Art+: Tell us about yourself and the work you do as an artist.
PR: Hi! My name is Patricia Ramos, a part-time teacher and freelance illustrator-designer. My dream has always been to work with kids and women, to give back to the community I was a part of, and to be an active shaper of minds who were just like me. I’ve always wanted to emphasize the role of creativity, graphic design, and art in building and maintaining a community.
KT: I’m Katrina Tankeh, a fictionist and a self-published author of zines. I also founded Gyoza Zaragoza, a small all-female collective that aims to give voices to primarily emerging female writers and artists in the local scene.
BL: My name is Bunny, 33, and I consider myself mainly a “drawer”—I express myself through drawing that manifests in all kinds of things like zines, narratives, illustration, journaling, and I do it with all kinds of mediums, including paint and thread. Art is my personal form of expression and not my main work. I work primarily in Education Management, my other field of passion.
MA: I am Marz Aglipay a handmade stamp artist. The stamps I make are inspired by actual people and pop culture. My style is somewhat like editorial illustration with stamps as the medium.
PR: I do consider feminism in my work as an active objective that I want to achieve in the eyes of audiences. Ultimately, they’ll decide—as I do—if a certain work depicts feminism and emancipation regardless of my intention. After all, it’s really easy to draw women in art and call it “real” but it’s important to look at your own art in critical lens. I think that representation is really a valid form of feminism in art, but what kind of representation? Whose struggles and lives are we really depicting, and who will the art and how it looks and is perceived benefit?
KT: Although I’ve been using the term “feminist” sparingly in interviews and social media posts for the collective to avoid using it as a buzzword, the works we publish speak for themselves. I do consider myself a feminist and that translates into the stories I write and the zines I create.
BL: I consider my work femme-aligned and femme-centered but I am more moderate ideologically; as an equal opportunist, my art and IRL work is meant to try and uplift and question the punitive lack and imbalance of opportunity. I am still in the process of determining what a Filipino feminism is because so much of the ideology is Western-centered and I want to be far more intersectional than that. I would refer to some of my art as explicitly feminist but I try to be as specific and attributional as possible and avoid generalization.
MA: I can’t say my work is strongly feminist in terms of subject matter but my work generally appeals to females who are into journaling. It is interesting to note that the Metro Manila stamp-making community who are accessible online are mostly female artists/ crafters. It is the complete opposite from the handmade stamp industry that thrives in places like Recto or Quiapo that are mostly ran and offered by men.
Art+: Why do you think is it important for women-identifying artists to come together and host art gatherings such as Komura; in our current sociopolitical climate?
PR: Like I said, exposure and representation are really important, and it’s great to see a whole showcase of women artists. Art gatherings such as Komura; guide some women artists into a community where they can both speak their advocacy through their craft and at the same time listen and discuss the different issues and critiques surrounding feminism and how we can keep our work important, relevant, and accessible.
KT: Women make up half of the world’s population and yet female experiences and issues are still, sadly, taboo subjects, especially in male-dominated publishing scenes and communities. I know a fellow female creator who received negative criticism from a man just by talking about periods in her fiction, which is weird—men exist because of childbirth, a more morbid female biological phenomenon. Another issue is that when female stories are being read, it’s because they’re made by men. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the idea of people favoring male-written female stories vs female-written female stories is a bit alarming. With all-female events, women get to tell their stories themselves. Faye Cura of Gantala Press told me in an interview that all-female press fairs like Komura; and Gandang-Ganda sa Sariling Gawa! also raise female issues and femininity as valid subjects of artworks, making them worthy of respect as those created by men. This is especially important in a time when the leader of our country has distorted notions of what it means to respect a woman.
BL: It’s important because what oppressed artists need is access. The more access to spaces free of oppression that offer free space for expression, the better. I want to point out that, depending on the climate, access is not free. At the end of the day, artists still transact to participate in events because we are trying to get our work out into the real world and engage directly with important advocacies. The model for access is also crucial, especially in the current sociopolitical climate and most especially in how that model participates in neoliberalism. The question should be how women-identifying artists and oppressed people can be uplifted with the least exploitative experience?
MA: Living through the constant shock and awe under a strongman leadership is draining. Its probably not going to change in the next few years so being part of an event that champions women’s contributions in different industries feels like a refreshing environment to operate in.
Art+: In your opinion, to what extent can art serve as a means to empower and emancipate women?
PR: To be honest, most of the art that I see created by fellow artists in our current sociopolitical and socioeconomic climate sometimes only go so far as to empower. We can create and sell prints and stickers and comics and posters and pubmats and all kinds of outputs, but if we want to make and maintain change we have to see how these truly affect the marginalized. There are tons of ways we can use art to empower and emancipate, but it’s just a matter of looking at the processes and the aftermath, the call to action and the actions actually taken, way beyond the art itself. If art serves to expose, we cannot continue to believe that this is the end of our arts purpose. There are so many opportunities to be taken, more learning to be gleaned, from our journey, and not just from the art within our community.
KT: Art has always been a mirror of the world when we’ve forgotten to look around. The same way Guernica spoke about the atrocities of war, female-centric art can highlight the oppressive conditions many women still live in. It can be used to desensitize people about female experiences or to protest against female violence. But, art can only do so much. We should complement the politics of our art with the politics of our actions by supporting female empowerment organizations, educating others on feminism, and fighting with the oppressed against their oppressors.
BL: The role of art is to provoke thought. To what extent it leads to empowerment and emancipation, is entirely up to the society in which it exists. If art serves to please and be enjoyed, it is not any less successful than a piece that is meant to politically provoke. But we have to appreciate art in context and as an extension of the artist. To me, personally, art that
doesn’t reflect the philosophy and identity of the artist should be fairly and thoughtfully interrogated.
MA: Art is universally empowering regardless of gender. What matters is that our contributions are acknowledged and not discounted by gender or orientation.
Art+: What more would you want to see from the local art community in terms of women representation?
PR: I would love and need to see more voices from different communities outside of Manila. I would like to see women empowered enough to express themselves freely, to tell their story, and to create their own art so that we all can learn and build synergies for the betterment of our community. Like I mentioned, feminism can always go beyond representation. We live in a really good time where feminism has a lot of exposure and women are shown representation. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t know why that’s important or why it’s something to empathize with and fight for—this isn’t the same as the “what”;. “What” is easy, but “why” is going to need a different, deeper, and honestly more difficult approach. Being a teacher, I’ve also learned that integration and creating a holistic experience is of great if not utmost importance, and I can say that this is true especially for feminism. There is a world of opportunity just waiting for us to think outside the box. We are, after all, artists and creatives—I have no doubt of the capability we possess to achieve that.
KT: As someone who has been in the local art community for only a few years, I’m really happy about the number of opportunities there are now for female creators. What I want to see is more support for queer art and art that tackles the female experience (positive ones) with their faith, since that’s a subject not often dealt with in art.
BL: I do feel that posting art online is such a free experience and it made art really accessible to everyone. But I want it to come full circle also because I want art to be part of the physical artifact of the world. I’m not sure what a future in which Art as part of Artificial Intelligence looks like but one of the reasons why I enjoy doing fairs and such, is connecting directly with the work and the artist and the collector.
We don’t look back enough on the likes we’ve racked up and think how may our tastes have changed and evolved over time. There is an argument to be made about trading one form of commodification over another and how that values or devalues art or even translates into organic representation of women or other. I think the local art community has come a long way in a very short period of time in creating opportunity for artists—and I do want to point out that from from my personal experience, much of the leadership and forward-thinking of art initiatives are female-led. There remains a lot of work to be done towards objectivity, clear representation, organization, and cooperation among the communities and I’m optimistic about it.
MA: I’d like to see a female Philippine national artist for visual arts, hopefully in this lifetime.