The VIVA Story

VIVA EXCON III held in Dumaguete City in December 7-9, 1994 attracted 63 participants. By intention it was made exclusive to Visayan artists because it was meant to assess the experiences of the first and second VIVA. Though it was at the start, the most poorly coordinated of the three VIVA’s, and would not have come to fruition without the help of Toto Tarrosa, Danny Sollesta and Kitty Taniguchi, it was, in the opinion of artists like Lilibeth La’O, the most meaningful and the most crucial because it decided among others, whether VIVA EXCON should be continued. Ironically, despite its poor organization and its limited finances, it succeeded in consolidating the artists. The litmus test of the lengths the artists would go to sustain the effort was shown in their willingness to personally pitch in money for their lodging for those who could afford in, aptly enough, a retreat house in keeping with VIVA EXCON’s austere means. Where previously talks were given by resource persons from outside, the session under the moderatorship of Brenda Fajardo consisted mostly of workshops where the participants looked into themselves visioning the direction of VIVA and identifying their needs as provincial artists. These needs ranged from professional upgrading to marketing strategies indicating what the next VIVA was supposed to address.

To facilitate organizing the next VIVA, it was decided that a coordinating council be formed with area coordinators from the different islands. Thus chosen from Cebu were Estela Ocampo-Fernandez and Jose Yap, for Tacloban, Raul Agner and Dulce Anacion, PG Zoluaga for Iloilo, Charlie Co and Lourdes Villanuevas for Bacolod, Yvette Malahay for Dumaguete, Mansueto Fabugais for Squijor, while overall coordinator was Edward Defensor. Learning from their Dumaguete experience, it was likewise decided that for VIVA EXCON IV which Iloilo agreed to host, artists should not submit an unlimited number of entries of any dimensions rather the organizers set an exhibit guideline of a maximum of two works per artists with a standard dimension of not bigger than 3 feet by 3 feet. This was intended to solve the problem of facilitating the return of exhibit materials after the event.

In April 10-12, 1996, VIVA EXCON IV sponsored for the first time by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) took place at the University of the Philippines in the Visayas in Iloilo City, Coordinated by Edward Defensor and Iloilo artists, it was attended by some 80 artists from the provinces of Negros Occidental and Oriental, Iloilo, Samar, Siquijor, Cebu, Aklan, Antique, Leyte and Guimaras. It also attracted observers from Davao, Baguio and even Australia. The roster of speakers was composed mostly of members of the NCCA Committee on Visual Arts: Paul Zafaralla, Nestor Vinluan, Imelda Cajipe-Endaya and Virgilio Aviado. Bobi Valenzuela and Jeannie Javelosa also shared their thoughts. Valenzuela curated the exhibit which was dominated by Iloilo artists who had the advantage of proximity on their side. Conference topics addressed the needs the artists articulated during VIVA EXCON III.

Thus, Zafaralla who discussed “Aesthetics and Art Criticism” underscored the need to address art criticism not only to the artist but also his audience. Consequently, he deemed it imperative that the art critic contextualize the work he is criticizing by using a native paradigm. To this end Zafaralla advised the incorporation of art history in criticism since an artwork does not exist in a vacuum. For instance in criticizing Mona Lisa, Zafaralla stressed an art critic must ask the question why the subject occupies almost the whole canvas because the answer lies in the Renaissance age in which the Da Vinci lived.