Southeast Asia’s “Creative Turn”: Reconfiguring Power and Partnership
Time & LocationSession 6
Thu 11:00–12:30 Room 1.406
- Malcolm Smith Universitas Sanata Dharma
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- Countermappings and Cartographic Acts of Revision in a Brutal Lifeworld Joseph Palis University of the Philippines, Diliman
In 2010 Denis Wood argued: “…[A]mong counter-mapping strategies, none mounts the assault on the prerogatives of professional mapmakers that map art does, art … made as, with, or about maps” (2010, 189; emphasis in original). This presentation discusses processual practices of countermapping in the Philippines: art maps which are reconfigurations and re-assemblies of ‘official’ maps whose creation and authentication were legitimized by hegemonic state power to represent the modern nation-state. In the case of Filipino artist Cian Dayrit’s countermapped art works, these are interventions that interrogate the role of state power in standardizing and legitimizing a specific and particular brand of nationalism. Dayrit’s cartographically-informed art incorporates maps that destabilize the emblem of imperial and colonial power. Likewise, the art works of Annie Lumbao, Mars Bugaoan and Mark Salvatus embody the emotional and affective geographies of urban subalterns who navigate the labyrinth of institutionally and discursively violent terrains of Metro Manila. The maps provide an alternative representation of geoaffective dislocations and institutionalized marginalization due to spatial elitism. I argue that these cartographic efforts and interventionist art maps assist in destabilizing commonly-held cartographic imaginations that were shaped and reinforced by normalized state violence abetted by vestiges of colonial legacies in the Philippines.
- Decorating Duterte: Development and “Dark” Creativity in the Filipino Diaspora Deirdre McKay Keele University
This contribution reflects on experiences of deploying a curatorial research methodology based on co-created community art. Our project, Curating Development, explored Filipino migrants’ contributions to development in the Philippines through participatory arts workshops. Arts activities in these workshops were designed to create an art exhibition, embedding research dissemination and public engagement in the creative process itself (Puwar and Sharma, 2012). Our project design anticipated our creative exhibition-making work would bring forth new ideas and inspire conversation, not generate conflict or exacerbate misunderstanding. The creative process we developed was simple: workshop participants applied collage techniques to selected social media images to illustrate their contributions to development ‘back home.’ The resulting collages revealed much to celebrate, but also showed migrants’ ambivalence about fractured family relations, contested political loyalties, and fraught personal histories. Even viewing art celebrating the Philippines controversial current president, Duterte, participants were reluctant to discuss the conflicts made visible by their art in the workshop space.
Using the concept of ‘dark’ creativity (Cropley et al, 2010), we explore why we decided to exhibit these problematic artworks. We reflect on the ways our exhibition design shaped the wider stories being told. Our creative methods for research co-production, and those for creative geographical research more broadly, need a stronger methodological grasp this ‘dark ‘creativity as generative of critical insight, rather than something to be repressed, discarded and hidden. A more robust and ethical approach to research collaborations should anticipate dark creativity as a vital part of the creative research process.
- Performing Male Sexuality: Artistic Contrivance, Political Economy, Institutional Limitations on Macho Dancing Michael Pastor University of the Philippines, Diliman
Macho dancing, is performed in gay bars, in key urban Philippine cities, where male dancers rely on body capital for social mobility in a neoliberal economy (Tolentino, 2009). Male sexuality in macho dance has been utilized for artistic, entertainment, and marketing purposes. Research on the topic is limited and sensitive due to its oblique connection to prostitution, which has been the focus on existing literatures. The creative and burlesque aspects of macho dancing have been engaged only recently (Pastor, 2014; 2017). In macho dancing, the relationship between creativity and political economy informs the production of fantasies and sexual experiences between the “abject” male dancers and “well-off” patrons and guest, with business agents (managers and owners) as intermediaries. This dynamic raises questions about exploitation and ethics, which are informed by moralistic biases, despite the methodological concern and focus on creativity.
Given these concerns, this research aims to nuance the relationships of masculinity, male body, aesthetics, and representation in the works of Eisa Jocson, a female contemporary performance artist, visual paraphernalia by gay bars through the use of social media, and the case of Dante Gulapa, a former macho dancer who popularized macho dancing on Facebook. These instances have taken macho dancing outside of its usual performance contexts but also demonstrate institutional limitations in areas of creative work. Analysis of these cases also aims to unmask and critique power relations within academic institutions regarding the research on sexualized forms of labor and how these indicate sexual inequality in Philippines as a whole. Lastly, this paper explores how macho dancing, as a creative and economic activity, evolved from its emergence during the Marcosian period up (Tolentino, 2009) to the Duterte administration.
- The Ghost in the Machine: Spiritual Practice, Destiny and Coercion in Cambodia Laurie Parsons Royal Holloway, University of London
From shrines nestled against brick-forming machines, to hand-drawn pictures of the Buddha on the factory wall, creative acts of faith and religious belief are infused into the fabric of industry in Cambodia. The creation and placement of shrines and religious imagery provides a link between the harsh and unpredictable reality of the workplace and a spiritual world in which actions and events are the product of human and more-than-human intent.
By focusing on the country’s brick factories and their labouring bodies, this paper goes beyond previous studies centred on spirituality in the workplace, to consider the kiln both as a site of creative escape and an affirmation of life beyond the self. Yet it aims also to show the dark side of these creative endeavours, demonstrating how brick kiln owners, local authorities and even monks actively articulate creative acts through recourse to Buddhist notions of merit, character, and destiny.
Thus, by collapsing fixed categories of embodied and spiritual actions, this paper problematises physically-grounded ontologies of labour, emphasising instead the significance of the spiritual in structuring labour and its constraints. In doing so, it emphasises not only ‘the central role that spirits play in everyday life in Cambodia, mediating land/labour relations between corporations, villagers, and the state’ (Beban and Work, 2014: 594), but conversely also the role of (im)mobility in creating spiritual life through its delineation and enforcement of imagined and actual boundaries.
From shadow puppetry to contemporary dance, film to fine art, Southeast Asian culture is loved and lauded the world over. But cultural production is never easily disentangled from the political context which it generates and shapes and vice versa. From colonial representations of the other to the security-driven cultural agenda of ASEAN, culture has long been an instrument of Southeast Asian nation-building, deployed as a way of ‘integrating social, political, artistic, and cosmic order’ (Roxas-Lim, 2005: 1). When creative methods and cultural production appear at the forefront of new modes of marketing, opinion-shaping, collaborative research, and development outreach driven by interests in the global North, it is time to interrogate what this emphasis on creativity may mean.
In the current era of economic boom, rising inequality, and tightening authoritarianism, what the ‘creative turn’ means for Southeast Asia raises a series of pressing questions. While Southeast Asia’ current cultural effluence is lauded, there may be a ‘dark side’ to it and the creativity that sustains it (Cropley et al., 2010: 1) for those living in the region. Do creative approaches to art, dance, theatre, film, sculpture, music and digital production play a role in processes that fuel inequality or justify authoritarian regimes? Who can harness ‘creative power’? Do the processes and products of creativity in Southeast Asia drive some people apart and pull others together? How are creative methods being called upon to interpret the current situation in Southeast Asian nations?
Questions of creativity and collaborative partnership are increasingly coming to the fore with shifting expectations of research funders and development agencies. Southeast Asianists thus need to think carefully about the role of creativity - broadly understood - plays in their research collaborations. What does it mean, in practice, to co-create research? Southeast Asian academics, governments, and colleagues in the third and creative sector find themselves increasingly asked to engage research design focussed on creative processes and outcomes intended to deliver social impact. Does this new emphasis on creativity work to decolonise research relationships? Or is the creative turn generating new risks, expectations, obligations, and forms of bureaucracy that have the effect of undermining equitable partnerships?
We invite papers that reflect on how creative methods structure relationships and narratives in research and governance. This reflection could encompass co-created projects using innovative approaches to film, theatre, art, digital media, dance, photography and exhibitions. We especially encourage perspectives from scholars who have experience as research partners in Southeast Asian institutions and charities.