Get to know this visual artist who is also the founder and artistic director of 98B COLLABoratory.
HK: How did you get into arts and crafts?
MS: I grew up in a small town of Lucban, Quezon, which is famous for the Pahiyas Festival. It was my first encounter with local arts and crafts made by people who are not actually artists—they are farmers, food vendors, weavers, housewives, etc. The festival is a very organic and colorful way of celebrating a good harvest, and the way to do it is to decorate the houses with produce from the farm and locally made crafts like hats, fans, and bags. Everyone looks forward to the festival every year—it gathers the whole community. From this exposure, I developed the passion and skills to create works from everyday objects and experiences.
HK: Who inspired you into pursuing art?
MS: My parents supported me all the way. They are the ones who encouraged me to continue doing what I like. When I was small, making drawings made me feel good and it’s the same feeling I get when I create something up to now. I had an art teacher in grade school that saw my capabilities and encouraged me to develop them by joining small art contests. I also remember my grandparents collecting my drawings that I gave them during their birthdays and anniversaries. The immediate people in my surroundings are really the inspiration why I am into the arts in the first place.
HK: You’re a very prolific artist and you dabble in many art forms. What’s your favorite medium?
MS: I work with any given materials I encounter. Most of my works are the remnants of an experience—it can be personal, historical, political, cultural, etc. The medium will be the visual voice on how you want to convey your ideas, so it really depends on the subject I am dealing with. Since I don’t have a specific studio to work on, the best medium for me is photography and video. You can carry your camera or phone anywhere, anytime.
HK: Among all the artwork you’ve created, do you have a favorite?
MS: Every work I made was developed differently because I also experience life differently. Every day has an outcome of my existence that I want to share with the world. I have successful and failed projects but I see this as part of my process. Picking which is my favorite work is hard because I consider all of my works special and it is a representation that I am alive. All of my works can be summarized as a one big project I called “Salvage Projects” which I started in 2004. Salvatus is a Latin word that means “saved.”
HK: Describe your art in three words. What kind of feelings do you want to evoke when people see them?
MS: Communicate and miscommunicate. I make art to create or build my being and to see the relationships that it can extend to different viewers. I make art not to understand things but also to misunderstand as my process of thinking and feeling. Whether it’s an installation, object, or video, the output is the indication that I want to make various levels of relationships to the world.
HK: Who, what, or where do you draw inspiration for your art?
MS: Life itself and the mystery of the “every day.” As an artist, I always practice to be aware of my surroundings at any given moment, such as while riding a jeepney, talking to someone, putting my son to sleep, browsing the Internet, eating with family. These simple activities are signals to see something different. You just need to be ready to grab it as your material, inspiration, or ideas for your projects. I am also very interested in the simplicity of haiku, especially the works of Matsuo Basho and poems of Goethe.
HK: You’re one of the founding members of Pilipinas Street Plan. How do you choose where to create your art? Do you enjoy collaborating with other artists?
MS: It was 10 years ago in 2006, the time when I was trying different kinds of processes and methods for my practice. For me, the street is there to be explored—an open arena to play with. Right now, I am not active in street art anymore, but I create works that have a wider context on the urban landscape that talks about threat, security, borders, movement, aspirations, and the divide between public and private.
As for collaboration, PSP builds a community that is very loose and organic, the same with my other collective 98B COLLABoratory that believes in the idea of co-existence to develop different projects and work not only with other artists but the general public as well.
HK: How did Hub Manila come about? And why Escolta?
MS: Hub is a project that started from 98B’s SaturdayXFuture Market at Escolta. 98B was initiated in my apartment in Cubao in 2012, and we held several garage sales we called “Future Market.” We invited artist and designer friends to sell their merchandise and secondhand stuff to create a casual gathering and to showcase their hand-made products. When we moved to Escolta, that’s where we started the monthly market in 2013. The site of the market used to be the old Bergs Department Store—a perfect venue to create a dialogue with the architecture, history, and the young and energetic vibe of the market. Hub is an outcome of the collaborative attempt of the First United Building, 98B COLLABoratory, and the 1/zero Design Collective.
HK: What are the challenges of creating a space like this?
MS: Hub just opened this year and we have a lot of things to learn. Right now, we have a main person who is in charge of Hub who is also part of 98B that oversees all the developments and challenges of the space and its programs. Since it has a very different system with the SaturdayXFuture Market, all of the makers of the individual shop spaces become part of the community on creating and planning different programs to be able to contribute to the improvement of Hub.
HK: What’s next for you?
MS: Currently, I am preparing for a solo show in Manila this November. I am also in the middle of archiving all my works from 2006-2016 to be printed in a self-published book. I see it as an important stage of my life to see the development of my practice after 10 years. I will also be in Manila for a year to develop new projects and continue the work at 98B.
HK: Since you’re currently in Japan, should we expect Japanese-inspired art for your next exhibit?
MS: I just finished doing research last June in Kyoto and Osaka about Japanese and Philippine relations before World War II. I would love to develop it into a project exhibition maybe next year.
HK: What are your hopes and dreams for the Philippines in relation to the art scene?
MS: I hope to see more artist-initiated projects outside Manila. The center of art activities and opportunities are all in Manila, and I hope to build more connections in the different regions to build various voices from the peripheries.
HK: What advice can you give other artists?
MS: What I can share to younger artists is just to continue what you have started. You are given a map, and from that map, you have to decide if you want to follow the directions or not. It’s a guide for you, but the best way to be able to go to a destination is to be lost and take different streets, alleys, and ways to be able to see different signs along the way. There are different “ways.”
Photos courtesy of Mark Salvatus, Maurice Boyer, HUB: Make Lab, and Salvage Projects