Texts and images by Alain Zedrick Camiling
February 7, 2020, Kamias Special Projects (KSP) launched the 3rd Kamias Triennale marking its two-week run in various places in Quezon City. Supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, this third iteration’s concept revolves around cooking and eating with the title “Sawsawan: Conversations in the Dirty Kitchen” curated by Allison Collins (Canada), Patrick Cruz (Philippines/Canada), and Su-Ying Lee (Canada).
Since its inception in 2014, Kamias Special Projects positions the domestic scale as “a space for contributing to contemporary cultural production where being, thinking, and making together carry the same weight as exhibiting and viewing”.
“It’s definitely a project with various aims”, as Allison Collins shared with Art Plus. She was emphasizing how they have different people coming together to share their visions of art, specifics of the artists they invited, and the places where they hosted the Triennale as these all contribute to form sets of experiences through the project itself.
This iteration’s title stems from Doreen G. Fernandez, a Filipino cultural writer, who references ‘sawsawan’ (or dipping sauce) as “representative of a cultural ethos of sharing labour, authorship, and power. The term ‘dirty kitchen’ is literally where the messy task of cooking is done; “an extension of home where nourishment takes place; where friends and family gather together”.
Curators Collins, Cruz, and Lee explain that the title is ‘a metaphoric underscoring of practices that resist colonialism and a stated expression of our foundational value’ highlighting the domestic as a figurative and literal space.
From the artists, Lesley-Anne Cao’s Recitation (Spirit) looked into ideas on visibility in relation to materiality, physical perception, and public participation. “It actually explores the potential of images and their presentations to be unintelligible, to stutter, or to resist documentation”, as she shared with Art Plus. Cao’s work gives one an impression of a free-flowing ‘spirit’ as the wind blows the material from time to time allowing superfluous movement.
Sawsawan did not just feature exhibitions within its two-week run as it included parties, performances, documentary screenings curated by Rosemarie Roque, collective feminist flag making, staged reading of a play, boat ride, discussions and talks.
On to the next, Collins shared with us about the next iteration in three years through a one-line answer in a thrilled manner- “there will be another one and it’s most likely quite different!”.
Sawsawan indeed furthers discourses on contemporary art and culture through its diverse programming, deliberately. Veering away from the usual and traditional exhibition spaces like museums and commercial galleries, it showed how alternative art spaces can foster communities through a communal approach- even inside a residential house inside a small barangay. With all spaces and performances having no door charges and no apparent rules at all, people can just visit any of these spaces as if they are to enter anyone’s ‘dirty kitchen’ that has a lot of ingredients and tools to offer and share with everyone, regardless as to which household they belong to.
Sawsawan: Conversations in the Dirty Kitchen ran from February 7 to 22, 2020 as organized by Kamias Special Projects with support from Canada Council for the Arts in partnership with many artists and groups including Project 20, Load na Dito Projects, University of the Philippines Film Institute, and Green Papaya Projects, among others.
Works featured in this article were all exhibited during the Triennal at Kamias Special Projects, 124 K-8th, Kamias, Quezon City. For more details, you may visit their website (https://www.kamiasspecialprojects.com).