Week 9: Bringing Filipino/American Art to the Fore

This week focuses on Filipino American art, a teacher once told Villa that there was no Filipino art history to investigate. Do you think this inquiry could have motivated him to be the “interlocutor” to fill such historical absence/gaps? What kind of strategies did he use/employ as interlocutor?

What is the difference between validation and self-validation (based from article Actions Speak Louder than Words: Carlos, The Man by Theresa Harlan, Filipino American Arts Exposition Catalog)

In Carlos Villa and the Integrity of Space article (edited by Theodore S. Gonzalves), why do you think Carlos Villa is neglected by art historians and by Asian-Americanists? What is meant by the term “art action” in Villa’s “artwork”?

Regarding the Worlds in Collision website (http://worldsincollision.org) devoted to Filipino American art history, it seems hasn’t been updated in a while, any comments or suggestions to improve the site?

5 thoughts on “Week 9: Bringing Filipino/American Art to the Fore

  1. When talking about the first question, I would have to say yes, both to a general Filipino art history as well as a personal history. Through so many of his artwork, he has served as the person who takes part in this certain conversation. Through Tatu/Tat2, he’s dealing with the self, the identity, the history of various cultures that use tattoos as forms of symbols for certain accomplishments, achievements, uses for perhaps war, etc. etc. Through his cloaks and coats, he was dealing spirituality, through rituals and traditions, through the need to handle certain art with touch, to empower one’s self by wearing artwork, and in result, empowering one’s self by wearing their history. Through the painting of his father seeing Kearny Street for the first time, he’s dealing with the older people coming to America for the first time and dealing with culture shock and to see huge commercial buildings (which would eventually lead to demolishing of the I-Hotel), something different from what one would see if they were from the Philippines.

    For the difference between validation and self-validation, I would have to say it’s in the name itself. For self-validation, it is when one validates themselves according to their own terms. An example would be me thinking that I am valid through my success, and my success depends on what I consider to be “success,” and if my personal success is defined as me earning six figures and I do so happen to earn six figures, then I find myself successful, and therefore, validated according to my own terms. Perhaps the difference between that and being validated is that to have validation is dependent on others and if they consider us, our struggles, our work, or our achievements as valid. However, this can go hand-in-hand. An example would be that I can only validate myself through the validation of others, which means my self-validation is dependent on someone else and if they find what I am giving or offering as valid. Or maybe I’m just mindlessly babbling on and on without making any sense.

    – Terence.


  2. I’m not sure that Villa’s teacher telling him that there wasn’t any Filipino Art History to investigate was what motivated him to be the interlocutor per se. Logic seems to point that in order for Villa to even want to make the inquiry, and begin dialogue about it with someone else like a teacher implies that he was likely already motivated to begin studying the role of Filipinos engaged in (Modern) Art. However, I do think that such a statement pushed him to go about it the way that he did, which was to really spark the dialogue, or be that interlocutor, in his community, going from within himself and working outwards, ultimately building bridges between what his heart was trying to get at, and the stories he’d end up hearing as he’d make inquiries and engage in dialogue in his community.

    And, the accounts of others tells us that merely learning history wasn’t enough, and perhaps this is really where he built bridges between himself and his community to various capacities. Not only was he interested in history, he was also interested in the implications of history, and the issues the community’s he’s involved in face as a consequence of that history. For example, not only did he learn about Manongs, he sincerely took it upon himself to dialogue with them. As Dewey Crumpler mentioned a few weeks back, he worked to compassionately bridge the people, the histories, and the struggles of Filipinos with that of others from various backgrounds, ultimately using these connections to help artists craft their art, and in some ways, reflect upon activism and praxis.

    Perhaps this is where Theresa Harlan’s mentions of validation and self-validation step in. As the words and Harlan’s article imply, validation and self validation refer to the external and internal sense we have regarding ur work that is “relevant and meaningful”. In other words, validation refers to how our peers, those in our field or discipline, and others outside our field or discipline see our work as relevant and meaningful. Meanwhile, self-validation exists within the artist– does the artist or activist find relevance and meaning in the work they’re doing. In consideration of Villa’s approach as interlocutor–or as a bridge to different individuals and communities, this sense of validation and self-validation comes more readily as a bi-product and, in a cyclical sort of way, a production of this community building.

    And easily this can lead one to think that all one has to do is have a conversation, but it has actually has a lot to do with how one interacts with others. As an example in Harlan’s piece she talks about how Villa was telling his class how he was led to believe Native pow wows have become sort of a form of selling out, but after a Native artist, Hullea Tsinhnahjinnie, and herself described what they felt pow wow’s felt they really represented, Villa was one to listen, make active attempts to understand, and even retract his critique. Not only does this model for us, a method in which Villa builds community though honest dialogue, but it also how his honesty and being open to the honesty of others maintains a sense of validation and self validation. Villa maintains his self-validity by being honest, and gains external validity by listening and sincerely retracting his critique. Meanwhile, Tsinhnahjinnie and Harlan maintain self-validity by openly expressing their viewpoints, and garner validity through dialogue and discourse with Villa.

    If this is how he’s talked about by others, and from what we’ve discussed in class in regards to his work and his advocacy in the community, it comes to no surprise that Lucy Lippard would say, To be a friend of Carlos’ is to feel that the world has a chance of becoming a better place.”

    Unfortunately, as Gonzalves would assert, his story, and consequently his approach would largely be forgotten. In his Introduction to Integrity of Spaces, he holds the general marginalization, neglect, and erasure from the colonial mainstream (art) historical canon accountable for this. And this of course by no accident as Gonzalves goes to length in describing how historical erasure and subsequent cultural amnesia that Filipinos suffer from is a product our subjugation to Imperialism. This is why “Filipino American studies struggled with its task of knowledge production– more detailed archives, more flexible repertiores” as we’ve had to deal with a “perpetual condition of forgetfulness.”


  3. This week focuses on Filipino American art, a teacher once told Villa that there was no Filipino art history to investigate. I Do think that this inquiry could have motivated Villa to be the “interlocutor” to fill such historical absence/gaps because I think Villa was an innovator and wanted to do the next thing. The strategies Villa employed as interlocutor were having a voice, a conversation or dialogue that was central to a community.

    The difference between validation and self-validation is the person doing the validation. Validation is when a person gets recognized for doing something whereas self validation is where a person recognizes himself for doing something. However you need self validation in order to believe the other peoples validation of you. (based from article Actions Speak Louder than Words: Carlos, The Man by Theresa Harlan, Filipino American Arts Exposition Catalog)

    In Carlos Villa and the Integrity of Space article (edited by Theodore S. Gonzalves), I think Carlos Villa was neglected by art historians and by Asian-Americanists because of historical erasure and a move away from the mainstream. The term “art action” in Villa’s “artwork” is collaboration.


  4. To have someone in a teaching position tell Villa that there is no Filipino art history, is a great example of how the negation of something is an excellent motivator to learn and create. On a seemingly unrelated note, I interviewed Stephen Parr, head of the Oddball Film archive last semester and he mentioned how his motivation to create the archive was partially because how other archivists effected him in negative ways. He became more inspired to create an archive because he didn’t like or disagreed with the archival methods that already existed. Villa’s search to establish a visible Filipino art history comes from a very similar inspiration through dissatisfaction. In both cases, it also comes down to a do-it-yourself ethic that I don’t think has been mentioned in context to Carlos Villa in class yet. If there had previously been no visible Filipino art history, Villa took it upon himself to make this art history visible to other people.

    “Interlocutor” is a fair enough word to describe Villa’s positionality in, not the creation of Filipino art history, but bringing it to light. He did this first of all by creating amazing work and becoming a figure within that history, but his teaching and community activism helped contextualize it. I would use the word Facilitator just as readily as interlocutor. His philosophy on teaching seemed to be so personalized, and creating symposia like Worlds in Collision brings not just Filipino art history into conversation, but how it interacts with other parts of art history. That being said, I appreciate the specificity of Filipino art history in relation to the generalized term Asian or Asian-American art history. While using that as a blanket term, it has the ability to mislead uninformed people to think that all Asian-American cultures are the same. It is similar to the generalization of African art, for example, that implies all the different cultures from that continent are the same. It would be wonderful to study the art of different Asian cultures more individually and then make inter-related connections between, for example, Filipino art with Vietnamese and then further on to Cambodian and Thai art. This kind of specificity would of course take a greater deal of time, but it is a notion to think about. And now I feel as though I’m just rambling…


  5. I think it most definitely motivated him to produce a history for Filipino/Americans. It’s also important for the future generation to have something to refer to when discussing similar subjects of identity and culture. If anything, Carlos is beginning the history of what would be Filipino/American art and starting the line of art to exist as a means of visual history. Employing certain objects as a means of symbolism that speaks to Filipino indigenous culture is an effective resource. Each object tells a tale of certain moments in a Filipino/American’s life, either by evoking memories of the Philippines or speaking to experiences in America.


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