After ‘After the Workshop’

The quixotic act of questioning the workshop—or making it quixotic, for in reality, I dreamt that it was not only necessary and expected but also tedious.

In cities of the past where a pedantic group of friends converged, we conceived a project that responds to workshop seasons—roughly about this time also. “After the Workshop, one of us tentatively called it. We were supposed, I guess, to collate works which from our own assessment will never pass a workshop application. My memory tells me that we were not really able to talk about that concept face-to-face and with bottles of mountain airs and beers; we mostly talked about it online. Or they did talk about it and I was not there.

Continue reading “After ‘After the Workshop’”


Thinking Now, of Now and Ahead, with some help from Trainspotting’s Renton


If we look at it closely, we can appreciate Renton’s jutting butt much better. For the mesmerizing irony is his butt is a whiff away from the subs, the subs which the butt’s projection (and the subsequent scenes) betray. Aside from this, Renton’s uneasy figure is overpowered by the colourful, clean and very organized background; hence, his littleness is in place precisely because he is out-of-place (almost an inconsequential presence) in the entire scene.

Which can be said as well to the last urinal in Do You Not Think so Far Ahead? The rest of the urinals in the work are mere backgrounders to each section’s title; even some of them are blurred. But the last urinal is presented in so meticulous details: with parts labelled, an inset and a see-through. What is a “wax ring,” a “ballcock”; how about “flange bolts”? The last urinal shows those. Before this, the urinals shown are dead daily company. In the last one, it is presented as an intricate machine, with all its mechanical workings implied.

I’m no longer alive, said all previous urinals. Not true. Renton went as fast as he could, looking for any decent toilet; while fantasizing too.


Kristeva distinguished the symbolic from the semiotic mode of signification: the former is an “expression of orderly meaning” and the latter is a “discharge of subject’s energy, emotion, drives.” Renton had fantasies not only of order but of pristineness, not only a toilet seat but


Eventually, what he had was an artless, if not perfunctory, discharge. He too anticipated it, he was aware of the circumstances, he was aware of the pathos of fantasies, his very own fantasies


To posit, obliquely, that art is or can be autonomous is to flirt with fantasies. And most likely it is the pathetic kind of fantasy (I fancy it precisely because it not here, it is not real, I cannot make it real). But it can be read in more empowering terms: rather than art striving to be “autonomous”; art recognizing itself as “situated,” as located and invested and as “Do You Not Think so Far Ahead” put it, “such formulation certainly brings in the sociality and the materiality of a given work.”

I recall Zizek and his notes on “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” and Desire: the very unfulfilment of Desire fuels Desire – fulfils it, why not?! In more solid terms that can defeat those defeatist undertones, we can say of art and autonomy that art, now explicit about its location, its situatedness, “bursts forth” “towards it,” towards autonomy, or more aptly, towards the abandonment of this very pursuit.

The notion of an autonomous art has long gone filthy; it is time to flush it.


In many ways, we have these confounding contradictions: always have them, so the great differences will lie on how to confront them. “What if the very properties which were supposed to repel market forces are the same properties which pull it towards the market?”

What could be these properties of art? What are the forces of the market – the art institutions, the purchasers of art, the art auctions? But not all art institutions are the same; so are the purchasers and auctioneers of art. Here, not only raising questions are equally, if not more significant than raising a point; making explicit and interrogating, again, the very location, where one is making her point, where one is coming from is significant too.


In the movie, it makes sense. What was just announced as the “worst toilet in Scotland’ revealed itself promptly as indeed, worthy of such title (an interpolation ‘outside’ of the film, for, if you let me spell it out, what Renton saw was just the “toilet,” not “the worst toilet in Scotland – now I feel like a loser for spelling it out).

Yet outside the movie again (literally “outside” for this was presumably hardly known until this  came out) there was a betrayal – a perfectly harmless and logical one for movies are all about representing reality using its techniques – props and effects included.

But not all makes sense neatly in this sequence in Trainspotting. Okay, it is the worst toilet in Scotland; but if that is so, then why this look on Renton’s face:


Further, why this?


And finally, this:


Can we go back to Kristeva? Or, is this a going back to Kristeva? The motherly womb, the place of plenitude, oceanic fullness, psychoanalytic pleases?

Easy, we are forgetting that Renton was on heroin


And as he said much earlier in the film and much famously: Who needs reasons, when you’ve got heroin? Who needs Kristeva and Zizek when you’ve got heroin? The heroine is not the Mother, but – sorry – heroin.

The contradiction is resolved in the film, in a way. Renton’s retreat into fantasy is an upshot of his drugs. But drugs are not explicitly the gimmick involved in “Do You Not Think so Far Ahead.”

So when it said that “we will never run out of gimmicks,” we can ask if the inexhaustibility being implied here is the liberal one – the surplus of ideas, the surplus of gimmicks, often without asking, for what purpose?. In “On Choosing,” a suggested answer: for every gimmick, a certain amount to be paid. Will it be a payment for resistance, a payment for individual glorification, a payment for lazy indoctrination, a payment to have, finally, a will? We choose.

(What did Renton choose? Interestingly, he chose something seemingly Zizekian):


What did “Do You Not Think So Far Ahead” choose? In “On Access,” it chose to speak of “carollers from the gaps of the gate, tugging at each other, hesitant to sing their song” while it also speaks of people who “exude confidence and the importance of their words.” In a single page, it chose to speak of hesitance and confidence, exuding importance and tugging at each other and the access of art becomes an axis of the social divide.

And this divide is present not only in SOCIETY AT LARGE, but in one’s self, the tininess of one’s selves: the conflict, the “chasm” “between a person’s radical ‘principles’ and her/his decadent lifestyle.”

This paves the way for “On Choosing” and “On This Right Now,” with the latter I am opting to read not as a simplistic insistence on the now, the moment (ATM! ATM!). “On This Right Now” gets back to questioning, looking at the very ground where one is standing, where one does the thinking and the looking – whether it be looking away, looking and thinking against, looking and thinking ahead.

Which brings me to this conclusion: I should not think so far ahead, I should not forget to think of the here and now where I am doing this thinking ahead.

Unang banggit sa “Last Page of a Google Search” ng Pedantic Pedestrians

Noong ikawalo ng Mayo 2014, inilabas ng Pedantic Pedestrians (pangunahin, kung hindi man, essentially ni L) ang “Last Page of a Google Search,” ang pinakahuling proyekto ng grupo.

Pinag-usapan agad ito ng mga miyembro kinabukasan, sa table ng isang restaurant na matatagpuan sa pinakamatandang hotel sa Baguio. Ngunit bago pa pala ito pag-usapan nang harap-harapan, na-like at nai-share na ito ng bawat isang miyembro. May pahiwatig na ukol sa gawi ng mga taong ito at sa uri ng mundo nila.

Nabanggit in passing ni J ang pagkakahawig ng proyektong “Last Page of a Google Search” sa ideya ng Unoriginal Genius na mukha namang ang kay Marjorie Perloff ang pinanggagalingan. Nasa isip ba ito ni L nung “kinu-curate” (o kaysarap maging meta) itong proyekto niya? Kung anuman, pwedeng i-push na shine-share ng “Last Page of a Google Search” ang ilang masasabing mapag-balikwas na ideya sa likod ng Unoriginal Genius ni Perloff.


Sa sinulat ni Vaclav Paris tungkol sa akdang ito ni Perloff, si-nite niya ang citation ni Charles Bernstein na axiom daw ni Walter Benjamin (para na ring performance iyon ng citation!): “To write history is to cite history.” Kung susundin natin ito, masasabing ang pag-sa-“cite” ng “Last Page of a Google Search” sa mga literal na last pages ng iba’t-ibang Google Searches ay isang proyekto ng pagsusulat ng, o pakikisangkot sa kasaysayan. Pero dahil malamang given na ito dahil anong gawi ba ng sino ang labas sa kasaysayan, mas mahalaga ay ang pagtingin na hindi lamang basta nag-sa-cite ang “Last Page of a Google Search.” Ito rin ay proseso ng pagku-curate; ito ay isa ring proseso ng pagpoporma. Kung ganito nga, ano ang tinitingalang ideya ng pagpopormang ito — kung ang sa authors ay “dramatic” o “literary” expression at sa Google naman ay “relevance” tulad ng binanggit sa 166-word na ‘introduksyon’ ng proyekto – ano ang sa “Last Page of a Google Search”? Itatanong ko ito kay L ‘pag nagkita kami. O dahil may cyberspace rin naman siyang katauhan, siguro pwedeng sagutin niya na rin dito.


Bakit “last pages” ng Google searches ang pinili ni L para sa proyektong ito? Pwedeng pagtindig ito laban sa criteria ng ‘relevance’ ng Google. Ano ba ang batayan ng ‘relevant’ para sa Google? Ano ang batayan ng kung ano ang mga unang lalabas ‘pag nag-search ka ng something sa Google? Iyong ano yata, ‘yung occurrence ng mga salitang si-nearch mo sa libo-libong (milyon-milyong?) website sa internet. Kaya nga merong SEO. Tadtarin mo yung articles mo ng maraming ganito o ganyang salita para ‘pag nag-search ang netizens ng ganito o ganyang salita, lalabas agad iyong site kung saan ipo-post yung article. At ano ang nirerepresenta ng mga matatagpuan sa ‘last pages’ ng isang Google Search? The most worthless scum among the vast information in the World Wide Web as searched by Google? Ganito lang ba ito kasimple? Imbes na i-feature natin ang nanalong Miss Universe, ang i-feature natin ay iyong hindi man lang pumasok sa Top… 30? Basta yung tipong unang elimination tanggal agad. Ano pa ang maaaring pagtingin dito?






Sabi ni K, parang tamad yung proyekto pero at the same time laborious, or something like that, hindi naman ito verbatim. Gaano ito ka-tenable? Nasaan ang ‘labor’ sa “Last Page of a Google Search”? Ika nga sa 166-word na intro nito, “It is fortunate that Google is less pretentious in its curatory criteria that we can “SIMPLY” copy and paste into a reliable word processing program and call it art.” Simple lang pala ang proseso eh. Nasaan ang labor? Hindi maiwasang maalala si Sol Lewitt at ang luma pero parang bago pa rin niyang Paragraphs on Conceptual Art. Primary ang ideya kesa execution at ika nga ni Lewitt, (Conceptual art) “is usually free from the dependence on the skill of the artist as a craftsman.” Pwede kaya nitong suportahan ang ‘katamaran’ at the same time ‘labor’ ng “Last Page of a Google Search”? Laborious ang pag-iisip at paghuhulma ng konsepto at matapos ay pag-iisip ng porma para ipakita ito habang parang effortless na lang mismo ang execution? In that sense, medyo radikal sapagkat taliwas sa traditional na privileging ng ‘finished’ artistic product o object, na hindi necessarily coupled with ‘lazy’ conceptualization.

Nadako na rin kay Lewitt,ituloy-tuloy na. Tinawag ba talaga ng proyekto ang sarili nito bilang ‘art’? Mahihinuha ito sa parte ng intro na nabanggit na sa itaas. Panghuli sa 35 “sentences” ni Lewitt “on conceptual art” ay ito: “These sentences comment on art, but are not art.” Pretentious lang ba o quasi-subversive si Lewitt kaya niya sinabi ito o sarcastic at mapang-uyam lang din si L kaya niya naman tinawag na art ang proyektong kaniyang binigyang-porma? Kelangan pa ba itong klaruhin? At least, wala sa kanila ang nag-claim na ‘anti-art’ – ang pinaka-walang kwentang attempt maging radikal sa mga usaping art-art.


Panghuli, ilang araw matapos ilabas ni L ang “Last Page of a Google Search,” nakita ko ang link na “Displacement is the New Translation” ni… ehem! Kenneth Goldsmith na shi-nare ni J (Hindi pa sa akin malinaw ang pagkaka-ugnay ni Goldsmith kay Lewitt sa tradisyon ng conceptual writing, o art in general). May ilang pahayag si Goldsmith na uncannily nagpaalala sa akin ng “Last Page of a Google Search.” Sabi ni Goldsmith (mahaba-haba ito): “Globalization engenders displacement. People are displaced, objects are displaced, language is displaced. In a global circulatory system, components are interchangeable; there is no time — and certainly not enough energy — for understanding. Instead, there is begrudging acceptance and a blinkered lack of understanding, ultimately yielding to resignation.” Maaari bang isiping modelo ng displacement ang sinusunod ng “Last Page of a Google Search?” Kaiba sa ideya ng translation na ipipilit hanapan ng equivalent ang bawat salita sa isa at iba pang lenggwahe, ang displacement ay mas mapaglaro at mas malikot, at siguro, mas mapagpayaman. Siguro parang postmodern; siguro parang post-structural. Ngunit paano kung ang presyo nito ay ang paglupaypay ng understanding tulad ng sabi ni Goldsmith? Paano hindi mauulit ang mga naging sanhi ng ‘failure’ ng mga traditional na avant-garde, mula kay Rimbaud hanggang kanila Andre Breton? O hindi ba concern kung mag-fail man tulad ng Dada at nila Marinetti?

Kuha naman ang produktibong pag-kocontrast ng ‘displacement’ sa ‘translation’ lalo na kung ikukunekta ang ‘fixity’ na wet dream ng translation sa continued entrenchment at perpetuation ng prevalent na social order (ito na!) at ang ‘displacement’ bilang bahagi ng critique sa translation at mga ideyal nito. Ngunit anong dini-displace ng “Last Page of a Google Search” at kung meron man, what does it put in place of the one it displaced?

Malamang hindi ang “prevalent social order” ang tinatangkang i-displace ng “Last Page of a Google Search.” Malamang. Para lamang sa meatspace ang mas authentic at makabuluhang pag-displace sa social order na ‘yan. Sakto lang kung ganun, sapagkat may katapatan naman yata ang “Last Page of a Google Search” pagdating sa nais nitong (o hindi nito binalak) gawin: I-displace ang ‘information’ na nasasagap natin sa Google, i-displace ang mga ‘aral’ ng mga naunang avant-garde;” i-displace ang ‘art.’

Ang hirap mag-isip ng mas mabigat na ending statement.


What transcendence could mean and what Mayakovsky might have wished for

Because we are all bombed with the need to compromise, it becomes even more urgent, more awe-inspiring to push for transcendence until the last air from our mouths gets pushed out.

It could be Mayakovsly’s misfortune, that he lived in perhaps one of the more turbulent times and spaces of all time – early 20th century Russia confused after the seeds of a once unguessable idealization finally landed on the soil of their resolute country. Art, and the artist had to confront another condition – an ironic one, because in as much as it was so novel, it was also so much dreamt about it might have worn out — and Mayakovsky apparently was not persistent enough, or optimistic enough to keep on producing art as a weapon, a shield of the producing self against a material setting perfectly in turmoil, a setting asking for only some decades to have a semblance of stability.

The face is always half-shown. sabi ni Zizek
The face is always half-shown. sabi ni Zizek

To wish to be resurrected for another time – a time when all the failures of his present will have been vanquished by the actualization of what he could only envisioned – is not poetic or cute of Mayakovsky, it’s plainly timorous and pathetic.

He wrote:

“Resurrect —

I want to live out my life!

So that love won’t be a lackey there

of livelihood,



or worse.

Decrying bed,

Forsaking the fireside chair,

So that love shall flood the universe. (Russell 1985, 202)”

He had to pin his hopes on a future that will fulfill his once visions-on-fire, visions crashed by what he had seen in the Russia of his time. Again: the conflicted self, much more an artist, much much more, a bourgeois artist (if you don’t find that a bit redundant or inept), dwindling in the face of her society also in conflict with itself. Mayakovsky was not able to make the necessary, perhaps the appropriate compromises. And he was not able to transcend either. A fine illustration perhaps of the much common debacle in living, even an avant-garde died in the same suffering.

Oh, what a glorious thing to say, and much more to do, definitely: to transcend. Perhaps that is precisely why this art group, Pedantic Pedestrians, does not want to imply that it seeks to transcend art and its current configurations policed by several institutions and apparatuses; or precisely why I still look up, again, to those who recognize that transcendence (social, economic, political, artistic, romantic) is futile in this late capitalist frame, and hence, would do something concrete to alter such frame and abolish the need for transcendence; and lastly, that I suddenly remembered this song by Dreamtheater, who affirmed that the “soul will transcend.”

In itself, to transcend is to make an unavoidable, impurifying move in order to arrive at some purity. To compromise only appears to be the most necessary. But: it only appears. There could be transcendence, there could be non-compromises. Try to look at the successors of the people of Russia which depressed Mayakovsky.


Not in the center of your eye, or mine, or the center of this ruinsome blog post, or the glamour of the television or your tablet.

We cannot talk about where to look, only where to NOT look. Look not in Harvard jeans, or in Godard films, or the sushi or kimchi on the table; not on a male porn star’s torso, not on shopping malls, not on the roads from the rural to the metro.


Apparently, to compromise is a necessary prelude to transcendence.

We have a whole life to lose — and perhaps, perhaps, all wagers begin with this, and all events in life somehow begin with wagers – a whole new life to gain — maybe the life Mayakovsky wanted to gain, but did not.

Pedantic Pedestrians: On (re)producing Poetry

As part of a series of projects my friends and I hope to begin for our art group, I started this “Poetry Re-production” which has long been conceptualized by the group. Here is the concept behind the project:

Poetry Reproduction Concept

This project shall answer a “what” and a “how.” In other words, it seeks to supply answers on questions of both “theory” and “practice.” The idea of poetry has been owned and manipulated by established institutions which undoubtedly advocate a particular way of looking at things. We assert that the dominating ideas of poetry today and the venues wherein these ideas are manufactured and circulated, corroborate in poetry’s elitism – its insulation from the material setting where it is supposedly born and from the people in this setting to whom it is supposedly obligated for their consumption and meaning-making of the given poetic works. This idea of poetry thus also limits its practice, mostly confining it to the privileged few who have studied and “learned” to appreciate and compose poetry.

This project of “translating” poetry is concerned on how ordinary people come into terms with poetry. First: what is poetry to them and second: how do they “create” their very conception of poetry. They will be asked to make several lines of “poetry” out of a short verse shown to them. When an initial result has been culled, these made poetries will then be passed on to other people who will be asked to do the same. Hence: a continual reproduction of poetries done through the varied re-presentations and reinterpretations of people on a verse presented to them. All of the products will be exhibited to betoken the kind of poetries that are thought of and more vitally, created by the everyday people who at the first place should be the ones creating and reading these poems.

Meanwhile, these are the photos of the poem I used and the first two poems made out of it by random people I approached among the public during my first time to actualize this project:

"May Mga Paslit" ni Rio Alma

"May Mga Paslit" ni Rio Alma
“May Mga Paslit” ni Rio Alma
First poem created after reading May Mga Paslit
First poem created after reading May Mga Paslit
Second poem, made by a college student, out of May Mga Paslit
Second poem, made by a college student, out of May Mga Paslit

Begging on the streets and the common irony between rich and poor

What if one day, people in long sleeves and slacks put themselves in the streets begging not for mere coins but for a sheaf of bills among the passersby? Last Monday, that What If just happened.

The package was quite simple: A bunch of kids will dress up as “rich people,” or at least, people who do not resemble beggars. They would beg for a minimum of P5000 from ordinary people on the streets to cover the expenses for the condominium they purport to construct. There would be poetry, too, for I forgot to mention, this venture is launched by people who believe in the power of poetry to reconstruct our everyday experiences – from the more minute like taking a bath or looking at 6pm rush hours to the more immense like the crappiness of bureaucracy and the calling for social change.

Every day, the rich are making money out of the poor. With their massive control of the big businesses, the media, the vast areas of land and most government positions, they make the best out of the poor’s economic contributions in a social make-up that benefits only them in major ways. A simple drop-by and buying at a gargantuan mall which splays itself almost in the entire archipelago (Would we be surprised at the rise of an SM Palawan?) means even the littlest contribution to the profits raised by such business. Over at the National Government, most people execute tasks that protect their interests at the expense of the poor. This is manifested in the laws written and approved, the Presidential orders made and so on. Of course, there are the big landlords exploiting the labor of small farmers who till the land but get scarce share in the production.

The people need to reconstitute these facts and their everyday realities as existing, actually dominant coordinates that largely shape their living. The streets are a suitable venue to forge such push for reconstitution since it is the heart of public life. Here, people of all kinds stroll every day, to and from work, or school, or just in their enforced loitering. Here are located the groceries, the churches, the medical centers, the clothing shops – most of what people need, from the literal food to food of the soul, and most of what is told for them to want.

Most certainly, such reconstitution cannot be spurred by mere verbiage. One can actually argue that verbal communications are always reliable to some extent. But the case for this one, entails otherwise. One can appear sermonizing about the ills of capitalism and how they seep down through our behaviors and cultural choices. Yet this is likely to be ineffective. People are already fatigued of these types of communicating to them. If worse, they no longer pay attention. “Political” verbals teem with words that mostly sound appear ragged and alien to their target audience. They usually lack the novelty, the color and the vivacity that precisely abound in popular culture fads. The point here is to render the same content of political messages in more diverse, more jolting manners that are likely to engage the target audience more. This is what Pedantic Pedestrians tried to achieve with its first venture in Street Poetry last Monday.

We believe that the crispness of the message of political engagement and critical thinking should still ring in the people’s ears especially now that more stomachs are unfed and more rights are violated. But the people need new forms of engagement. The mainstream culture is already infested with a pacifying, delusive happiness that new, if not shocking forms must be explored in order to reach them again.

Other links to our “street poetry:”

Pedantic Pedestrians at the onset of “begging”: Donning clothes not resembling those of beggars, we went to the streets for a symbolic message.
Always, there is a potential to be misinterpreted. But some shades of attention proved a good headstart.
A woman passed by and expressed her support. She even advised us to rephrase our “written poster” in order to make its message clearer to our target audience.

On the failure of –*


*This poem is part of the second issue of the Pedantic Pedestrians, a beginning group of young writers from Baguio City, Philippines striving to bring out poetry and literature in general from the academy, bars and cafes and into the streets and the wider public.

Let me begin by saying:

I am not yet tired of metaphors.

Sometimes, you are the voice of

Norah Jones – creeping under my

tragedies at night.

Sometimes, you are the folds in

the bedsheet, the thing I arrange

most, I touch last before I


Sometimes you are the wholesome

burning at the tip of a cigarette,

flickering and fading, fading and

dying, like the moon at dawn,

yet still listening to my belated songs

of sadness.

And you are an alarm clock ringing

sometimes, pulling me off the bed,

the vague meaningfulness of sleep,

the anxious escape from the ants on the floor

and the realizations of all literature,


I wake everyday because you are.


Once, we walked together amidst the

wetness of streets, under the fated

occurrence of treacherous nights.

Your pauses were ends of sentences,

Mayan predictions, apocalyptic ghosts.

Which I accompany with my own

fakely innocent breaths. There was

air around us. It

was the

only place where

we meet.

Sometimes, I dare to feel the spaces

Between your fingers, and guess the

Shampoo you used in the morning.

Sometimes it felt like you were beside me,

in 10pm nights where gaps are

forever to be understood.

I tried to make up metaphors

For the stillness, the nebulous nearness,

but as all science and religions have seen,

there was only, nebula; always:


Always: space.


So I turn to metaphors.

So I always fail

So I always fail