Filipino art platform energizes Vancouver

Load Na Dito, Manila, Philippines, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Load na Dito

The Pacific Ocean proves to be a nexus of ideas for Vancouver. Four of metro Vancouver’s art galleries synergize their curatorial efforts to host an event showcasing a Filipino art platform and its founders.

Load na Dito comes to Vancouver May 22 at the Western Front Society. It will be free and open to the public.


Pacific Crossings began as a moment of recognition between curators − Makiko Hara; Allison Collins, of Western Front; Bopha Chhay, of Artspeak; and Shaun Dacey, of Richmond Art Gallery −
who channeled their experiences and connections in the Pacific region to form a unique platform.

“Makiko reached out to us and we saw there were many alignments in our respective curatorial practices that we could work together and formalize, draw connections and galvanize our ideas through the various institutions we work at,” says Chhay.

Chhay, a Cambodian-New Zealander, possesses a personal connection with the trans-Pacific region with her master of arts in art history from the University of Auckland.

Collins, Western Front’s media art curator, says Pacific Crossings is a platform focused on visitors to Vancouver. Since January when the project began there have been three noteworthy visitors: Nozomu Ogawa, the founder of Art Center Ongoing, the alternative art space in Kichijoji, Tokyo; Erin Gleeson, the co-founding director and curator of SA SA BASSAC, a non-profit exhibition space, reading room and resource center in Phnom Penh; and Shen Xin, a young and upcoming artist whose practice engages with film, video installation and performative events.

Load na Dito

The fourth visitor – or visitors – is Filipino couple Mark Salvatus and Mayumi Hirano, who will be showcasing their community-based, co-founded artistic research project.

“Mark is an artist and organizer who also does a lot of community-based work,” says Collins.

One such project, organized by Load na Dito itself, is the quaint Kabit at Sabit, a concept that has no English equivalent. Salvatus’ Instagram post describes it best: “It is inspired by the local and communal tradition of Pahiyas festival in Lucban, Quezon where houses are decked or adorned with food, produce, crafts and anything that reflects the resident’s life like vinyl records, teddy bear collection, books to bikes.”

“Mayumi is a curator and researcher, and does a lot of writing,” says Collins. “She’s interested in artist-run fests across Asia, documenting information over the years on the organizers and what drives them.”

This body of work makes Load na Dito double down as an art project as well.

The phrase Load na Dito, amusing to those who understand it, is a colloquial term for cellphone top-up in the Philippines. Collins says the significance behind this adoption of colloquialisms by the artist duo stems from their interest in demystifying art for the public, making it open and accessible: it is more akin in meaning to ‘potential’ of an art-space.

“It’s like saying, ‘Load it here!’ It’s a great name: funny and common,” Collins says.

The event will consist of a screening of work done with the local community and Load na Dito, serving to open doors between Vancouver’s art scene and the organic creativity brought by Salvatus and Hirano of the Philippine community.

The course ahead

A big part of the Vancouver and Canadian scene, in general, is the notion of building community by free events, places to gather, and opportunities to talk to one another,” says Collins.

Chhay agrees with her, and adds the project is framed to foster a sort of coming together which is unique to this region.

“I feel the most promising thing about Pacific Crossings is that none of it is pre-determined in any way,” she says. “It will grow the way that it wants, and we must give it the space to do that.”

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