Manila is an erratic milieu. Indoor air-conditioning is always on full blast; but as soon as you step out it is hot and humid. As our Curatorial Intensive colleagues from elsewhere soon learned, it may take two hours to get to a supposedly-30-minutes-away destination because of traffic. For the homegrown participants living in a city adjacent to Manila, it can take up to four hours just to get to the Metropolitan Museum, which hosted us for the entire week. Indeed Manila is an ecology of delay, and as such, especially erratic milieu in which to consider ideas of contemporariness. A reformulation of an idea by Yates McKee suffuses Manila and its habitué: “we are incontemporaneous with our living present.”
A presentation by Patrick Flores, which started off the intense week of seminars, resonated throughout the Intensive: the deployment of the notions of delay and lagging behind as tools for slowing down, parsing, persistence, as an interval that inaugurates opportunity and potential, and never lethargy. This erratic milieu is the soil in which local diskarte—a know-how and cunning, cannot help but flourish. This is what I imagined when Flores discussed the idea of the geopoetic: how do we foster an environment in such a milieu that helps us persist in creating in such a milieu?
Rather than linger on Manila’s errancy, I chose to appreciate the unevenness of the poetic sited in specific geographies, specificities that manifested in the heterogeneity of the group’s concerns and affinities. To me, and perhaps to other participants in the Intensive in Manila, the experience gave the space and time necessary for slowing down. The lectures gave us the space and time needed to think for ourselves and with our peers. Talking with peers allowed me the latitude to think through my position in this erratic city, a city I have learned to love. Admiration is all I had listening to my colleagues Patricia Cariño and Sydney Stoudmire speak of their projects with anabling eloquence. The time I spent talking to Asli Seven and Jessica Berlanga Taylor was full of interrogations and realizations that I will value as I engage with projects and ideas in the future.
Perhaps, the week’s intensity coupled with the surrounding errancy produced a vitality made ever more productive by the sheer heterogeneity of our group, our dislocations and collocations. It is a vitality that may only be drawn from such an intensity, be manifested from such a milieu, like a presence that is incontemporaneous with itself.