I was trying to reflect on the changes brought by 2020 (partly for myself and partly for a year-end academic assignment). At first I could only come up with negative things. The last post I made was full of heavy and dark thoughts. I wanted to create something better to start the year to come.
I’m thankful of all the ways we’ve made life beautiful in 2020, in spite of or inspired by the overwhelming ugliness of it all. Thank you to my family and lockdown-mates, my co-online interns, my dearest and oldest friends, the heroes that continued to innovate and create. ✨
My year that was can be described in many ways. The most terrible of lows, and the most unquestionable heights of human love. In the end, as with any year, 2020 was a balance of survival. It was a struggle to search for the reason to keep going.
Much like art.
The idea for this format came from Yoko Ono, of all people. (Partly because I just watched the film Yesterday for the first time last December.) Specifically, the inspiration came from a quote. Art is a way of survival. I think I can safely say that creative works have saved so many lives in 2020. The comfort of Netflix to battle the ennui. The commissions that feed artists on social media. The collective struggle to make meaning where there appears to be none.
So this was my 2020 in art. Not necessarily pieces I made myself, but pieces I enjoyed. And pieces that carried a story for this unforgettable year.
Collection: my 2020 in art.
January: Jo Koy – Just Kidding World Tour 2020
When I first watched Jo Koy on Netflix, I found him funny. His humor was refreshing yet familiar. It was nice to see my own experiences growing up mirrored in the anecdotes of a 50-or-something Filipino-American. So I said yes to going with my family to see his show in the Mall of Asia Arena. I even picked up the tickets myself.
This was also almost at the height of my strama drama (that is, my road to finishing my MBA requirements). I needed the levity.
At that time, he was break-your-back hilarious. But I’ve always been cautious of what humor I consume and integrate; I don’t want to laugh with jokes that laugh at me. When I got to thinking, I realized he veers uncomfortably close to internalized racism and colonialism. This is why I never really posted about that night. I won’t waste my storage space with a separate photo either.
But it was the only art I had exposure to. The rest of my January was spent being ridiculously sick.
February: Art Fair Philippines
My sister and I don’t have the money to buy art pieces yet. But we’ve been faithful patrons of Art Fair Philippines for the last several years. I even have a tag for it. I personally love walking around and interacting with the art. (Sometimes with my mother, and then again with friends, sometimes thrice again with not-friends.)
When we’re feeling rich and adventurous, we buy from the overpriced stands. Most times we just bring home memories.
Art events always have an undercurrent of buzz and evolution. I like the hungry urgency that the crowd brings, versus the almost meditative tranquility I get in front of really nice art.
Before everything closed down, at least I had this.
March: The rise of Tiktok and Dalgona Coffee
When 2019 turned to 2020 (my family and I were hanging around Tokyo Tower at that time), I made a resolution to spend more time with visual art. I promised to check out at least one art gallery or performance piece or even just a mall installation each month of the year. Vision 20/20 or something equally punny. I had so many things planned out.
By March, the only art I had access to was Dalgona coffee. And Tiktok. My sister loved sharing her favorite Tiktok videos. She also sponsored our electric mixer, so I’ll forgive her.
Thanks to the lockdown, I had enough time to train to be peak spouse material. I’ll still outsource to a washer-dryer, roomba and a dishwasher, but the desire in me to be domestic is overwhelming.
Thus, March also marked the second season or whatever of my cooking blog posts.
April: Christ the Redeemer Statue Dresses Up as a Doctor
The first quarter of 2020 ended with uncertainty. If I had to graph it, those first three months were still firmly in the positive. Maybe a hint of a plateau around March.
April signified the rise of a very peculiar form of global art. And also a dip in the collective hopes of the rational world??? Christ the Redeemer Statue dressing up as a doctor using the latest (and presumably most costly) in digital art projection technology was an excellent prototype.
All over the world, capitalist companies and governments started coming up with their own effigies and monuments to hail our “frontliner heroes“, while still denying measures of actual protection and support. This is a self-patting self-aggrandizing gaslighting trend that continues today.
Shows like this are in a new category of meta-absurdist state-sponsored social art. (Or something like that. I’m still working on it.) There’s meaning to be found, but it’s been warped beyond recognition by context. The context being, of course, that Brazil’s strongman Bolsonaro was still actively downplaying the threat of a pandemic when Christ was all dressed up for this PR stunt.
*Absurdist art: the Sisyphean contradiction between humanity’s struggle for meaning and the universe’s inherent meaninglessness. In this context, I argue the government’s production of meaning juxtaposed to the government’s inherent meaninglessness. Mom, I hate it here.
May: Twenty-five cities in twenty-five years
By May, the ennui has set in. I felt a shortage in inspiration.
My backlogs, on the other hand, were endless. I finally finished writing about our trip to Japan. And I took an afternoon to paint this little watercolor map and finally update my travels page.
I’ve been incredibly blessed. I know. That I can even complain of postponing a vacation abroad for the pandemic speaks for itself.
See Travel page
June: Black Lives Matter Plaza
May 25 2020. George Floyd died after a police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on his neck for seven minutes and forty-six seconds. Floyd’s death –one in a long-list of racially-charged state violence– propelled waves of global anti-fascist anti-police protest.
The giant mural of ‘Black Lives Matter’, painted by eight artists and volunteers, led up like a nice big fuck you to the Washington monument. The mayor renamed this part of 16th Street NW as Black Lives Matter Plaza, possibly as another form of performative and toothless advocacy. It’s bright and bold. I still like it.
People decried the mural. It was repeatedly vandalized. Religious organizations tried to sue that the renaming of the plaza was a violation of church and state; they argued it a sign of a “cult of secular humanism”. But the mural kept coming back. It’s here to stay.
There are plenty other #BLM murals in the world. I also liked the one right outside Trump Tower in New York.
July: Footnotes – Women in STEM
Anna Morandi Manzolini was an 18th century wax sculptor and anatomist. She wrote in her notes, “this was discovered by me in my observations and I have found it always to be constant.” Hardly anyone knows about her, though. I imagine she’d make it to the footnotes of anatomy books at best.
This inspired a casual infographic series on people, scientists, inventors, and pioneers overlooked in the annals of scientific and medical history. It started around June at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests. There are so many ways we as a society have exploited others in the name of discovery.
The need to make the series broke through the almost pervasive creative listlessness of my life.
In this day and age, infographics are essential to education and communication. I’m working slowly to be good at this kind of design.
August: Ayuda from the Art
Ayuda from the Art, literally aid from the art, is a Facebook group of artists and art enthusiasts who are buying and selling art for the benefit of communities in need. According to the group description, “at least 50% of the proceeds raised during this event will be donated by the artists to our beneficiaries”.
Specifically, the auction proceeds are given to students who need financial aid to meet the rising needs of online schooling. Most in the Philippines don’t have the luxury of owning even a smartphone.
One of my uncles (my father’s old friend) manages the group. Personally, my mother and I have never won a bid. I’ve certainly never auctioned up an art piece. But it’s a community of 2000-strong people. It feels good to be part of such a positive and collaborative online space.
Join Ayuda from the Art
September: Salinsina PH
I started Salinsina PH as a way to productively procrastinate. In times when I didn’t want to study –or watch Netflix or read a novel or talk to people– I’d pick a topic and go wild on Photoshop and Canva. I feel passionate about health communication as a way to promote wellness and disease prevention.
My sister helped me choose the name. Salin stands for translate, and the sina comes from the word ‘medisina’ or medicine. Through this regular exercise, I hope to be more confident about simplifying medicine for my patients. I also want to make accurate medicine more accessible to people online. I always feel a bit glad when people I don’t know message for health advice through the page.
The first few posts I made were on cerebral palsy and goiter. Two weeks later, I posted this in time for World Rabies Day. If my metrics are to be believed, this post has reached more than 12,000 people (many more times the actual number of followers the page has)!
I think it’s the effect of having a cute dog on the cover.
October: Nadine Lustre’s Wildest Dreams
My Spotify really only knows (1) the original soundtracks of anime series, (2) my alt beats playlist, (3) trap music for studying, (4) dark academia for vibing, and (5) kpop.
Occasionally, my music branches out into original Filipino music (OPM). My sister’s a big fan of Ben&Ben, the soundtrack of the 2020 show Gaya sa Pelikula (Like in the Movies), and basically all the wittier singer-songwriters of the yearly competition Himig Handog.
This year I discovered Nadine Lustre’s talent through her visual album Wildest Dreams. It was released October 31. I’m now a fan. I’ve replayed the album a million times.
November: Creative presentations
In the corner of my room sits a half-finished canvas. My brushes and acrylic paints have been sitting there for months. I started painting this fanart of Haikyuu, one of my favorite anime shows of all time, a few months ago.
I haven’t picked up a non-make-up brush in three months. I don’t know why.
Instead I make my art that’s easy and effective. Mostly that just means creating really “aesthetic” title cards for case discussions and academic reports.
I think I even animated a video for diabetic retinopathy at some point in November. The things we distract ourselves with.
December: Manila Art Fair 2020
It’s 2017. We were second year medical school students about to nod off to a droning pathology lecture. To save my soul, my consciousness and my grades, I open one of my favorite recently-discovered apps Google Arts & Culture.
This amazing app gives you access to artworks and feature articles from 2,000 collections across 80 countries. I visit it when I feel thirsty for beautiful things. It’s like the technology of digital walkthroughs for Google Maps was transformed to walkthroughs of the leading art museums across the globe. And you could zoom in all the way to see every brush stroke for many of the paintings. It was the future.
And it’s here. In Manila. Or, as these things go, in the borderless reach of the Internet.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and a nationwide quarantine is a strong driver of said necessity. While some people still went to ManilArt 2020 to see the pieces in person (and probably to buy them), more humble persons viewed the 360 degree walkthroughs of each collection. For free. That’s me. I love the digitization and democratization of art.
I sincerely hope they keep this walkthrough up for the future. Probably not. I also wish this is something major art events (and at the very least our national museums) would offer in the years to come.
My art in 2021.
We keep using the word unprecedented to describe 2020. A time of unprecedented politics, travel bans, store closures, mass stupidity, super typhoons, deaths, state-sponsored brutality. What a time of unprecedented art. But then again, art is always unprecedented. Neither the viewer nor the piece remains ever unchanged.
Here’s to more unprecedented art in 2021. It’s up to us to make things beautiful. For example:
- Expect a hundred more Lazy Kitchen episodes from me. Getting to plate fresh food you made yourself and getting to eat it = art.
- I recently shared my love of Haikyuu with my sister. She’s been so patient. We just finished the first half of season 4 yesterday. I’m angling to finish the second half before actual internship resumes.
- My pressed flowers collection, Permanence, hasn’t grown since 2019. A horror. I’ll be adding more to it in the next few days, probably with the herbs we’re now tending (I can neither confirm nor deny a brown thumb). I might walk around and steal from neighboring gardens soon. I’ll figure it out.
I guess that’s it. Just like that.
It’s day 4 of 365 again.