Carren's Pitch

Life by Design


Rebel with a Cause

Posted by Carren |

Green Papaya is unlike other art spaces I've been to. It has a homey air about it, where artists can really be comfortable in their own skin. It is a far cry from regularized institutions--a fact I know the artistic directors are proud of. Attending their opening was like seeing a free spirit unleashed.

Text and Photos by: Carren Jao
Published: MEGA December 2008

In its 3rd reincarnation, Green Papaya continues to subvert the economics of art and invites all of us along for the ride

SLIVERS of green papaya mix in with chili, garlic, peanut and lime dressing to make up one of Asia’s best-loved Green Papaya salads. Its flavor, brimming with freshness and vigor, explodes on the tongue at the first few bites – a wake-up call for any sleepy eater.

Much like this dish, The Green Papaya Art Projects strives to become that wake-up call for a country too set in its ways. “There is no firm art and cultural policy in this country,” points out Donna Miranda, Green Papaya Projects Director and 2007 Yokohama Dance Collection-R Jury Prize winner. “I am a firm believer that the only way we’ll have sustainable art practice is if we work towards influencing cultural politics,” she continues with fire in her tone.

She goes on to point out simple institutional mechanisms the current system lacks. “The grant system is very old school, very elitist democracy… [also] pag traveling artist ka, mahirap humingi ng visa [if you’re a traveling artist, it’s hard to obtain a visa]. You cannot write that you’re an artist.”

Donna wistfully shares a story told to her by Gaston Damag, renowned Philippine-born and Paris-based installation artist, “In France, they have this beautiful law, if a building is occupied and squatted but if it’s used for artistic or cultural purposes, [the artist-slash-squatters] cannot be kicked out. This happened because of how active the advocacy of art is. Parang if [artists] are not earning from [their] art, [they] shouldn’t be made to pay for [their] art…because if art offers something else besides money and products and commodities… then the art economy itself or the system of making things should subvert this money-profit-commodity system that is dominant in our neo liberal post political society.”

Starting the fire
In the 8 years of Green Papaya’s existence and with almost 40 years of experience shared between her and Artistic Director Norberto “Peewee” Roldan, it is amazing to see the verve and passion they both pour into the space. What once began as a visual art space in Sterten Place, Maginhawa Street, exhibiting non-commercial avant-garde works by emerging contemporary artists soon evolved into a very different creature.

Inspired by The Kitchen, one of New York’s foremost interdisciplinary art spaces, Donna shares, “Gusto naming magkaroon ng [We wanted to have an] art center where people from different fields can go and talk, and communicate, and interact, and maybe present their works. [There] was always this desire to bring people and artists together.” And so, with the help of Green Papaya’s erstwhile Artistic Director Manuel Chavez, now Art Director of Town and Country, Green Papaya finally found their calling as a “forum for contemporary art practice—not only the presentation aspect, but also information dissemination, research, interaction, intellectual exchange, international networking.”

Taking a moment to organize her thoughts, Donna then resumes, “Our focus is not presentation space, our focus is building an infrastructure for contemporary art practice…we would much rather prefer mediating artist mobility, [giving] artists empowerment, kasi marami namang aspeto ang art scene di lang makapag-exhibit [because there are a lot of facets to the art scene, not just putting up exhibits].”

Letting loose
Before one can dismiss these four corners as a space preening on its own artistic ego, Green Papaya cracks the traditional mold by hosting such unexpected events as improvisational jams, ping pong nights and, of course, Radioactive Sago Project music sessions.

To add spice to the mix, Green Papaya introduced a local residency program, the Wednesdays I’m-n-Love Open Platform (WOP) Residency. This program brings together the talents of six local artists/curators/researchers, encouraging them to co-curate eight succeeding Wednesday programs of critical exchange via screenings, readings, conversations, performance and temporal exhibitions.

The result? Wednesdays of unexpected creative turns and freewheeling delight – with the first round of beer on the house and artistic attempts on center stage, there is never any telling what creative mammoth will take shape.

Within Green Papaya’s humble walls, these programs gained a strong following – so much so that the landlord in the space’s previous Maginhawa location (after Sterten Place) finally had to ask them to vacate. “Ang raming tao kasi sa Green Papaya kaya naghanap talaga kami ng lugar na pwede kaming mag-ingay. [There were so many people in Green Papaya that we really had to find a space where we could make noise.]”

Now, situated in its third venue on a busy Kamuning corner, Green Papaya exudes the tambayan vibe. Filled with familiar faces and an air of possibility, one instinctively feels the winds of change brewing within the underbelly of Manila’s contemporary art scene. “[In the Philippines], you always hear this problem of ‘It’s so hard to make art because we are a poor country.’ Then, we are stuck in this paradigm and somehow ang sukatan lang kung okay na ang art is pag nakakabenta na yung artist, which is of course…part of reality. But we would also like to think that art also prospers when there is a critical, intellectual, and scholarly practice around,” expounds Donna.

It is this fervent dream of finally seeing an intelligent public community that pushes these two on despite the onus of continuously cultivating international networks, the administrative burden of running a space, despite even the necessities of cooking and cleaning to invite the public into their world. “As long as there is an amount of love, we will keep going,” declares Donna, and one cannot help but feel the commitment and complete love permeating the spaces between these words.


Green Papaya opens its doors to the public with their ongoing programs:
• Wednesdays I’m-n-Love Open Platform Residency Programs, an experimental and creative laboratory for new artistic explorations in contemporary visual arts, performance, and new media supported by Arts Network Asia, is held every Wednesday starting 9 p.m.
• The Love Gangsters, a dance collective under Donna Miranda, is offering Contemporary Ballet for Kids, Advanced Contemporary Dance, and Body Conditioning.
• Supported by Art Hub, the newly launched Papaya Magazine, a publication documenting independent Art and Culture in Manila, is currently available at Green Papaya Art Projects and shops in Cubao X.


How to get there:
Green Papaya is located at 41 T. Gener St. cor. Kamuning Road, Quezon City
From E. Rodriguez going to EDSA, turn left at T. Morato. Turn right at Kamuning. From there, turn right at the second corner, which is already T. Gener.
More information:
+632-7941628 or +63926-6635606


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