“Sightings” of Anonymous Animals have been made in Negros Oriental by a team of “excavators” composed of an archaeologist, a natural scientist, a marine biologist, a folklorist, and an anthropologist. The locations of the “sightings” include Bais, Bacong, Manjuyod, Tanjay, Valencia, and other places known to be sources of terracotta or clay.
Led by the art historian Flaudette May Datuin, the team consists of Michael Teves, Danni Sollesta, Benji Ranada, Cristina Taniguchi, and Mark Valenzuela.
The animals include, among others, an extinct amoeba that turns into an angel, an earth-dwelling creature that smells rumors before everybody else does, a kutong lupa endemic to the Philippines, a guardian who protects the babaylan, and a worm that winks called kindat-kindat.
Rendered in terracotta by the “excavators”, these animals will be on show starting Feb. 7 at Mariyah Gallery in Dumaguete. The show also features the photographs of Hersley Ven-Casero.
The expedition to track, sight, record, and exhibit Anonymous Animals in the island of Negros Island was inspired by the work of Joan Fontcuberta and Pere Formiguera and their book Fauna (1999, Arte y Proyektos Editoriales, SL, Seville, Spain). The book catalogued newly-discovered zoological specimens culled from the documents, notes from the laboratory, personal keepsakes, letters, and volumes of painstakingly-kept journals of the eccentric scientist Peter Ameisenhaufen.
The Philippine team follows this path by embarking on a localized version of this voyage of discovery. By centering on Anonymous Animals, the project brings into the discussion local concerns on environment, spirituality, and social realities.
The focus on anonymous non-human and extraordinary creatures not only aims at imagining that which is still possible (pace the biologist Francois Jacob, quoted in the epigram via Fontcuberta and Formiguera); the project also hopes to contemporize an anonymous and earthy medium — the lowly terracotta — which bears the marks and potential for conceptual, inter-disciplinal, and collaborative confluences that could enable us to access, engage with, and understand a local-global moral world.
The project has several phases. For Phase 1, the “excavators” limited themselves to Negros Island, zeroing in on sources of terracotta, a medium abundant in the islands. This phase culminates in an exhibit at the Mariyah Gallery, and will run for one to two months beginning Feb. 7.
The February 2011 exhibit launches and sets the stage for Phase 2, which widens the scope and territory to include the rest of the Visayan Islands, and the islands of Luzon and Mindanao.
The excavations in selected sites will culminate in an exhibition and conference for the (cash-strapped and much-delayed) 3rd International Dumaguete Terracotta Triennial slated for the last quarter of 2012. The conference is invitational, and the exhibition will feature a select group of excavators, who will be chosen from proponents who will respond to a Call for Proposals, which will be issued after the opening of Phase 1. (PR)