Year: 2018
Place: De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, Manila, Philippines
Type: Masterclass & Workshop
Programme leaders: Ephemera Collective – Miljana Zeković and Višnja Žugić + Eric Villanueva dela Cruz
Local participants: Kendall Sison, RJ De Vera, Kyle Confesor, Walther Ocampo, Ellawyn Cruz, KR Fernandez, Carla Dayanghirang, Kyla Ravago, Hannah Galang-Dumlao, Isola Tong, Kat Correa, Eric Dela Cruz, Gaby Donato, Tuxqs Rutaquio, Christian Cusi, Hershey Malinis, Phoebe Lina, Manolet Garcia, Harvey Vasquez and Edward Que

The URBEX (Urban Exploration) experience was specifically created for talented students from the fields of both performing arts and architecture to work interdisciplinary, to learn from each other and to develop a particular spatial expression in addition to that. In an extended workshop format, the participants were introduced to trending methods of spatial design, as are narrative embodiment and delayering, along with the methods’ creative practical application in the real site-based event. By awakening the potentials of the existing space, commonly considered only as ‘an envelope for action’, the participants have learnt how to manage these qualities in an attempt to create an upgraded spatial experience. As a result of a six day – whole day – training, the participants have applied the newly acquired set of skills in seizing the emptiness of a found site in the city. By leaving the safe environment of the University, students got challenged to fully understand the creative capacity of a found location, they embraced it and co-performed with it. Foundations set through a specific method of delayering were emphasized in a thoughtful site-specific dialogue based on spatial memory and layers of space. The outcome of this creative process was a site-specific hybrid presented to a wider audience in The Shalimar Building on January 27 2018 in Manila.

INTERVIEW for The De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde School Paper: February 2018

  1. What is the main objective of the Masterclass? What was taught during the pre-production? 

E.C. The main objective of the six-day Masterclass and the Workshop on URBEX, as we have defined and developed it together with the Theatre Arts Program leaders, was to investigate the potentials of the College of Saint Benilde to explore the boundaries of the interdisciplinary creative practice, as well as to set new standards in mutual understanding and collaborations between both students and the professionals from different fields and with diverse backgrounds. As we have structured the weekly work in three parts, the so-called ‘pre-production part’ aimed at two particular outcomes: understanding the body-space relations in the process of translating the narrative from the simple text to human-space constellations, as well as the establishment of ‘The Group’ – people who would stay, trust and work together till the final event.

Q. Why did you choose to do a site-specific performance art?

E.C. We have chosen to do so basically because that is what we do. As interdisciplinary researchers, we could say that the site-based or site-specific methodology has helped us a lot in our own practice particularly in accepting the fact that when dealing with space, we, as humans, are not alone in that. Engaging in site-specific projects and constantly rethinking and requestioning the site-specific methodology had a huge impact on our both architectural and educational practices and have helped us in embracing the idea of space as a protagonist in all of our creative endeavors. Working with director Eric Dela Cruz this time, inevitably led to a performative outcome, although not always is that the case, nor even necessary. The outcome of this type of creative workshops depends and is directly conditioned by the professional training and skills of both co-creators and participants, so it could not possibly turn out the same from project to project.

Q. What do you think is the takeaway for the students and faculty from the workshop? 

E.C. Interdisciplinarity works in practice! – That is what we would like to believe that all of our participants felt and took from our mutual work on the project. For us that was an eye-opener the first time we had a chance to conduct and participate in a workshop similar to this one. Seeing and experiencing that some theoretically advanced concepts as is interdisciplinarity, actually could when practically applied, stay sustainable, made us open all of our senses and embrace the existing methods and strategies from the other disciplines in order to improve our own practice. We do hope that our participants felt a bit of this during the URBEX-week and that they will courageously open towards the ’unknown’, ‘unsafe’ and ‘conceptually advanced’ in their own practices.

Q. How can this art contribute to social change in the country?

E.C. Social changes in any society are quite a complex phenomenon, but ultimately, they are inevitable. The philosophy behind our projects is to make small, even very small, steps and to help the change to evolve and to strengthen it. We like to think that art is one of the most important things that bound people in the society. Through opening up to inputs of the local community, through active participation, site-based art could contribute to changing of all of our perspectives on who is competent to make art and who is not, who should enjoy and participate in artistic events and above all that who is to be asked about spaces and places that the community uses, loves and doesn’t want to lose them. We hope that the site-based event we have created and offered to the wider audience on January 27th – ‘SHALIMAR SESSIONS’ – has something to tell about that.