Text by Alain Zedrick Camiling
How does one respond to implicit and explicit cues such as unexpected words from a stack of cue cards in about two minutes? In Load Na Dito’s (LND) FLEX*, people ‘question, unlearn, reframe, and redefine’ familiar words (perhaps anything mundane) through a spirited conversation game. The twist comes with the idea of unexpectedness, you don’t get to choose a word; perhaps by luck. Launched in 2019, FLEX* has had 4 iterations to date.
“We often host talks at our home when friends visit us from outside of town. The talks were usually in the format of a slide presentation, and the atmosphere was rather stiff in spite of the residential setting”, as Salvatus shares on how FLEX* started. They explored ways to have attendees perform the roles of a speaker, audience, and host simultaneously; perhaps wanting to hold something with no specifications on theme, preset direction.
The couple also shares they are very much interested in how a word can actually germinate into hundreds of meanings or interpretations. “We actually see it like a plant that’s continuously growing through active participation of defining, redefining, and undefining”, as Hirano expounds.
On the process, Hirano and Salvatus make new cards from the last session to be added to the stack. Interestingly, the spinning bottle/object is sourced directly from the current game site making them use a new one for each iteration—from a beer bottle to a hand sanitizer. “The set-up of the space is also important. The participants should be facing each other in a circle form, no table to divide”, as Salvatus shares on how it’s nice to see participants’ body language during the game.
They eventually reflect and transcribe the recording for their internal archives, after each iteration. With FLEX* being mobile, the couple realized it has become ‘a social space and time endangered by mutual actions’ which they also associate as a core concept of the game. “It is a collective act of careful and critical listeners and speakers”, Hirano expounds.
As per Salvatus, “there is a basic mechanism that we always follow, but we remain open to any adjustments according to the situation at each iteration”. They recently tried FLEX* online using Messenger video chat, with the same mechanics, with a slight tweak— names of participants were written on a board to suffice the act of spinning bottle/object on taking turns. Since they cannot draw words from the stack, each gets to select a number which came with a corresponding word.
An interesting yet seamless synergy, Hirano and Salvatus have been doing different things in relation to their individual practice and process. Hirano’s curatorial practice has been situated outside of museum contexts. “I approach LND projects as an exercise to unlearn and relearn modes of presenting art and artistic practice within the experience of contemporary life”, she shares as she identifies LND as a continuous process of questioning.
And for Salvatus, his practice as an artist and working for LND is a complex exercise he constantly strives to juggle. “Although I work spontaneously in my art making, both have thoughtful thinking and curiosity at the beginning”, he expounds. Both share that they constantly make time to exchange thoughts and even feelings which are critical to their collective ideation.
They also have been engaging themselves in Manila, Osaka, and beyond, acknowledging each locality has positive and negative points. “We pick up fragments of knowledge and experiences along the way to form our own understanding of art in contemporary context”, shares Hirano. “We are interested in undefining contemporary art since the possibilities are endless, something that is not definite”, Salvatus expounds.
Looking into the upcoming during these trying times, Hirano and Salvatus admit that they have yet to decide if their plans and projects would push through or not. “The word ‘upcoming’ is now an unstable word, at these times of uncertainties. Even in our daily life, we cannot really make a proper direction, so we take it really one at a time, literally hour by hour, minute by minute”, Salvatus shares.
However, they are in constant coordination with Kyoto-based artist Miro Kasama for a project in the Art Gallery at the Kyoto City University of Arts (KCUA). They have also been rehashing plans to utilize FLEX* as a method through projects which could involve cyberspace as platform, given current conditions due to the pandemic.
Ending their interview with ArtPlus on a high note, Hirano and Salvatus share their thoughts on the role of art in these trying times— “Art has been there to aid our understanding of the world, aspirations, frustrations, anger and hopes. We think its role does not change, but the world around art and artists continues to change. Art has a potential to trigger us to act critically and imaginatively”.
For more information on Load Na Dito and their projects, past exhibitions, initiatives, and interview documentation, visit their website: https://loadnaditoprojects.cargo.site