Conceptual Slippages: Reading between the Lines of the
Roberto Chabet Archive
Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art in Asia, Volume
3, Number 2, October 2019, pp. 13-44 (Article)
Published by NUS Press Pte Ltd
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Reading between the Lines of the
Roberto Chabet Archive
This paper takes the recently established archive of Philippine conceptual artist
Roberto Chabet (1937–2013) as a starting point for discussing how the histories of
performance art and conceptualism in Southeast Asia have come to be mapped via
archive building. Compiled by artist Ringo Bunoan after Chabet’s passing away,
the archive drew largely on the private collections of his former collaborators,
friends and colleagues who donated the bulk of the materials in the collection.
These include photographs capturing the artist at work, oﬀ-guard and in the
midst of creative experimentation, as well as correspondence, itineraries and
With the ongoing emergence of new materials, the archive continues to grow
and shed light on Chabet’s expansive career as an artist, teacher and curator.
Yet, I would argue that there is an urgent need to look beyond the archive’s
ability to chart the artist’s social relations—an oft-discussed feature of Chabet’s
legacy. Instead, recognising that the archive also exposes the slippages of deﬁnitions
and media inherent in Chabet’s conceptual practice feeds into the larger aim of
discerning the unique features of conceptual and performance-based activities in
the Philippines since the Second World War.
Southeast of Now
Vol. 3 No. 2 (October 2019), pp. 13– 44
© Eva Bentcheva 13
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0
14 Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art in Asia
Ranging from the ﬂippant photographs of Chabet tearing apart Manuel
Duldulao’s book on 1970s Philippine contemporary art in the private performance
Tearing into Pieces (1973), to the detailed compilation of fake documentation for
his ﬁctitious alter ego, Angel Flores, the archive presents a wealth of material chal-
lenging Chabet’s oﬃcial stance that conceptualism was a largely material-based
and ephemeral practice. Rather, I would argue that it exposes a practice rich in
performativity and rooted in a desire to carve out an artistic identity diﬀerent from
that of his Euro-American and Philippine contemporaries. As the consolidation of
similar performance and conceptual art archives of individual artists, organisa-
tions and collectives from Southeast Asia gathers momentum, I contend that it
is important to explore the slippages in practices, concepts and media embedded
between the lines of social relations and group activities.
Initiated by artist Ringo Bunoan as a way to develop an in-depth, single-artist
research project on the life and works of Philippines-born artist Roberto
Rodríguez Chabet (1937–2013), the Robert Chabet Archive was launched in
2009. It has since grown into an oﬃcial archiving project and an expansive
exercise to salvage the personal collection of the artist.1 Between 2007–13,
Bunoan was employed as a researcher by the Asia Art Archive (AAA) and led
a team who gathered and digitised materials, as well as initiated a number of
exhibitions on Chabet’s practice and its legacy.2 With 4,504 digital items, it is
currently the largest archive of a single artist within the online database of
AAA,3 with digital copies also available in the Lopez Museum and Library in
Manila.4 Meanwhile, the archive continues to grow and gather new materials.5
Recognised as one of the key archiving projects reﬂecting the importance
of national and local histories within the broader framework of Southeast
Asia,6 the Roberto Chabet Archive (henceforth referred to as the Chabet
Archive) lends a useful framework for critically revisiting the notion of
‘archival slippage’. This term denotes that archive-making not only entails
gathering documentation, but also invites the active shaping and initiating
of new discourses around the subject(s) being archived. As noted by Jacques
Derrida, the very process of archiving is not a static activity, but rather
“produces” further materials, interpretations, framings, discussions and
oﬀsprings in the present and future.
[T]he technical structure of the archive also determines the struc-
ture of the archivable content even in its very coming into existence
and in its relationship to the future. The archivization produces as
much as it records the event.7
Conceptual Slippages 15
Derrida’s observation casts a spotlight on the need to remain conscious and
critical of how archives are formed. It invites questions about the provenance
of contents, the ways in which materials are annotated and organised, as
well as how—and to whom—archives are made accessible. In the wake of an
increasing drive to collect, digitise and make publicly available the collec-
tions of individual artists, art spaces, collectives and collectors from across
Southeast Asia, these reﬂections also prompt questions around how archiving,
in its many manifestations, from private archives to institutional databases,8
contributes to the active (re)writing of Southeast Asian art history. As noted
by Charles Merewether in connection to the archives of the Khmer Rouge
regime in Cambodia, the increasing emphasis on producing and exhibiting
both historical and contemporary archives across Southeast Asia raises the
question of what disappears, and what is brought to light, particularly in
cases where the archives outlive their subjects.9
This paper takes up the Chabet Archive as a case study to consider the
ways in which archiving is not a neutral or disinterested activity. Rather, it
constitutes part of endeavours for recuperation, visibility and currency, in
which it operates as both a retrospective and prospective ‘slippage’. From
the outset, the Chabet Archive was not intended solely to document the work
of the artist. Rather, it was envisioned as a platform to shed light on further
voices and events alongside the life and work of Chabet.10 In doing so, it
placed emphasis upon networks, aﬃliations and institutions—or what Bunoan
has described as “the person and the community around that person”11—
through its subdivision into ﬁve main themes or “layers”12 which were devised
when the archive was made partially available via the website of the AAA:
(1) Chabet’s solo projects and curatorial work, (2) Chabet’s involvement with
the Cultural Centre of the Philippines, (3) Shop 6, the short-lived alternative
group founded by Chabet in 1974, (4) Chabet’s time at the University of the
Philippines, where he taught for more than 30 years, as well as documents
relating to his students’ work, and (5) Angel Flores, the ﬁctional character
conceived by Chabet in collaboration with two friends, Ramon Katigbak and
Ben Bautista, in the 1970s. The existence of these ﬁve layers reﬂects a constant
slippage between Chabet’s artistic and collaborative practice, as well as his
institutional and mentoring roles. It asserts from the outset that the archive
plays a formative role within a larger process of artistic and socio-historical
revisitation and (re)articulation.
This paper takes up the notion of archival slippage and explores how this
is manifest in the Chabet Archive on three levels. The ﬁrst pertains to the
aesthetics and media presented within the archive, and how these have been
selected and sorted in order to position Chabet as one of the central actors—
at times referred to as the “father”13—of Philippine Conceptual Art after the
16 Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporar y and Modern Art in Asia
Second World War. It considers the slippages between existing deﬁnitions
of Conceptual Art and the diverse practices encompassed within Chabet’s
oeuvre as reﬂected in the archive. The second slippage explored here emerges
from the process of archive-building as it relates to the writing of Chabet’s
history within networks of aﬃliated artists, collaborators, friends, colleagues
and supporters. It discusses the relationship between historiography and
the parameters of inclusivity and exclusivity in the making of this archive,
highlighting the fact that many materials were gathered from the personal
collections and repositories of Chabet’s associates. It questions to what extent
this collection consequently historicises artists who are able to contribute,
at the expense of others whose practices may have been deemed in the
archiving endeavour as tangential to Chabet’s circles. While this phenomenon
is not unique to the Chabet Archive—archives are rarely democratically com-
piled and, moreover, always reﬂect their sources14—it is important to explore
this partiality when assessing the centrality of the Chabet Archive for the
writing of Conceptual Art history within the Philippines and Southeast Asia.15
The third, and ﬁnal, understanding of the archival slippage explored here
is the use of the archive as a resource to reproduce and display ephemeral
works. By enabling recreations based on photographs, sketches, memories,
plans and writings, the archive impacts both the forms and meanings of the
works as they ‘slip’ from earlier politico-creative contexts in the Philippines
into the present. This slippage of the archive across histories of aesthetics
and networks, and present-day regional drives for recreating Conceptual Art,16
situates it as more than a mere historical resource; it also carries a transac-
tional value or “currency”17 within an interwoven system of representation,
documentation and dissemination through which national and regional
histories of modern and contemporary art are being solidiﬁed.18 This renders
it both an accessible and attractive resource to researchers, artists, curators
and the public, yet also constitutes its main point of contestation.
Since the late 1990s, arguably commencing with Apinan Poshyananda’s
contribution to the exhibition Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin, 1950s–
1980s (Queens Museum of Art, New York, 1999), there has been a growing
interest in charting the regional history of Conceptual Art across Southeast
Asia.19 As increasing scholarship and curatorial initiatives seek to plot this
medium from the 1960s to the present, particularly in relation to the Philip-
pines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam, Chabet’s artistic
practice, curating and teaching have come to the forefront of attention.20
Conceptual Slippages 17
As the understanding of Conceptual Art develops into a broad-sweeping
and uniting notion (as opposed to denoting a concrete medium) across the
region,21 the creation of the Chabet Archive has served as a useful platform
and testing ground for gathering, organising and presenting a range of
media and activities under this collective rubric. Established largely between
2007 and 2013 (within ongoing activities continuing up to the present22) by
Ringo Bunoan and a team of researchers and archivists at King Kong Art
Projects Unlimited,23 this archive has shed light on the inﬂuential role Chabet
played in fostering experiments with found objects, photography, light and
installation-making in the Philippines since the 1960s.
With a background in architecture, Chabet became engaged in the Philip-
pine visual art scene during the 1960s. In a career spanning ﬁve decades
until his death in 2013, his notable roles included being the ﬁrst director of
the Cultural Centre of the Philippines, a post for which he was speciﬁcally
appointed during the institution’s inauguration in 1969 and which he held
only for a year before taking up a lectureship in Fine Art at the University of
the Philippines Diliman in Quezon City from 1972 until 2002. In addition to
these public roles, Chabet also mentored and curated exhibitions in private
spaces showing artists working with abstract, conceptual, performance,
assemblage and media art.
In order to understand how the Chabet Archive frames these roles and
practices, it is important to note from the outset that the gathered materials,
which include primarily visual documentation, writings, documents and
original artworks, reﬂect a continual cross-referencing of ideas, surviving
materials, documentation and memories around the life and work of the
artist. These meanings, however, emerge only partially from Chabet’s own
writings and iterations; they are also actively produced by the organisation
and structure of the archive itself. As noted by Bunoan, Chabet sustained a
longstanding practice of gathering and collecting materials related to his own
work, and that of his peers and students. He gathered these inside his home
in the district of San Juan in Manila—a trait that fellow artist Judy Freya
Sibayan has playfully referred to as a “pack rat”24 mentality. This personal
collection was not marked by any system of organisation. Rather, it reﬂected
what Okwui Enwezor has described (in terms of artists’ collection practices
more generally) as a process of “compulsive hoarding and accumulations that
defy the temporal legibility around which certain archival projects […] are
organized”.25 After an initial open call for materials was issued in 2007–08,
Bunoan subsequently salvaged, conserved, gathered, sorted and annotated
the surviving materials after Chabet’s home ﬂooded in 2009. While these
salvaged materials came to constitute one of the foundational sources for the
18 Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art in Asia
Chabet Archive, the process of archive-building was, from the outset, open
to other select contributors, largely from within Chabet’s circle of colleagues,
friends and collaborators who were invited to submit additional documen-
tation and supporting materials from their own collections.
What is of interest here is how the term Conceptual Art operates within,
or slips across, the forms, media and ideas in Chabet’s art. To address this
point, one must ﬁrst clarify that the sortation of materials into the afore-
mentioned ﬁve ‘layers’—namely, the Cultural Centre of the Philippines, the
University of the Philippines, Shop 6, Angel Flores, as well as personal and
collaborative practices—plays an inﬂuential role in steering his diverse prac-
tices towards a shared understanding of Conceptual Art in the Philippines.
While the original sortation of materials (2007–08) had been according to
record type (catalogues, clippings, photographs, manuscripts etc.), the trans-
fer of the materials onto the website of the AAA resulted in the sortation of
the materials into the aforementioned layer.26 These layers play a prominent
role in highlighting a number of terms circulating from the 1960s to the
present, through which Chabet’s understanding of Conceptualism is related.
figure 1: Drawings and collages by Roberto Chabet at the headquarters of King Kong Art
Projects Unlimited, Manila, July 2017. Image courtesy of Eva Bentcheva.
Conceptual Slippages 19
figure 2: Drawings by Roberto Chabet at King Kong Art Projects Unlimited, Manila. July 2017. Image
courtesy of Eva Bentcheva.
20 Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art in Asia
For instance, the category entitled ‘Roberto Chabet’, which encompasses the
artist’s personal and collective practices, is subdivided into collaborations,
curatorial projects, group exhibitions, individual works and solo exhibition,
portraits and tributes, among others. It serves as a chronology of Chabet’s
activities, within which one ﬁnds numerous manifestations and mentions of
practices that may broadly be grouped into Conceptual Art. These include
sculptural and installation works that appear in various guises, often making
use of found materials such as plywood and glass, to which Chabet referred
using the term “environments”27 rather than Conceptual Art.
These “environments” approximate an understanding of Conceptual Art as
following a lineage of Assemblage, and Land Art from Europe and the USA.28
This interpretation, in turn, is bolstered by an inclusion in this section of
documentation around Chabet’s travels to the USA and London on a grant
from the Rockefeller Foundation in 1969. What is noteworthy, however, is that
the archive also does not ascribe this practice to one lineage of Conceptual
Art. This is evidenced in the inclusion of works that speak to the performative
underpinnings of his practice, for instance, in the impromptu enactment
Tearing into Pieces (1973). In this work, Chabet decimated the publication
Contemporary Art in the Philippines (1972) by Manuel Duldulao in the court-
yard of the Cultural Centre of the Philippines in view of artist Yolanda Laudico
(later Perez-Johnson), who documented the process of destruction. Performed
as a private gesture and subsequently exhibited in the form of a sculptural
mound in the group show An Exhibition of Objects (1973), this work reﬂects
an indebtedness to performance art practices in the works of Fluxus artists
in Germany and ‘happenings’ in the USA. Simultaneously, however, it also
relates to experimental performance practices from Asia during the 1960s and
1970s, as seen most prominently in the featured documentation of Chabet’s
collaborations with the experimental composer José Maceda, with whom he
co-organised and choreographed the staging of large-scale public partici-
patory performances or “happenings”,29 such as Udlot-Udlot (1975).
These examples illustrate that, in order to grasp Chabet’s understanding of
Conceptual Art, it is necessary for the researcher to ‘slip’ across the diﬀerent
categories, timeframes and media contained within the archive. Only through
this cross-referencing does one gain an understanding of the fact that Chabet
did not align his practice ﬁrmly with Euro-American discourses around
modern art, contrary to the critiques aﬀorded to his practice,30 nor did he
root his work solely in the local cultural politics of the Philippines. Rather,
his understanding of Conceptualism—a term that he himself consciously
resisted deﬁning—conversed between art criticism, history and theory on
postwar abstraction, which was playing out on both the international and
Conceptual Slippages 21
Philippine contemporary art scene.31 This stance is evidenced in an interview
with critic Cid Reyes in 1973.
Reyes: You have been considered an initiator of a movement
variously called “Conceptual Art” or “Art as Idea”. What motivated
you to explore this ﬁeld?
Chabet: My works really are more properly the works of an art
critic. I mean they are the works in which the concept behind the
work of art is the art itself. These days – and especially in a country
like ours where there are no art critics – the artist assumes the role
of a critic by questioning the nature of art. And I don’t necessarily
mean writing about it, the way an art critic would.32
This “artist-as-critic-pose” embraced by Chabet is reﬂected in the archive’s
structure and contents.33 Here, the continual slippage across documentation,
media and writings fosters an understanding of Conceptual Art as a means
for discursive and historiographic production. This discursive productivity
of the Chabet Archive even works in opposition to propositions such as Lucy
Lippard and John Chandler’s notion that Conceptual Art was geared towards
figure 3: Jose Maceda, Udlot-Udlot, durational performance (‘happening’), University of the
Philippines Diliman, Manila. Choreography and space programming by Roberto Chabet, 1975.
Image courtesy of the University of the Philippines Centre for Ethnomusicology.
22 Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art in Asia
defying and even, erasing art criticism.34 Nowhere is Chabet’s contestation of
this deﬁnition more prominent than in the archive’s category entitled ‘Angel
Flores’. This ‘layer’ is devoted to the textual and installation-based works
developed by Chabet in collaboration with friends Ramon Katigbak and Ben
Bautista, around the life and works of a ﬁctitious USA-based Philippine expa-
triate artist known as Angel Flores (1936–68). This made-up persona serves,
on the one hand, as a classic example of Conceptual Art as an idea-based
medium. On the other hand, it also functions as a site of critique and parody
of Philippine art history, in which Angel Flores’ background speaks to the
gloriﬁcation of living abroad, as well as the incongruences of the Philippine
art market and institutional demands in the 1960s and 1970s. Certain works,
such as the CV of Angel Flores printed on the back of a sheet resembling an
oﬃcial government document titled ‘Top Secret’, goes as far as to suggest a
critique against government policies on social surveillance, censorship and
repression. In doing so, the work inadvertently sheds self-critical light on the
intertwined nature between Chabet’s Conceptual practices and the resources
available to artists working under the politico-cultural framework of the
While criticism has been levelled against Chabet (as well as a number of
artists working in the realm of abstract and Conceptual Art) that he failed
to engage with political discourses and critique,35 these examples show that
the archive does not aim to explicitly refute this position. Instead, it looks
to highlight moments in which Chabet’s Conceptual practices were framed
within, alongside, or in conversation with, the politics of the Marcos regime
(1956–86), particularly during the early decades of his career, in order to
highlight the discursive (rather than critical) function of his art. Speaking of
the crossover between Conceptual Art and the works of the anti-government
traditions of painting and multimedia art in the Philippines (otherwise known
as ‘Social Realism’ in the Philippines), Eileen Legaspi-Ramirez has noted,
“They bare out to me that in regard to that period which they associate with
‘received ideas’, there was still some patent nationalism underpinning it,
even if there was a desire to participate in the global art world.”36 While the
archive does not seek to elaborate upon the crossover between Conceptual
and politically-engaged art, it emphasises the underlying relationship between
Chabet’s practice and the building of national and politically-informed dis-
courses around contemporary art. This is manifest in the featured texts and
photographs of group exhibitions such as Developmental Art in the Philippines
(1979), curated at the Cultural Centre of the Philippines by the institution’s
second director Raymundo Albano, in order to celebrate a decade of its
establishment.37 As outlined by Patrick Flores, Albano proposed use of the
Conceptual Slippages 23
figure 4: Roberto Chabet, ctitious CV of Angel Flores printed on the back of the cover sheet
of a classied document. Date unknown. Image courtesy of King Kong Art Projects.
24 Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art in Asia
figure 5: Roberto Chabet, ctitious CV of Angel Flores printed on the back of the cover sheet of a
classied document. Date unknown. Image courtesy of King Kong Art Projects.
Conceptual Slippages 25
term ‘developmental art’ to describe the making of fast, conceptually-leaning
artworks (most often in the form of installations, sculptures and perfor-
mances) within the rubric of the Cultural Centre of the Philippines, and the
cultural politics of the Marcos regime.38 The inclusion of Albano’s writings on
‘developmental art’ within the Chabet Archive not only highlights the diverse
terms and practices encompassed within the scope of Chabet’s understanding
of Conceptual Art, it also stresses that Conceptualism was not only deﬁned
by Chabet alone, but by a range of artists who took diﬀering approaches to its
parameters, yet whose histories nevertheless hold an important connection
to the discursive productivity of Chabet’s work and legacy. In order to
understand how these collective discourses were built, it is thus necessary
to consider the Chabet Archive not only in terms of intermedial slippages,
but also as a site of ‘social slippages’ that were abundantly inherent in the
In contrast to the artist’s hesitation to sort and annotate his own work, the
process of archive-building captured the social legacy of Chabet’s practice
and the stories of aﬃliated individuals.39 The notion of the archival slippage
can thus also be applied to the Chabet Archive to consider how the archive
was created, and on whose behalf its history speaks. As mentioned previously,
following an initial open call for materials in 2007–08, a number of materials
were salvaged from Chabet’s personal collection held in his home in Manila.
As the archive continued to grow, it further incorporated materials from the
archives of the Cultural Centre of the Philippines, the Lopez Museum (which
co-funded scanning and to-date houses copies of the digitised materials), the
University of the Philippines Fine Arts Library and Main Library, as well as
select galleries in Manila such as the Finale Gallery. One of the challenges
described by Bunoan in this process of gathering these materials was the
abundance of incomplete documentation, reﬂecting the fact that not all of
Chabet’s shows were photographed.40 In addition, the process of annotation
took a long time because Chabet could not remember all of the details. In
order to ﬁll in the absences and lapses of memory, Bunoan made the decision
to approach other people connected to Chabet in order to gather further
information. As part of this eﬀort to expand the process of archive-building
into an exercise of collective recollection, works and documentation were
annotated in consultation with others, and additional supporting materials
were sourced from the private collections of the artist’s collaborators, friends
and colleagues. Remarking that “there are a lot of voices in that archive,
26 Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art in Asia
it’s not only about Chabet”,41 Bunoan has noted that over 500 people from
the Philippine art scene are featured in the archive, leading her to describe
it as a “collective project”. Acting as ‘further voices’ to Chabet’s personal
collection, individuals were invited not only to lend materials from their
collections to be digitally captured, but also to partake in the annotation of
photographs and, in some cases, to provide appended interviews that came
to be included in the collection. A number of exhibitions, events and discus-
sions were also organised at the stage of gathering, through which public
responses and inputs served to gather deeper insights into the life, works and
networks of the artist.
Acknowledging that the contents of this archive are not comprehensive,
this seemingly collective process of gathering materials has implicated the
artists who are featured within—and those omitted from—the archive. On
the one hand, an undeniable predicament of the Chabet Archive is that the
resources invested in it have rendered it a powerful platform. The story of
Chabet has been framed as a connecting thread through which the contri-
butions and aﬃliations of other artists, particularly the generation who had
either studied under or collaborated with him from the 1970s up until his
passing away in 2013, were written into the lineage of Conceptual Art. This
has enabled a number of previously obscured and locally-rooted histories to
be made publicly accessible, on both national and international platforms.
On a positive note, this visibility and investment has highlighted certain
artists as central ﬁgures within Chabet’s legacy and has arguably given
impetus for further research into their practices. Amongst these, important
contributors included the artist Joy T. Dayrit, a close friend and collaborator
of Chabet since the 1970s, and one of the main documenters of his practice.
During the initial phase of gathering in 2007–08, Dayrit was among the ﬁrst
contributors. After her passing away, her family granted continued access to
materials related to Chabet, before Dayrit’s own works and writings subse-
quently became the subject of an independent archive housed at the Ateneo
de Manila University.42
Likewise, the archive has also served as a means of recovering lost
moments and histories through accidental encounters. For instance, in the
process of carrying out research for her master’s dissertation, Legaspi-Ramirez
recalled consulting the Chabet Archive, wherein she encountered a photo-
graph of a performance by artist Judy Freya Sibayan at the Cultural Centre
of the Philippines.43 This image depicted Chabet and art critic and curator
Marian Pastor-Roces amongst the audience during a work entitled Sound Bags
and Three Kings (1975), which Sibayan conceived with Raymundo Albano.
While Sibayan is altogether absent from the image, the presence of Chabet
Conceptual Slippages 27
fosters an imagined slippage into the practices and archives of another artist.
In this speciﬁc case, Sibayan’s background as a former student of Chabet
emerges at multiple points across the Chabet Archive, albeit tangentially
and in the interstices. While presenting Sibayan as an artist imbricated with
Chabet, what the archive fails to account for is the ways in which Sibayan
later sought to distance and diﬀerentiate her own practice and philosophies
from that of her former tutor, as she later outlined in an autobiographical
publication.44 In part as a consequence of the surfacing of new materials via
the social making of the Chabet Archive, Sibayan has also embraced a new
impetus to explore her own archives in order to glean the diﬀerent narratives
of Conceptual Art that emerge from them.45
Returning to Derrida’s notion that the process of archive-building spawns
new investigations and new archival projects, the example of Sibayan’s
practice and its placement in relation to the Chabet Archive presents an
understanding of the archival slippage as not only a process of restitution, but
also of (competitive) ‘supplementation’. In other words, the creation of this
one archive has also fuelled the desire to explore other narratives through
alternative means not limited to archive-building but also encompassing
research projects, as seen in Flores’s long-standing exploration of the artistic
and curatorial practice, as well as discursive writings, of Raymundo Albano
(1947–85).46 Having worked as Chabet’s assistant director at the Cultural
Centre of the Philippines from 1969 until Chabet’s resignation in 1970, Albano
subsequently took over the post of artistic director, which he held until his
passing. Throughout the 1970s, Albano and Chabet collaborated on a number
of artistic and curatorial projects and ran within the same networks. As such,
mention of Albano features frequently in the Chabet Archive. The research
and curatorial work of Flores on this history has sought to map Albano’s
career beyond the framework of Chabet, asserting him also as a formative
ﬁgure in the formation of Philippine Conceptual Art.47 While this research
does not stand to contradict the Chabet Archive, it seeks to challenge its
primacy over the status of Chabet as the core ﬁgure, and to highlight the
exclusions within the archive. It pays particularly close attention to the
archive’s discursive parameters and its engagement with artists who did not
belong to Chabet’s circuits, or who worked with other media and modes of
The examples of Sibayan and Albano’s partial representation within the
Chabet Archive thus raises the question of which, and to what ends, other
ﬁgures related to the making of idea-driven, site-speciﬁc, multimedia and
performance art are left out of the archive altogether. One other prominent
example of its partiality is seen in its relationship to artists working in
28 Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art in Asia
the mode of Social Realist art.48 Coming into fruition in the Philippines
between the late 1960s and the mid-1980s, this genre was spearheaded by a
dozen artists known as Kaisahan (‘Solidarity’), a loose group that came into
formation during the height of martial law (1972–81) under the authoritarian
rule of President Ferdinand Marcos (1965–86).49 Described by Alice Guillermo
as inspired by a rising tide of international student and youth movements in
the late 1960s and 1970s, this movement formed concurrently to a number of
collective artistic gestures across Southeast Asia, whose cultural agitations
were marked by socialist sympathies.50 Despite their call to break with
Westernised, modernist modes of representation, Social Realist artists in the
Philippines also adopted a number of practices and gestures that expanded
upon the international lineage of Conceptual Art; their staging of public
protest gestures and intermedial practices also conversed with the notions
of ‘avant-garde’ art as not oﬃcially sanctioned by the state. As noted by
… pronouncements by both Conceptualists and Social Realists
show that both groups of artists were interested in formal play
and explorations with alternative materials, even though they were
negotiating around the strictures of mandated party didactics and
aesthetics subjected to whether their work would be ‘readable’ by
Legaspi-Ramirez is among the art historians who challenge the conception
that Conceptual Art and Social Realism stood in opposition with one another.
She argues rather that both experimented with found materials and public
engagement. This position has also been voiced by Flores, who has argued
that the very term ‘Conceptual Art’ has a limited—and limiting—scope in
terms of explaining the forces at work in the Philippines.52 According to
Flores, the notion of Conceptual Art may even restrict the appreciation and
interpretation of artists’ works to the networks within which they ran. Given
the Chabet Archive’s strong focus on Manila-based practices and Chabet’s
circle of acquaintances, it does not reﬂect the wider breadth of ‘experimental’
art in the Philippines that existed in the crossover between Conceptual prac-
tices and the works of groups such as the Social Realists, or artists working
abroad, such as Europe-based David Medalla.53 The existence of such
alternative ﬁgures and groups testiﬁes to the fact that inclusivity was never
a core ambition or parameter of the Chabet Archive. With this point in mind,
the elevation of the Chabet Archive as a forefront historiographic resource
on Conceptual practices in the Philippines, particularly in international
Conceptual Slippages 29
circuits, necessitates a more nuanced recognition of the speciﬁc networks
on whose behalf the archives speaks, and for whom the archive has yielded
Slippage into the Afterlife
As argued above, both the archive’s structure and contents play a formative
role in rooting Chabet’s Conceptualism at the interstices of ephemerality and
documentation. However, rather than embracing a common understanding
of Conceptual Art as steering towards ‘dematerialisation’, as outlined by Lucy
R. Lippard and John Chandler in 1968,54 the Chabet Archive also relies on
the promise of materiality. Despite existing primarily as a digital archive,
this audio-visual and textual repository serves as an important resource
for recreating a number of Chabet’s works based on existing photographs,
sketches, plans, memories and remnants.
Before Chabet’s passing in 2013, his practice was the subject of numerous
exhibitions: Archiving Roberto Chabet (2010) at the Jorge B. Vargas Museum
in Manila; Roberto Chabet: 50 Years (2011–12) at the National Gallery of
Singapore, the Osage Gallery in Hong Kong and numerous venues in the
Philippines; and To Be Continued (2012) at the Cultural Centre of the Philip-
pines in Manila, all of which entailed recreation and restaging. As a core
characteristic of Chabet’s practice was the use of found materials that could
be dismantled after their display, few of the original materials used in the
early installations have physically survived. For the above-mentioned retro-
spectives, the artist authorised reconstructions of his works to be made
using similar materials, drawing on photographs and written speciﬁcations
by the artist, when available. The artist Nilo Ilarde has been responsible
for a number of these reconstructions, having worked closely with Chabet
since the 1970s, and consulted the artist on the speciﬁcations for individual
installations. In order to carry out these recreations, a formal agreement was
also created between Chabet’s estate and King Kong Art Projects Unlimited,
which gives the latter permission to archive, showcase and recreate a number
of Chabet’s works.
Returning to Derrida’s observation that the very process of archiving
“produces more archive, and that is why the archive is never closed. It opens
out of the future”,55 the availability of photographs, sketches and memories
of Chabet’s assistants and collaborators, has fuelled the reconstruction of
individual works by Bunoan and her team even after the artist’s passing.
While several of these recreations have incorporated the artworks’ original
surviving materials, they have oftentimes required materials to be sourced in
30 Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporar y and Modern Art in Asia
the present. Speaking of the diﬃculty of ﬁnding suitable materials, Bunoan
has also described this process of reconstruction as ﬁtting within Chabet’s
original vision that materials exist as multiples, and ought to be sourced
from the local environment for the purposes of art-making.56 This process
is seen, for instance, in the remaking of one of Chabet’s earlier plywood
installations, Waves (1972),57 for the private gallery MO_Space X in Bonifacio
Global City in Manila in 2017.58 Displayed in isolation, the form, materiality
and layout of this installation were gleaned from pre-existing photographs
of its original in the main gallery of the Cultural Centre of the Philippines in
1975. Moreover, works have also been recreated for sale at private galleries
and acquisitions by museums. This is most evident in the recreation of
Chabet’s early conceptual installations, such as Sky Horizons (1973)59 for the
exhibition Stick Up Don’t Move Smile: Reinventing Black, 1957 to Today (4–31
October 2014) at Finale Art File in Manila, and more recently for the exhibi-
tion The 70s: Objects, Photographs and Documents (20 February–2 July 2018),
curated by Bunoan at the Ateneo Art Gallery.
While all recreations entail an inherent loss of the original context, as has
come to be widely accepted, particularly for performance-based practices,60
the remaking of works by Chabet merits closer inspection on two grounds.
The ﬁrst relates to the dispersal of works that were originally created to exist
figure 6: Roberto Chabet, Waves, MO_Space X, Manila, 2017 (1972). Image courtesy of Eva
Conceptual Slippages 31
in seriality or in conversation with one another. For instance, the recently-
displayed installation Sky Horizons comprises a series of 12 suspended
wooden frames, intersected by stretched strips of rubber from the interior
of tyres. It was ﬁrst shown at Chabet’s solo exhibition Chabet: New Works
(1–20 February 1973) at the Luz Gallery in Manila, where it featured as part
of the series For E.H., an homage to the German-American artist Eva Hesse,
who passed away in 1970. This display included two further works: Kite
Traps, a smaller series of wooden frames with stretched rubber bands, and
Pink Painting, comprising a grid made of plywood with stretched out nylon
stockings. Kite Traps was also reconstructed by King Kong Art Projects
Unlimited in 2015 for the inauguration of the National Gallery of Singapore
where it was shown as part of the UOB Southeast Asia Gallery’s exhibition
Between Declarations and Dreams: Art of Southeast Asia Since the 19th Century.
The division of these works across multiple collections and their display
at diﬀerent exhibitions does not remain true to one of the artist’s most
prominent understandings of Conceptual Art as a making of ‘performative
environments’. By this term, the artist placed emphasis on the encounter
with performance and installation-based art within a speciﬁc setting, and in
relation to the adjacent works and the space within which they were shown.
figure 7: Roberto Chabet, Sky Horizons, 1973. On display at The 70s: Objects, Photographs
and Documents, curated by Ringo Bunoan, Areté, Ateneo de Manila University, 20 February–
2 July 2018. Image courtesy of Eva Bentcheva.
32 Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art in Asia
The second ground on which the recreation of Chabet’s works based on
materials in the archive requires closer attention, relates to the question of
what power this lends to those entrusted with recreations. In addition to the
showcasing of works in retrospective exhibitions of Chabet’s art, a number of
recreations have also been showcased alongside contemporary artists at local
and regional group exhibitions and biennales, such as the Manila Biennale
(3 February–5 March 2018)61 and the 9th Asia-Paciﬁc Triennale in Brisbane
(24 November 2018–28 April 2019).62
By placing these historical works on a par with contemporary art, the
Chabet Archive has also taken on the status of a “currency”,63 which David Teh
has described (in relation to contemporary art in Thailand) as an intertwined
ecology between historical resources, discourse-building and contemporary
art production. This notion lends a useful framework for recognising that
the building of contemporary art archives extends beyond the preservation
of historical knowledge; it also generates new relations of power and control
which have implications on the circulation of art and artists within the
circuits of exhibitions, private and public collections, and the art market. It
occupies a ﬂuid space between a communal and private status by, on the one
hand, maintaining a degree of public accessibility for the purposes of research
figure 8: Roberto Chabet, Onethingafteranother, 2011, G.I. sheets, halogen lamps, variable
dimensions, Manila Biennale, 2018. Image courtesy of Eva Bentcheva.
Conceptual Slippages 33
and consultation, and by working in partnership with host platforms such as
AAA. On the other hand, the estate and custodians retain the rights over the
intellectual property of the materials, thus rendering the archive also as a
repository for exclusive recreation, exhibition and sale.
Returning to the concept of the archive as ‘slippage’, the Chabet Archive
highlights a number of questions around the evolving nature of contemporary
art archives, particularly those focused upon or built around individual
artists, and whose legacies are carried forth by their peers and colleagues.
In this respect, the Chabet Archive is one among numerous artist-initiated
archives operating across Southeast Asia. This notably includes others such
as the personal collection of Singaporean artist Koh Nguang How and the
Independent Archive in Singapore, in which the individual engagements and
networks of the archive’s progenitor, in the latter’s case Singaporean artist
Lee Wen (1957–2019), plays a central role in the archive’s identity. Through
the case study of the Chabet Archive, this paper has aimed to show that
there has been a recent surge of interest in contemporary art archives that
have germinated around the collective histories of omitted or marginalised
narratives beyond oﬃcial canons. Simultaneously, however, the founding of
such autonomous archives has also fuelled the desire for counter-archiving,
as seen in the practices of artists such as Judy Freya Sibayan in the Philip-
pines. This illustrates a coexisting desire to gain further recognition for
practices left outside ‘alternative’ archives, as they gather greater proﬁles and
currency. This can be described beyond the over-used trope of an ‘archive
fever’ in Southeast Asia, and also be considered as birthing a ‘counter-
archiving fever’, in which archives act as tools for excavation, contestation,
While a more nuanced consideration of the diﬀerences between the
Chabet Archive and other autonomous artist-led archives across Southeast
Asia, such as the aforementioned collection of Koh Nguang How and the
Independent Archive, remains to be undertaken, it is important to remain
aware that the increasing circulation of these autonomous archives on a
local, regional and international platform, has also incurred changes in
the ways in which featured works have been exposed. Concluding with a
discussions of how the Chabet Archive has also ‘slipped’ into an afterlife in
which the archive has served as a repository for the recreation of Chabet’s
works, this essay has proposed an understanding of the archive as having
both a retrospective and prospective role. Here, archives emerge as a form of
34 Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporar y and Modern Art in Asia
“currency” in the contemporary art sphere by giving proﬁle and impetus
for further displays and sales, at the discretion of its custodians. Seen in
terms of an ‘archival slippage’, the Chabet Archive thus reﬂects an increasing
practice in which archives come to be intertwined with discourse-building,
historiography and the economy of contemporary art. Where once archiving
was seen as a tool for recording history, it has now evolved into a tool of
public interface between discourse-production and the circulation of art-
works and artists.
Finally, emerging from these conclusions are also considerations around
the role of ‘supra-archives’, such as AAA, which merit further research. As this
essay has aimed to show in the case of the Chabet Archive, AAA served not
only as a platform for international exposure by way of providing (partially)
open access to materials which would otherwise have been accessible within
Southeast Asia. It also actively shaped the presentation, structure and,
consequently, key concepts emerging from the Chabet Archive, by way of
inﬂuencing the thematic groupings and online presentation of materials.
While this ‘intervention’ has been justiﬁed on the grounds of creating
easier structures for digital reference, it is undeniable that this process has
also shaped the positioning of archives—as a whole, and in terms of their
individual components—in relation to both regional and international art
histories. What has fallen outside the scope of this essay is an exploration
of which historiographic frameworks the Chabet Archive has come to be
aligned with when cross-referenced, or read in conjunction with, other
archives ‘hosted’ by AAA. By advocating for an active reading of archives as
‘slippages’, this essay has aimed to launch further considerations into the
symbiotic exchanges, as well as altercations, which occur when independent
archives, both within and beyond, Southeast Asia are activated and ‘slipped’
into other host domains, platforms and collections.
Eva Bentcheva is an art historian and curator with a focus on transnational
performance and conceptual art. She completed her PhD at SOAS, University
in London. She is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow with the Paul Mellon Centre
in London, writing a monograph on cultural politics and transnationalism in
performance art in Britain since the 1960s. In 2018–19, she was the Goethe-Institut
Postdoctoral Fellow at Haus der Kunst in Munich. Her previous appointments have
included Adjunct Researcher and Visiting Research Fellow for the Tate Research
Centre: Asia, and Senior Teaching Fellow in Art History at SOAS.
Conceptual Slippages 35
1 Bunoan has argued that when the initial collecting process began in 2007, AAA
had no online collection and was not focusing on creating archives of only one
person, but it has since gone on to create more such archives. She described
that it took a long time—approximately one year—for Chabet to agree to do
the project, and that after his home ﬂooded during the tropical storm Ondoy
in September 2009, he agreed that materials be salvaged from his home for
the archive. Ringo Bunoan, “Roberto Chabet”, Mapping Performance Art and
Conceptualism in the Philippines: Archives (Manila: University of the Philippines,
Tate Research Centre: Asia, 24 Aug. 2017).
2 Over the past decade, Chabet’s own practice has been the subject of a number of
exhibitions, most notably, Archiving Roberto Chabet (2010) at the Jorge B. Vargas
Museum in Manila; Roberto Chabet: 50 Years (2011–12) at the National Gallery
of Singapore, the Osage Gallery in Hong Kong and numerous venues in the
Philippines; and To Be Continued (2012) at the Cultural Centre of the Philippines
3 AAA’s website currently features 39 Research Collections, spanning digital records
of materials in individual, organisational and group archives. Currently the largest
digital archive on AAA’s website is the Hanoi-based experimental venue Salon
Natasha, comprising of 4,992 records (recorded in July 2019). According to Bunoan,
the original number of records in the Chabet Archive given to AAA was over 7,000;
however, the records were compressed to the current ﬁgure (4,504) when changes
were made to the AAA website. Correspondence with Ringo Bunoan, Aug. 2019.
4 Select digital copies were also given to the Cultural Centre of the Philippines of
materials scanned from their library and Visual Arts oﬃce. All physical records
remained with their respective owners.
5 At the present moment, a team of researchers headed by Bunoan continue to
gather materials on Chabet’s life, aﬃliations and practices via the framework of
King Kong Art Projects. Based in Manila, King Kong Art Projects currently holds
over 20,000 digital records in the form of photographs, exhibition materials,
correspondence and scans of original artworks, among other supporting
materials, with more materials being continuously added to the collection. Ringo
Bunoan gave the estimate ﬁgure of 20,000 records. Ringo Bunoan, Roundtable, 24
6 It is particularly AAA’s vision to map local initiatives as part of opening up the
understanding of Southeast Asia. The Roberto Chabet archive reﬂects this vision
by focusing heavily on the local ecology within which Chabet practised and
worked. Claire Hsu, Asia as Method, Archive as Method, MoMA, 13 March 2014,
[accessed 10 Oct. 2018].
36 Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art in Asia
7 Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression (Chicago & London:
University of Chicago Press, 1998), p. 17.
8 The digitisation and dissemination of the archives of artists and writers such as
Ray Langenbach on Malaysia and Singapore, and Koh Nguang How on Singapore,
chart the lineage of conceptual art practices in modern and contemporary
art in Southeast Asia. The museum M+ in Hong Kong, which is due to open,
also maintains a strong interest in collecting and representing conceptual and
performance-based practices from Southeast Asia, along with the National
Gallery of Singapore. In Europe, recent exhibitions and talks hosted at leading
institutions such as Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin and Tate in the UK also
reﬂect an interest in conceptual practices produced within Southeast Asia and
enacted by its diasporas abroad.
9 Merewether’s observations stem from a study of how photography and archive-
building were used as part of the repressive and genocidal state apparatus of the
Khmer Rouge regime. Charles Mereweather, “Archival Malpractice and Counter
Strategies”, in Inﬂux: Contemporary Art in Asia, ed. Kavita Singh, Parul Dave
Mukherji and Naman Ahuja (Sage Publications India, 2018), pp. 233–44.
10 This function resonates with the public identity of AAA in particular, as described
by founder Claire Hsu: “As evidenced by the increasing use of the word “archive”
as a generic term, the proliferation of archive-driven networks, institutions
and programs, as we see here today, and the move to digitize and make public
previously inaccessible bodies of material, the archive has evolved into a multi-
functional space. It is no longer about the ordering of objects within a structure,
but a platform that enables the co-creation of meaning and experiences, where
knowledge is envisioned as an inter-subjective space. And I would argue that
the idea of the network is inherent as a form within this.” Hsu, Asia as Method,
Archive as Method, 2014.
11 Bunoan, “Roberto Chabet”, 2017.
12 The term “layers” has been used by Bunoan to describe the structure of the
archive once it was made available via the website of AAA. Bunoan, “Roberto
13 For references to Chabet as the “father” of Philippine Conceptualism, see Elvira
Araneta, “Remembering Roberto Chabet”, Contemporary Art Philippines 27 (2013):
44–9; B. Carlo M. Tadiar, “Conceptual master Chabet gets unprecendented
retrospective at CCP”, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 19 March 2012: C1–C2.
14 See Hal Foster, “An Archival Impulse”, October 110 (Fall 2004): 3–22.
15 I draw here on art historian and Isabel Ching’s observation that the canon of
Southeast Asian modern and contemporary art is not yet solidiﬁed. While this
produces many gaps of knowledge and leaves open spaces for researching the
interconnections and diﬀerences between national art histories, it also leaves
Conceptual Slippages 37
space for struggles to distinguish—and assert—who is important on a national
level and speaks for wider, regional practices. See Isabel Ching, “Southeast
Asian art history doesn’t have a canon yet”, interview, 28 March 2014, http://
problem-isabel-ching-on-singapores-art-scene-interview/ [accessed 29 Sept. 2018].
16 The drive to restage and represent earlier conceptual and performance-based
practices may be seen in recent exhibitions such as A Fact Has No Appearance
(2016), curated by Russell Storer, Adele Tan and Clarissa Chikiamco, around
the practices of Johnny Manahan from the Philippines, Redza Piyedasa from
Malaysia and Tan Teng-Kee from Malaysia/Singapore.
17 David Teh, Thai Art: Currencies of the Contemporary (Cambridge, MA: The MIT
Press, 2017), pp. 1–19.
18 I have borrowed the term “currencies” from art critic David Teh’s recent study
of Thai contemporary art, in which the term refers to both the strategies taken
by artists to negotiate narratives of the national and international, as well as
tendencies and practices in contemporary or ‘current’ art. Teh, Thai Art, p. 15.
19 Apinan Poshyananda, “‘Con Art’ Seen from the Edge: The Meaning of Conceptual
Art in South and Southeast Asia”, in Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin,
1950s–1980s, ed. Jane Farver, Rachel Weiss and Luis Camnitzer (New York: Queens
Museum of Art, 1999), pp. 142–6.
20 Chabet has been credited with bridging local developments, with international
discourses in modern and contemporary after the Second World War, alongside
formative ﬁgures such as David Medalla (b. 1938) and Raymundo Albano (1947–85)
from the Philippines, Redza Piyadasa (1939–2007) from Malaysia, Tang Da Wu
(b. 1943) and Cheo Chai-Hiang (b. 1946) from Singapore, and Jim Supangkat
(b. 1948) from Indonesia. See Ahmad Mashadi, “Framing the 1970s”, Third Text
25, 4 (2011): 409–17.
21 Isabel Ching has noted, “As a historical phenomenon in Southeast Asia,
conceptual art is not often spoken of. If you look at the language itself, it can look
very minimal and sometimes it can look a bit formal. The message itself is not
necessarily clear to anyone and it can look like minimal art from the West. It’s not
what [the West] wants to see as coming from Asian artists, it’s not what they think
it’s an important art coming from Asian artists.” She also cites how the birth of
institutions such as the National Gallery of Singapore—and I would add, the Asia
Art Archive—has explicitly privileged the documentation of conceptual practices.
See Ching, “Southeast Asian art history doesn’t have a canon yet”.
22 At the time when research for this paper was carried out in 2017–18, King Kong
Art Projects was continuing to archive and annotate materials for the archive,
although this new material is currently not added to AAA’s digital repository and
may be accessed only onsite in Manila. Bunoan, “Roberto Chabet”.
38 Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art in Asia
23 King Kong Art Projects Unlimited was founded in 2010 by Ringo Bunoan while
Chabet was still alive. The organisation was originally established in order to
represent Chabet for the retrospective exhibition Roberto Chabet: 50 Years (2011–12)
and its ensuing publications. An agreement was made with the artist granting
King Kong Art Projects permission to document and manage his existing works, as
well as to reproduce works for the exhibition. After the artist’s death in 2013, the
agreement was re-signed with the artist’s family and estate, granting King Kong
Art Projects continued rights to represent the artist and maintain his archive.
24 Judy Freya Sibayan, “Judy Freya Sibayan”, Mapping Performance Art and
Conceptualism in the Philippines: Historiography (Manila: University of the
Philippines, Tate Research Centre: Asia, 22 Aug. 2017).
25 Okwui Enwezor, “Archive Fever: Photography between History and the
Monument”, in Archive Fever: Uses of the Document in Contemporary Art, pp. 11–51
(New York: Steidl, International Center of Photography, 2008), p. 40.
26 Correspondence with Ringo Bunoan, 24 Aug. 2019.
27 The term “environment” appears in a number of descriptions of Chabet’s
installations in the 1970s. See “Roberto Chabet’s Environmental Sculpture (CCP
Gallery, Nov. 14–25, 1972)” (Manila: Cultural Centre of the Philippines, Nov. 1972).
28 Inﬂuenced by the work of Marcel Duchamp and Fluxus, Chabet’s early work
demonstrates an engagement with transnational discourses around conceptual
art, performance and assemblage art during the 1960s and 1970s, in an eﬀort to
assert the inherent place of these media within Philippine and Southeast Asian
art and culture. See Ringo Bunoan, “Seeing and Unseeing: The Works of Roberto
Chabet”, in Roberto Chabet, ed. Ringo Bunoan (Manila: King Kong Art Projects
Unlimited, 2015), pp. 63–91.
29 The term ‘happening’ was used to describe several large-scale public
performances conceived by ethnomusicologist and experimental composer José
Maceda in the late 1960s and 1970s. These notably included Cassettes 100, where
Maceda staged the simultaneous playing of sound clips of indigenous music
previously recorded during his ﬁeldwork expeditions. The clips were played
simultaneously from 100 tape recorders, held up by 100 participants at the CCP,
all the meanwhile moving around the space in a choreographed pattern. The
work was devised with the assistance of visual artists Jose E. Joya Jr. and Ofelia
L. Gelvezon-Tequi for the design and projections, and the theatre light designer
Teodoro Hilado for lights and eﬀects. The performance was documented by the
oﬃcial photographer of the CCP, Nathaniel Gutiérrez, through whose visual
records the memory of Cassettes 100 has survived not only as an experimental
composition, but was also described as a pioneering immersive public
‘happenings’ in the Philippines in ﬂiers and other marketing materials compiled
by Maceda. See Invitation to premier of Cassettes 100, signed by Salvador P. Lopez
Conceptual Slippages 39
(President), 3 March 1971. In a similar spirit of collective enactment, Udlot-Udlot
(1975) premiered at the University of the Philippines with the participation of
students simultaneously playing instruments such as bamboo ﬂutes, stamping
tubes and stick beaters. Their collective organisation and spatial movement was
choreographed by Roberto Chabet, thus developing a work that once again saw
the meeting of experimental music, participatory art and theatre.
30 Patrick Flores, “Raymundo Albano”, Mapping Performance Art and Conceptualism
in the Philippines: Historiography (Manila: University of the Philippines, Tate
Research Centre: Asia, 22 Aug. 2017); Judy Freya Sibayan, The Hypertext of
HerMe(s) (KT Press, 2014).
31 Speaking more broadly about Conceptual Art practices in the Philippines during
the 1960s–80s, Marian Pastor-Roces has noted, “The belief system that sustained
the frenetic art-making was based on a certain Philippine art version of, believe
it or not, nationalism. There was this hyper-consciousness about local art ﬁnally,
ecstatically moving in synchrony with New York, San Francisco, Tokyo, and
possibly even pushing ‘ahead’ more progressively that in Paris, London Rome.”
Marian Pastor Roces, “Outline for Reviewing the Avant-Garde”, San Juan, August
32 Roberto Chabet, “Roberto Chabet: Interview by Cid Reyes”, in Conversations on
Philippine Art, ed. Cid Reyes (Manila: Cultural Centre of the Philippines, 1989),
pp. 123–6, esp. p. 126.
33 Eilee Legaspi-Ramirez, “Chabet’s Conceptual Paradoxes: Reneging on the Last
Word”, in Roberto Chabet, ed. Ringo Bunoan (Manila: King Kong Art Projects
Unlimited, 2015), pp. 333–62, esp. p. 337.
34 According to Lippard and Chandler, “Idea art has been seen as art about
criticism rather than art-as-art or even art about art. On the contrary, the
dematerialization of the object might eventually lead to the disintegration
of criticism as it is known today.” Lucy R. Lippard and John Chandler, “The
Dematerialization of the Art Object”, Art International 12, 2 (Feb. 1968): 31–6.
35 Some writers have argued that Chabet attempted to initiate what Bunoan has
described as “veiled critiques” towards the art world, through a positioning of
himself not only as an observer but also a critic. According to Bunoan, “Chabet
was the leader of a new generation whose works were labelled as “anti-museum”
for they made use of unconventional materials that are perishable and hard to
keep. Against the backdrop of Martial Law, in a venue such as the CCP, one could
also surmise that Chabet’s works were veiled critiques from within the institution
itself.” See Bunoan, 2015, p. 73.
36 Eileen Legaspi-Ramirez, “Performance Art in the Philippines”, Mapping
Performance Art and Conceptualism in the Philippines: Archives (Manila:
University of the Philippines, Tate Research Centre: Asia, 24 Aug. 2017).
40 Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art in Asia
37 Raymundo Albano, “A Decade of Developmental Art in the Philippines”,
Philippines Art Supplement (July–Aug. 1981): 15–6.
38 Patrick Flores, “Roots, Basics, Beginnings: The Textual and Curatorial Work of
Raymundo Albano”, Dhaka Art Summit 2018 (Dhaka: Dhaka Art Summit, 8 Feb.
39 A selection of the artists featured in the archive were included in the recent
exhibition The 70s: Objects, Photographs and Documents, curated by Ringo
Bunoan at the Ateneo Art Gallery (2 Feb.–4 July 2018). It featured works by
Raymundo Albano, Huge Bartolomé, Joe Bautista, Danilo Dalena, Joy Dayrit,
Nathaniel Gutierrez, Nap Jamir, Johnny Manahan, Red Mansueto, Fernando
Modesto, Butch Perez, Yolanda Perez–Johnson and Judy Sibayan. Bunoan has
described this exhibition as an eﬀort to present a historical look at the 1970s
without focusing on Social Realism, as has been represented in other exhibitions
such as The Philippine Contemporary: To Scale the Past and the Possible at the
Manila Metropolitan Museum of Art.
40 Bunoan, 2017.
42 Bunoan, correspondence, 2019.
43 Conversation with Eileen Legaspi-Ramirez, Manila, July 2017.
44 See Sibayan, 2014.
45 Sibayan has recently undertaken a residency at Calle Wright in Manila (3 Oct.–11
Nov. 2018), revisiting her archives and making a selection of materials publicly
available in the form of performances, lectures and publications.
46 An anthology of Albano’s writings, Raymundo Albano: Texts, edited by Patrick
Flores was published in 2018 by the Vargas Museum in Manila.
47 Albano’s work was the focus of the exhibition Turns in Tropics: Artist as Curators,
curated by Patrick Flores alongside the Gwangju Biennale in 2008. Positing the
1970s as an important moment in which censorship took place in a number of
Southeast Asian nation states, this exhibition examined the role of artists who
assumed curatorial positions and brought Albano’s work into conversation with
Redza Piyadasa from Malaysia, Jim Supangkat from Indonesia, and Apinan
Poshyananda from Thailand. The display emphasised that these four artist-
curators were not only key ﬁgures in showcasing art from Southeast Asia on
international platforms, they also played important roles in developing critical
discourses around contemporary art in their respective countries.
48 Patrick Flores, “Social Realism: The Turns of a Term in the Philippines”, Afterall
49 The group Kaisahan (‘Solidarity’), formed in 1976, comprised Papo de Asis, Pablo
Baens Santos, Orlando Castillo, Jose Cuaresma, Neil Doloricon, Edgar Talusan
Fernandez, Charles Funk, Renato Habulan, Albert Jimenez, Al Manrique and Jose
Tence Ruiz, who were later joined by Vin Toledo.
Conceptual Slippages 41
50 Alice G. Guillermo, Protest/Revolutionary Art in the Philippines 1970–1990 (Manila:
University of the Philippines Press, 2001).
51 Legaspi-Ramirez, 2017.
52 Patrick Flores, “Classic But Needless: The Social Realist and Conceptual Divide”,
in Ginto: 50 Years of the AAP (Manila: Art Association of the Philippines, 1999).
53 For a discussion of David Medalla’s positioning in relation to Philippine
conceptual art, see Patrick Flores, “‘Total Community Response’: Performing the
Avant-garde as a Democratic Gesture in Manila”, Southeast of Now: Directions in
Contemporary and Modern Art in Asia 1, 1 (March 2017): 13–38; Purissima Benitez-
Johannot, 2012; Eva Bentcheva, “Conceptualism-Scepticism and Creative Cross-
Pollinations in the Work of David Medalla, 1969–72”, Conceptualism–Intersectional
Readings, International Framings: Black Artists and Modernism in Europe after
1968, Eindhoven: Van Abbemuseum, 8–9 Dec. 2017.
54 In one of the seminal essays on the evolution of conceptual art in Europe and
North America, Lucy R. Lippard and John Chandler argued in 1968: “as the object
becomes merely the end product, a number of artists are losing interest in the
physical evolution of the work of art. The studio is again becoming a study. Such
a trend appears to be provoking a profound dematerialization of art, especially of
art as object, and if it continues to prevail, it may result in the object’s becoming
wholly obsolete.” Lippard & Chandler, 1968, p. 31.
55 Derrida, 1998, p. 68.
56 Bunoan, 2017.
57 At the time of writing this article, Waves appears dated in the archive as
1975. However, new documentary evidence found by King Kong Art Projects
has determined the original date of the installation to be 1972. Bunoan,
58 Waves (1972) was recently exhibited at the private gallery at MO_Space X, curated
by Nilo Ilarde, from 1–30 July 2017.
59 The work comprises a series of 12 suspended wooden frames, intersected by
stretched strips of rubber from the interior of tyres. It was ﬁrst shown at Chabet’s
solo exhibition Chabet: New Works (1–20 Feb. 1973) at the Luz Gallery in Manila,
where it featured as part of the series For E.H., an homage to the German-
American artist Eva Hesse, who passed away in 1970. This display included two
further works, Kite Traps, a smaller series of wooden frames with stretched rubber
bands, and Pink Painting, comprising a grid made of plywood with stretched out
60 Given the ephemeral nature of many of Chabet’s works, the archive’s ability to
serve as a repository of information for recreations fulﬁls a function held by many
other archives of Conceptual Art. For discussions on the relationship between
performance-based practices and documentation, see Amelia Jones, “‘Presence’ in
42 Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art in Asia
Absentia: Experiencing Performance as Documentation”, Art Journal 56, 4 (1997):
11–8; Rebecca Schneider, “Performance Remains”, in Perform, Repeat, Record:
Live Art in History, ed. Amelia Jones and Adrian Heathﬁeld (Chicago: Chicago
University Press, 2012), pp. 137–50.
61 Chabet’s installation Onethingafteranother (GI sheets, halogen lights with stands,
2011) was featured at the ﬁrst Manila Biennale (2018).
62 The forthcoming Asia-Paciﬁc Triennale will feature Chabet’s installation Waves
63 Teh, 2017.
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