that this loosely assembled package — this DIY art portfolio case — is his “studio.”

A subversion of the artist community’s overdependence on galleries and institutions, he calls this itinerant solo show “Operation Latag.” With no gallery representation, Kristoff braved the streets of Pasong Tamo and displayed his works without asking for mercy or permission.

He calls each of his stop, “occupation,” as though the whole act is him reclaiming his art and practice from the hands of the galleries back to his.

In an Instagram post, founder of Office of Culture and Design director Clara Balaguer cheered and lauded Kristoff for this act of courage.

Back in Manila, @czarkristoff experiments with studio as idea and not place by squatting the entrances of galleries and art spaces to sell his prints. Precious few alternatives to the neoliberal gallery system exist in Manila, so this is a brave move indeed. With no subsidy system to fall back on, with little to no culture of open critique, with rampant elitism as the backdrop, positioning oneself as a squatter is an act of courage. Squatting isn't framed as a critical rebellion or accepted within the art world the same as it is in Europe. For an artist to claim, occupy, and monetize these spaces as an informal “dweller” is a lonely sort of defiance. Wish I could have been there to be piss in the wind with you. Slow clapping you from afar. Miss our theory+ukay hoholz. #artistasinstitution #artistastambay #nogalleryrepresentationnoproblem #studioczarkristoff #tkparaparaan #studioasideanotaplace

A post shared by Clara Balaguer (@clara.balaguer) on

“With no subsidy system to fall back on, with little to no culture of open critique, with rampant elitism as the backdrop, positioning oneself as a ‘squatter’ is an act of courage. Squatting isn’t framed as a critical rebellion or accepted within the art world the same as it is in Europe. For an artist to claim, occupy and monetize these spaces as an informal ‘dweller’ is a lonely sort of defiance,” Balaguer posted.

Declining formal interviews, Kristoff shared that he’s focused on responding to his current reality, on allowing himself to question and stand on his own, not on explaining himself, being understood or influencing other people.

“We don’t need another painting or exhibit. We need a movement,” Kristoff said.

With the continuous growth of a highly lavish and seductive art market, more and more Filipinos are making works that pander to it, producing commodities rather than art. In a sense, the Philippines may just be seeing more luxury goods around, and less artists to honor. It’s extremely refreshing to see someone like Kristoff break this commercial humdrum.

In the same way that Marcel Duchamp believed in artists rather than art, I hope that more critical practices surface in the upcoming months, rather than another exhibit with free wine and food.

Kristoff will continue his operation on July 11 at Chino Roces, 4PM.

Follow him on Instagram to know more about his project and current occupation. – Rappler.com