Open to visual artists, curators, cultural administrators, art writers, educators and cultural workers, VIVA EXCON was organized among others to address fundamental issues like what should art express, for whom was it and in what context should it be seen, especially in view of growing consciousness about a distinct Visayan vision vis-a-vis the national perspective. VIVA EXCON sought a common agenda in order to plan a concerted action especially in view of the fact that VIVA EXCON I showed commonalities in the artists’ problems. These included the lack of unity among artistic groups, the absence of a clear orientation and direction, the polarization of the artistic community due to diversity of artistic orientation, the lack of artist’s commitment to their work due to financial problems and family responsibilities, the dearth of trained curators and exhibition venues and the high cost of art material and tools.
VIVA EXCON I which attracted some 48 participants focused on rediscovering local tradition. Thus papers were presented on topics like the Iloilo weaving tradition and its current state of the arts, Dumaguete traditional and contemporary crafts, traditional and contemporary art practices in the Cordilleras, and the dynamic political art movement in Bacolod. Resource persons were Guadelia Doromal and Edward Defensor of Iloilo, Rizaldy Jumawan and Nito Teves of Dumaguete, David Baradas and Santiago Bose of Baguio, and Clement del Castillo and Norberto Roldan of Bacolod. Fittingly, Dr. Nicanor Tiongson, CCP artistic director, delivered a talk on the “Perspective of the Emerging Alternative Culture and the Direction of the Development of the Contemporary Art Movement in the Philippines.” Equally apropos was a theatrical presnetation of the cultural history of Negros by the Kabataang Bodabilista under the direction of Rudy Reveche. A special feature of the conference was a talk on the implications of the CCP Thirteen Artists Award for four awardees that year who attended VIVA EXCON I. These were Charlie Co, Roy Veneracionm Pablo Baens Santos and Imelda Cajipe-Endaya.
The circle of artists VIVA EXCON attracted widened with the second one held once again in Bacolod in March 13-15, 1992. Participated in not only by Baguio but Japanese artists like Teresa Kobayashi, Utami Hitomi, Akatsuki Harada and Tsunetaka Komatsu, it was the biggest VIVA EXCON with some 92 artists in attendance. It was sponsored once more by the Black Artists in Asia with the support of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. It had for its exhibition theme “Art and the Indigenous Elements.” Its objective was to “seek commonalities in art-making and evaluate how these factors help characterize contemporary visual arts in the islands.” Consequently the reports centered in “Image and Material Sourcing” from the different regions. Giving the report for Iloilo was Edward Defensor, for Cebu was Raymund Fernandez, while Cecile Nava delivered the paper for Bacolod. The papers revealed that while the provincial artists is generally considered the poor provincial cousin of his Manila counterpart, he has an edge over the latter because, living close to the community, he is in touch with traditional crafts which are produced in the countryside.
The exhibit component showcased a survey of current developments not only in the Visayas but in other Philippine regions because of the participation of the Baguio artists, and claimed rather ambitiously, because of the involvement of Japanese installation artists. It likewise involved the Silay Art Association which hosted the activities on the second day as well as the Bago City government which hosted in the third day. A concrete achievement of VIVA EXCON II was that after the conference, to underscore the work of regional artists, a selection from the exhibition component toured the major cities of Luzon and Mindanao. Furthermore, as a result of the cultural exchange with, and support of the Japanese participants, Bacolod and Baguio artists were invited to an art camp to put up site specific installation works along with some 100 Japanese and foreign artists in Lake Naguri, Japan, in 1993.