U.S. GENOCIDE IN THE PHILIPPINES


U.S. GENOCIDE IN THE PHILIPPINES AND THE URGENT NEED TO PREVENT ITS REPETITION

by E. San Juan, Jr.

 

OFWsembracing

 

Lest people forget, the U.S. ruling class today, since the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the Gulf War, has been deeply mired in an unconscionable, self-destructive war against people of color in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Colombia, Nepal, Mexico, Sudan, Somalia, and, of course, the Philippines. With over 446,000 troops abroad in over 725 bases worldwide, the U.S. is now transferring thousands of troops from its Okinawa base to Luzon. Over 40 US Special Forces have been involved in the raging battles in Mindanao and Sulu against Muslim insurgents; in Cotabato, the US has been constructing a naval/air base larger than Clark and Subic combined. Under the pretext of the “Balikatan” exercises since 9/11, the Arroyo regime has allowed US troops to participate in counter-insurgency maneuvers, some under “humanitarian” cover in the flood-stricken provinces of Aurora and Quezon. It is only a matter of time when full-blown US intervention against forces of the New People’s Army and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is bound to result in the killing of thousands of Filipinos—a horrific if preventable repetition of US genocide against the revolutionary forces of the first Philippine Republic.

Revisiting the Carnage

     Except during the sixties when the Filipino-American War of 1899-1902 was referred to as “the first Vietnam,” the death of 1.4 million Filipinos has been usually accounted for as either collateral damage or victims of insurrection against the imperial authority of the United States. The first Filipino scholar to make a thorough documentation of the carnage is the late Luzviminda Francisco in her contribution to The Philippines: The End of An Illusion (London, 1973).

     This fact is not even mentioned in the tiny paragraph or so in most U.S. history textbooks. Stanley Karnow’s In Our Image (1989), the acclaimed history of this intervention, quotes the figure of 200,000 Filipinos killed in outright fighting. Among historians, only Howard Zinn and Gabriel Kolko have dwelt on the “genocidal” character of the catastrophe. Kolko, in his magisterial Main Currents in Modern American History (1976), reflects on the context of the mass murder: “Violence reached a crescendo against the Indian after the Civil War and found a yet bloodier manifestation during the protracted conquest of the Philippines from 1898 until well into the next decade, when anywhere from 200,000 to 600,000 Filipinos were killed in an orgy of racist slaughter that evoked much congratulation and approval….” Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States (1980) cites 300,000 Filipinos killed in Batangas alone, while William Pomeroy’s American Neo-Colonialism (1970) cites 600,000 Filipinos dead in Luzon alone by 1902. The actual figure of 1.4 million covers the period from 1899 to 1905 when resistance by the Filipino revolutionary forces mutated from outright combat in battle to guerilla skirmishes; it doesn’t include the thousands of Moros (Filipino Muslims) killed in the first two decades of U.S. colonial domination.

     The first Philippine Republic led by General Emilio Aguinaldo, which had already waged a successful war against the Spanish colonizers, mounted a determined nationwide opposition against U.S. invading forces. It continued for two more decades after Aguinaldo’s capture in 1901. Several provinces resisted to the point where the U.S. had to employ  scorched-earth tactics, and hamletting or “reconcentration” to quarantine the populace from the guerillas, resulting in widespread torture, disease, and mass starvation. In The Specter of Genocide: Mass Murder in Historical Perspective (2003), Prof. Gavan McCormack argues that the outright counterguerilla operations launched by the U.S. against the Filipinos, an integral part of its violent pacification program, constitutes genocide. He refers to Jean Paul Sartre’s contention that as in Vietnam, “the only anti-guerilla strategy which will be effective is the destruction of the people, in other words, the civilians, women and children.” That is what happened in the Philippines in the first half of the bloody twentieth century.

Civilizing Holocaust

     As defined by the UN 1948 “ Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,” genocide means acts “committed with intention to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” It is clear that the U.S. colonial conquest of the Philippines deliberately sought to destroy the national sovereignty of the Filipinos. The intent of the U.S. perpetrators included the dissolution of the ethnic identity of the Filipinos manifest in the rhetoric, policies, and disciplinary regimes enunciated and executed by legislators, politicians, military personnel, and other apparatuses. The original proponents of the UN document on genocide conceived of genocide as including acts or policies aimed at “preventing the preservation or development” of “racial, national, linguistic, religious, or political groups.” That would include “all forms of propaganda tending by their systematic and hateful character to provoke genocide, or tending to make it appear as a necessary, legitimate, or excusable act.” What the UN had in mind, namely, genocide as cultural or social death of targeted groups, was purged from the final document due to the political interests of the nation-states that then dominated the world body.

     What was deleted in the original draft of the UN document are practices considered genocidal in their collective effect. Some of them were carried out in the Philippines by the United States from 1899 up to 1946 when the country was finally granted formal independence.  As with the American Indians, U.S. colonization involved, among others, the “destruction of the specific character of a persecuted group by forced transfer of children, forced exile, prohibition of the use of the national language, destruction of books, documents, monuments, and objects of historical, artistic or religious value.” The goal of all colonialism is the cultural and social death of the conquered natives, in effect, genocide.

     In a recent article, “Genocide and America” (New York Review of Books, March 14, 2002), Samantha Power observes that US officials “had genuine difficulty distinguishing the deliberate massacre of civilians from the casualties incurred in conventional conflict.” It is precisely the blurring of this distinction in colonial wars through racializing discourses and practices that proves how genocide cannot be fully grasped without analyzing the way the victimizer (the colonizing state power) categorizes the victims (target populations) in totalizing and naturalizing modes unique perhaps to the civilizational drives of  modernity. Within the modern period, in particular, the messianic impulse to genocide springs from the imperative of capital accumulation—the imperative to reduce humans to commodified labor-power, to saleable goods/services. U.S. “primitive accumulation” began with the early colonies in New England and Virginia, and culminated in the 19th century with the conquest and annexation of Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guam, Hawaii, and the Philippines.With the historical background of the U.S. campaigns against the American Indians in particular, and the treatment of African slaves and Chicanos in general, there is a need for future scholars and researchers to concretize this idea of genocide (as byproduct of imperial expansion) by exemplary illustrations from the U.S. colonial adventure in the Philippines.

Historical Amnesia

     

When U.S. occupation troops in Iraq continued to suffer casualties every day after the war officially ended, academics and journalists began in haste to supply capsule histories comparing their situation with those of troops in the Philippines during the Filipino-American War (1899-1902). A New York Times essay summed up the lesson in its title, “In 1901 Philippines, Peace Cost More Lives Than Were Lost in War” (2 July 2003, B1)), while an article in the Los Angeles Times contrasted the  simplicity of McKinley’s “easy” goal of annexation (though at the cost of 4,234 U.S. soldiers killed and 3,000 wounded) with George W. Bush’s ambition to “create a new working democracy as soon as possible” (20 July 2003, M2).  Reviewing the past is instructive, of course, but we should always place it in the context of present circumstances in the Philippines and in the international arena. What is the real connection between the Philippines and the current U.S. war against terrorism?

  With the death of Martin Burnham, the hostage held by Muslim kidnappers called the “Abu Sayyaf” in Mindanao,  the southern island of the Philippines, one would expect more than 1,200 American troops (including FBI and CIA personnel) training Filipinos for that rescue mission to be heading for home in late 2002. Instead of being recalled, reinforcements have been brought in and more joint military exercises announced in the future.  Since September 11, 2001, U.S. media and Filipino government organs have dilated on the Abu Sayyaf’s tenuous links with Osama bin Laden. A criminal gang that uses Islamic slogans to hide its kidnapping-for-ransom activities, the Abu Sayyaf  is a splinter group born out of the U.S. war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and used by the government to sow discord among the insurgent partisans of the Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Protected by local politicians and military officials, the Abu Sayyaf’s persistence betokens the complicated history of the centuries-long struggle of more than ten million Muslims in the Philippines for dignity, justice, and self-determination.

              What is behind the return of the former colonizer to what was once called its “insular territory” administered then by the Bureau of Indian Affairs? With Secretary Colin Powell’s decision to stigmatize as “terrorist” the major insurgent groups that have been fighting for forty years for popular democracy and independence—the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army, part of a coalition called the National Democratic Front, the introduction of thousands of U.S. troops, weapons, logistics, and supporting personnel has become legitimate. More is involved than simply converting the archipelago to instant military bases and facilities for the U.S. military—a bargain exchange for the strategic outposts Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base that were scrapped by a resurgent Filipino nationalism a decade ago. With the military officials practically managing the executive branch of government, the Philippine nation-state will prove to be more an appendage of the Pentagon than a humdrum neocolony administered by oligarchic compradors (a “cacique democracy,” in the words of Benedict Anderson), which it has been since nominal independence in 1946.  On the whole, Powell’s stigmatizing act is part of the New American Century Project to reaffirm a new pax Americana after the Cold War

Killing Fields After Afghanistan

Immediately after the proclaimed defeat of the Taliban and the rout of Osama bin Laden’s forces in Afghanistan, the Philippines became the second front in the U.S.-led war on terrorism. Raymond Bonner, author of Waltzing with Dictators (1987), argues that the reason for this second front is “the desire for a quick victory over terrorism,… the wish to reassert American power in Southeast Asia….If Washington’s objective is to wipe out the international terrorist organizations that pose a threat to world stability, the Islamic terrorist groups operating in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir would seem to be a higher priority than Abu Sayyaf” (New York Times, 10 June 2002). Or those in Indonesia, a far richer and promising region in terms of oil and other abundant natural resources. As in the past, during the Huk rebellion in the Philippines in the Cold War years, the U.S. acted as “the world’s policemen,” aiding the local military in “civic action” projects to win “hearts and minds,” a rehearsal for Vietnam. The Stratfor Research Group believes that Washington is using the Abu Sayyaf as a cover for establishing a “forward logistics and operation base” in southeast Asia in order to be able to conduct swift pre-emptive strikes against enemies in Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, China, and elsewhere.

Overall, however, the intervention of U.S. Special Forces in solving a local problem inflamed Filipino sensibilities, its collective memory still recovering from the nightmare of the U.S.-supported brutal Marcos dictatorship. What disturbed everyone was the Cold-War practice of “Joint Combined Exchange Training” exercises. In South America and Africa, such U.S. foreign policy initiatives merged with counter-insurgency operations that chanelled  military logistics and equipment to favored regimes notorious for flagrant human rights violations. In Indonesia during the Suharto regime, for example, U.S. Special Operations  Forces trained government troops accused by Amnesty International of kidnapping and torture of activists, especially in East Timor and elsewhere. In El Salvador, Colombia and Guatemala, the U.S. role in organizing death squads began with Special Operations Forces advisers who set up “intelligence networks” ostensibly against the narcotics trade but also against leftist insurgents and nationalists. During the Huk uprising in the Philippines, Col. Edward Lansdale, who later masterminded the Phoenix atrocities in Vietnam, rehearsed similar counter-insurgency techniques combined with other anticommunist tricks of the trade. Now U.S. soldiers in active combat side by side with Filipinos will pursue the “terrorists” defined by the U.S. State Department—guerillas of the New People’s Army, Moro resistance fighters, and other progressive sectors of Filipino society.

Return of the Anglo-Saxon Conquistadors

Are we seeing American troops in the boondocks (bundok, in the original Tagalog, means “mountain”) again?  Are we experiencing a traumatic attack of déjà vu?   A moment of reflection returns us to what Bernard Fall called “the first Vietnam,” the Filipino-American War of 1899-1902, in which at least 1.4 million Filipinos. The campaign to conquer the Philippines was designed in accordance with President McKinley’s policy of “Benevolent Assimilation” of the uncivilized and unchristian natives, a “civilizing mission” that Mark Twain considered worthy of the Puritan settlers and the pioneers in the proverbial “virgin land.” In Twain’s classic prose: “Thirty thousand killed a million. It seems a pity that the historian let that get out; it is really a most embarrassing circumstance.”  This was a realization of the barbarism that Henry Adams feared before Admiral George Dewey entered Manila Bay on 1 May 1898: “I turn green in bed at midnight if I think of the horror of a year’s warfare in the Philippines where…we must slaughter a million or two of foolish Malays in order to give them the comforts of flannel petticoats and electric trailways.”

In “Benevolent Assimilation”: The American Conquest of the Philippines, 1899-1903 (1982),  Stuart Creighton Miller recounts the U.S. military’s “scorched earth” tactics in Samar and Batangas, atrocities from “search and destroy” missions reminiscent of Song My and My Lai in Vietnam. This episode in the glorious history of Empire  is usually accorded a marginal footnote, or a token  paragraph in school textbooks.  Miller only mentions in passing the U.S. attempt to subjugate the unhispanized Moros, the Muslim Filipinos in Mindanao and Sulu islands. On March 9, 1906, four years after President Theodore Roosevelt declared the war over, Major General Leonard Wood, commanding five hundred and forty soldiers, killed a beleaguered group of  six hundred Muslim men, women and children in the battle of Mount Dajo. A less publicized but horrific battle occurred on June 13, 1913, when the Muslim sultanate of Sulu mobilized about 5,000 followers (men, women and children) against the American troops led by Capt. John Pershing. The battle of Mount Bagsak, 25 kilometers east of Jolo City, ended with the death of  340 Americans and of 2,000 (some say 3000) Moro defenders. Pershing was true to form—earlier he had left a path of destruction in Lanao, Samal Island, and other towns where local residents fought his incursions. Anyone who resisted U.S. aggression was either a “brigand” or seditious bandit. The carnage continued up to the “anti-brigandage” campaigns of the first three decades which suppressed numerous peasant revolts and workers’ strikes against the colonial state and its local agencies.

With the help of the U.S. sugar-beet lobby, the Philippine Commonwealth of 1935 was established,  constituted with a compromise mix of laws and regulations then being tried in Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Hawaii. Eventually the islands became a model of a pacified neocolony. Except perhaps for Miller’s aforementioned book and assorted studies, nothing much about the revealing effects of that process of subjugation of Filipinos have registered in the American Studies archive. This is usually explained by the theory that the U.S. did not follow the old path of European colonialism, and its war against Spain was pursued to liberate the natives from Spanish tyranny. If so, that war now rescued from the dustbin of history signaled the advent of a globalizing U.S. interventionism whose latest manifestation, in a different historical register, is Bush’s “National Security Strategy” of “exercising self-defense [of the Homeland] by acting preemptively,” assuming that might is right.

Revival of People’s War

          The revolutionary upsurge in the Philippines against the Marcos dictatorship (1972-1986) stirred up dogmatic Cold War complacency. With the inauguration of a new stage in Cultural Studies in the nineties, the historical reality of U.S. imperialism  (the genocide of Native Americans is replayed in the subjugation of the inhabitants of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and Cuba) is finally being excavated and re-appraised. But this is, of course, a phenomenon brought about by a confluence of multifarious events, among them: the demise of the Soviet Union as a challenger to U.S. hegemony;  the sublation of the Sixties in both Fukuyama’s “end of history” and the interminable “culture wars,” the Palestininan intifadas; the Zapatista revolt against NAFTA; the heralding of current anti-terrorism by the Gulf War; and the fabled “clash of civilizations.”  Despite these changes, the old frames of intelligibility have not been modified or reconfigured to understand how nationalist revolutions in the colonized territories cannot be confused with the nationalist patriotism of the dominant or hegemonic metropoles, or how the mode of U.S. imperial rule in the twentieth century differs in form and content from those of the British or French in the nineteenth century. The received consensus of a progressive modernizing influence from the advanced industrial powers remains deeply entrenched. Even postcolonial and postmodern thinkers commit the mistake of censuring the decolonizing projects of the subalternized peoples because these projects (in the superior gaze of these thinkers) have been damaged, or are bound to become perverted into despotic postcolonial regimes, like those in Ghana, Algeria, Vietnam, the Philippines, and elsewhere. The only alternative, it seems, is to give assent to the process of globalization under the aegis of the World Bank/IMF/WTO, and hope for a kind of “benevolent assimilation.”

     What remains to be carefully considered, above all, is the historical specificity or singularity of each of these projects of national liberation, their class composition, historical roots, programs, ideological tendencies, and political agendas within the context of colonial/imperial domination. It is not possible to pronounce summary judgments on the character and fate of nationalist movements in the peripheral formations without focusing on the complex manifold relations between colonizer and colonized, the dialectical interaction between their forces as well as others caught in the conflict. Otherwise, the result would be a disingenuous ethical utopianism such as that found in U.S. postnationalist and postcolonialist discourse which, in the final analysis, functions as an apology for the ascendancy of the  transnational corporate powers embedded in the nation-states of the North, and for the hegemonic rule of the only remaining superpower claiming to act in the name of freedom and democracy.

There Is No Alternative to the National Democratic Struggle

    The case of the national-democratic struggle in the Philippines may be taken as an example of one historic singularity. Because of the historical specificity of the Philippines’ emergence as a dependent nation-state controlled by the United States in the twentieth century, nationalism as a mass movement has always been defined by events of anti-imperialist rebellion. U.S. conquest entailed long and sustained violent suppression of the Filipino revolutionary forces for decades. The central founding “event” (as the philosopher Alain Badiou would define the term) is the 1896 revolution against Spain and its sequel, the Filipino-American war of 1899-1902, and the Moro resistance up to 1914 against U.S. colonization. Another political sequence of events is the Sakdal uprising in the thirties during the Commonwealth period followed by the Huk uprising in the forties and fifties—a sequence that is renewed in the First Quarter Storm of 1970 against the neocolonial state. While the feudal oligarchy and the comprador class under U.S. patronage utilized elements of the nationalist tradition formed in 1896-1898 as their ideological weapon for establishing moral-intellectual leadership, their attempts have never been successful. Propped by the Pentagon-supported military, the Arroyo administration today, for example, uses the U.S. slogan of democracy against terrorism and the fantasies of the neoliberal free market to legitimize its continued exploitation of workers, peasants, women and ethnic minorities. Following a long and tested tradition of grassroots mobilization, Filipino nationalism has always remained centered on the peasantry’s demand for land closely tied to the popular-democratic demand for equality and genuine sovereignty.

          For over a century now, U.S.-backed developmentalism and modernization have utterly failed in the Philippines. The resistance against globalized capital and its neoliberal extortions is spearheaded today by a national-democratic mass movement of various ideological persuasions. There is also a durable Marxist-led insurgency that seeks to articulate the “unfinished revolution” of 1896 in its demand for national independence against U.S. control and social justice for the majority of citizens (80 million) ten percent of whom are now migrant workers abroad. Meanwhile, the Muslim community  in the southern part of the Philippines initiated its armed struggle for self-determination during the Marcos dictatorship (1972-1986) and continues today as a broadly based movement for autonomy, despite the Islamic ideology of its teacher-militants. Recalling the genocidal U.S. campaigns cited above, BangsaMoro nationalism cannot forget its Muslim singularity which is universalized in the principles of equality, justice, and the right to self-determination. In the wake of past defeats of peasant revolts, the Filipino culture of nationalism constantly renews its anti-imperialist vocation by mobilizing new forces (women and church people in the sixties, and the indigenous or ethnic minorities in the seventies and eighties). It is organically embedded in emancipatory social and political movements whose origin evokes in part the Enlightenment narrative of sovereignty as mediated by third-world nationalist movements (Gandhi, Ho Chi Minh, Mao) but whose sites of actualization are the local events of mass insurgency against continued U.S.  hegemony. The Philippines as an “imagined” and actually experienced ensemble of communities, or multiplicities in motion, remains in the process of being constructed primarily through modes of political and social resistance against corporate transnationalism (or globalization, in the trendy parlance) and its technologically mediated ideologies, fashioning thereby the appropriate cultural forms of dissent, resistance, and subversion worthy of its people’s history and its collective vision.

E. SAN JUAN, Jr.  was recently Fulbright Professor of American Studies at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, and 2009 fellow of the W.E. B. Du Bois Institute, Harvard University. His recent scholarship may be sampled in RACISM AND CULTURAL STUDIES (Duke U Press), WORKING THROUGH THE CONTRADICTIONS (Bucknell U Press), US IMPERIALISM AND REVOLUTION IN THE PHILIPPINES (Palgrave), TOWARD FILIPINO SELF-DETERMINATION (SUNY Press), and CRITIQUE AND SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION (The Edwin Mellen Press). His recent books are FILIPINAS EVERYWHERE (Sussex Academic Press/De La Salle University Publing House)< LEARNING FROM THE FILIPINO DIASPORA (U.S.T. Press), KONTRA-MODERNIDAD (University of the Philippines Press), and CARLOS BULOSAN: REVOLUTIONARY FILIPINO WRITER IN THE UNITED STATES (Peter Lang, New York)..

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RE-VISITING DILIMAN SOUVENIRS by E. San Juan, Jr.


Re-Visiting Diliman Souvenirs: Peirce’s Semiotics and the Return of the Suppressed

E. SAN JUAN, JR.

philcsc@gmail.com

ABSTRACT

In the July 1957 issue of The Philippine Collegian appeared a poem entitled “Man is a Political Animal,” a translation of Aristotle’s famous definition of human beings. It was written by an English major, E. San Juan, Jr., who became president of the U.P. Writers Club in 1958 and an instructor in the Department of English, U.P. (1958-60). The poem, a dramatic monologue, was modeled after the Vorticist style of the British avant- garde artist Wyndham Lewis. Objections were then raised by the Dean of the College of Music Ramon Tapales, writer Amador Daguio, and others, who persuaded the U.P. administration to suspend the author from being published. In 2018, the author was awarded a visiting professorship in the U.P. English Department. The institution seems unchanged, but the cultural landscape has incalculably altered. The current president uses foul language (not just “four-letter” words) in public pronouncements with impunity. This essay reflects on that experience sixty-one years later on the failure of communication, providing sociological- biographical context and using Peirce’s semiotics to approach possible ways of responding to the speech- act or utterance entitled “Man is a Political Animal” performed at a specific time and place in our history. In this postmodern era, is it self-indulgent to reflect on the complex intertextuality of a literary text to tease out its wider sociopolitical lessons drawn from comparing disparate viewpoints and contexts?

KEYWORDS

interpretant, subject, author, meaning, identity, signifierMe-GreenShirt

 

It was not terra incognita. Returning to the

University of the Philippines, Diliman, in January

to March 2018 as a visiting professor of English

and Comparative Literature has been not only

deja vu but also deja connu. Not entirely, though.

One can never return home again. You can never

step into the same river again, said Heraclitus,

but you can recall or capture the initial shock of

recognition enough to hear the water swirling

again in its unimpeded turbulence. Perhaps

this reminiscence will register a sociohistorical

resonance beyond its merely personal or merely

local import about controversies regarding

language use, reader-response, and ideology-

critique.

Teaching again in U.P. has become
a re-baptism in the archives first explored in
my undergraduate days in the 1950s. Just like
my Fulbright lectureship in 1987-88 in U.P.,
this occasion has been a learning experience
for me, as we (teachers and students) re-read Saussure, Jakobson, Lacan, Barthes, Irigaray, Derrida, Said, Foucault, among others in a Literary Theory seminar taught by Professor Ruth Pison. I volunteered to help shepherd the class through the semantic wilderness, hence this note on this experience in relation to an earlier stage of my engagement with readers who were panicked by a poem using “f**k” now a staple
of Hollywood conversation, a sign of quotidian modernity, notwithstanding Duterte’s unspeakable misogynism (Espina Varona).

Our Western gurus or idols have given us the scriptural idiom for discussing literary matters. These “monsters” or masters of theory have provoked, alarmed, or bewildered our smart co-learners—one of them coming all the way

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ISSUE 1

(2018)

PHILIPPINE HUMANITIES REVIEW 35

PERSONAL ESSAY

from Nueva Ecija to attend our Wednesday sessions. If I use the personal pronoun here, please consider it also as an allegorical stand-in for the generation that grew up after Liberation, from 1945 to 1965. We were post WW2/Cold War children exposed to Huk guerilla encounters, McCarthyite witch-hunts, Red Scare epidemic, etc. Maybe post-millennials now, subaltern cyborgs obsessed with Facebook inventorizing, may consider those days quaint, antiquarian, obsolete despite the scandalous red-tagging of academics today.

From Monologue to Colloquy

Of course, the speaking subject here—the “I’ as balikbayan OFW, for instance, cannot be enclosed in that time-space warp. So it is puzzling who is speaking, who is addressing whom, from the viewpoint of the postmodern hermeneutics of suspicion. One suspects that every act of remembering, especially one linked to institutional memory, like attempts at translation, is an act of betrayal of sorts. As a preface to the event I will recount below, I submit that the concept of the subject/subjectivity
here is the central problem in reading and interpreting of any text/speech-act. In contrast to the dominant Cartesian notion of subjectivity that underwrites bourgeois individualism, the self has been “de-constructed” by thinkers ranging from Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, Levi-Strauss, and others. The entrepreneurial subject of the capitalist era, eroded by massive forces of alienation and commodity- fetishism, has become a specter haunting the disenchanted halls/groves of the academy, its authority evaporated. In speculating on the end of inquiry, given the loss of belief in substance or intuition, the philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce discovered the solitary self as nothing else but ignorance, so that only a community of inquirers can reach truth or agreement on what is real or true. When appearances are taken as facts, valid only for one private self, “error appears … explained only by supposing a self which is fallible…Ignorance and error are all that distinguish our private selves from the absolute ego of pure apperception” (20; see also de Waal 154).

In this context, the “I” here, or any commentator on experience, can only be a sign of an ensemble of participants in the narrative of creating values, meanings, significance. It is already a truism that society is not a collection of egos or floating psyches; it is the dynamic totality of social relations. Thus the narrator of this sequence of events is always a supra-individual entity, a collective subject, not the monadic ego of psychoanalysis. I subscribe to the historical-materialist tradition that posits the subject, “the active and structured unity which makes possible a significant account of the actions of men or of the nature and meaning of the [artistic] work, is not an individual but a super- individual reality, a human group” (Goldmann 135). So, in this essay, the “I’ that attempts to narrate events in his life actually signifies a group, say, the petit bourgeois stratum in the Philippine neocolonial formation during the Cold War. We hear the voice of a class-representative mediating the proletariat/ peasantry and the comprador/ilustrado/landlord bloc, a figure aspiring to join the elite but also repelled by its hypocrisy and insipidity, and affirming its rebellious, nonconformist, anarchistic stance. One can discern lineaments of this character in the persona speaking in the poem on exhibit here, “Man is a Political Animal.”

Historicizing from the Dustbin

This is not the first time I have engaged in teaching in the U.P. English Department. After I graduated in 1958, the patriarchs of the Department Professors Cristino Jamias and Leopoldo Yabes hired me as an instructor from 1958 to 1960. In due time, the patriarchal order was fortuitously changed; my contemporaries Pete Daroy, Ernie Manalo, Max Ramos Jr., and others departed long ago for the other shore; and so too, mentors like Ricardo Pascual, Alfredo Lagmay, Cesar Majul, Francisco Arcellana, N.V.M. Gonzalez amongst others. After finishing graduate school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I taught again in 1966-67 when world-famous Carlos P. Romulo was president (for a summation of my U.S. experience, see San Juan 3-4). I taught again here in 1987-88 as a Fulbright teaching fellow, and in 2008 shepherded the theory seminar with Professor Preachy Legasto. This may be my last stint, a memorable one, accompanied with our bequest to the U.P. Foundation for the

36 PHILIPPINE HUMANITIES REVIEW VOLUME 20 ISSUE 1 (2018)

joint Aguilar-San Juan scholarship awards for deserving majors in the Department of English and Comparative Literature. This is only a slight gesture of acknowledging our indebtedness to the people who actualized the potential of this neocolonial institution.

Just a few snapshots of the fifties may supply part of the context. My first teachers in English 1 were Professor Elmer Ordoñez whose memorable assignment was for us to comment on Ivan Bunin’s classic story “The Gentleman from San Francisco” included in the old WW2 pocketbook collection of short stories; and Professor Franz Arcellana, who wrote slowly on the blackboard, with his left hand, the definition of “precis” taken from the big Harry Shaw textbook in Freshman English. Visitors Bienvenido Santos, Hortense Calisher, William Faulkner, and other famous authors came and said goodbye. We politely signaled our appreciation.

But there is no doubt that it was the textbook Approach to Literature by Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren, the archpriests of American New Criticism, which made a lasting impact on us
as English majors then. After that, I switched my interest to philosophy (Alfred Ayer’s Language, Truth and Logic and Bertrand Russell’s works became our treasured indices of wisdom, which did not prevent us from reading Sartre, Camus, Kierkegaard, Malraux, and others), having made friends with habitués in the Department of Philosophy, in particular Armando Bonifacio, Gerry Acay, and other heretics, whose periodical Inquiry published Franz’s comment on my poem which I will refer to later (see San Juan, Toward a People’s Literature.).

A short parenthesis: my textbook memories have faded, but one lesson that stuck may be instructive. It was the occasion when N.V.M. Gonzalez (whose creative writing course was dominated by one single book, Herbert Read’s English Prose Style) took members of the class to attend the Manila Trial Court in City Hall to witness the drama of the libel suit against Estrella Alfon for the obscenity of her story, “Fairy Tale of the City.” That excursion outside the classroom conveyed to me the undeniable entanglement of art, disciplinary institutions (aside from the classroom), and the sociopolitical regime affecting human conduct. Later on, when I wrote a somewhat satiric review of Signatures (edited by colleagues Alex Hufana and Rony Diaz) at Franz’s request, I was threatened with a lawsuit filed by the poet Oscar de Zuñiga who was offended by my unkindly comments. (Later on, Ricaredo Demetillo
and Leonard Casper would violently denounce me as a diehard Maoist, communist, etc.) That episode somehow put an end to my imitations of Mark Twain, Henry Mencken, and George Bernard Shaw.

One scenario sticks out from our years of sitting at the table at the far end of the Department: Professor Pascual Capiz, perched at the opposite end, always finding the opportunity to advise me: “Read Spinoza, Sonny, don’t forget Spinoza.” Four decades after, I read a paper on “What we can learn about racism from Benedict Spinoza” to an audience at the University of Texas, Austin, in 2002 (see San Juan, Spinoza and the Terror of Racism). I did not follow his advice until the revival of Spinoza in the sixties and seventies in Europe, Spinoza’s monism (adapted by Deleuze/Negri) utilized as antidote to variants of Hegel-Marx’s dialectics (Marcuse, Che Guevara, Ho Chi Minh) in the vicissitudes of Cold War strategy.

Interlude

What intervened after my apprenticeship with formalist New Criticism may be recounted quickly as an effect of indoctrination in the New Criticism. My book on Oscar Wilde, despite the philological-historicist bent of my advisers Jerome Buckley and Douglas Bush, is basically formalist,
not really contextualized in the gender wars then brewing in the early sixties–anti-Vietnam War and Civil Rights and Women’s Liberation movements culminating in May 1968–as well as the First Quarter Storm, the Diliman Commune, and the imposition of the Marcos dictatorship in 1972. This was followed by my translation into English of Amado V. Hernandez’s poems, Rice Grains, Balagtas: Art and Revolution, and The Radical Tradition in Philippine Literature.

The social upheavals worldwide in the sixties may account for my editing of Georg Lukac’s cultural criticism in Marxism and Human Liberation (Dell). Despite this, my first U.P. Press book, Carlos Bulosan and the Imagination of the Class Struggle (released a day or two before Marcos declared martial law),

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was still largely a formalist commentary. I had not yet fully understood Lukac’s historical materialist approach. Notwithstanding the title of the Bulosan commentary, it was a symptom of a cultural lag, typical of our backward or underdeveloped social formation, unsynchronized with the structuralist and post-structuralist tide that swept the Western academy from 1968 to 1986 (see my new book on Bulosan). Nothing strange for the mute subaltern of the neocolony, not postcolony, experiencing the turbulence of the crisis of global capitalism via the Marcos authoritarian interlude and the implacable toxic plague of the Cold War.

What happened? The influence of the changes that occurred, in particular the revision of the canon, and the transformation of critical frameworks/paradigms–the eruption of feminist, ethnic, and subaltern/people-of-color agencies in the social text–overlaid/reconfigured my previous New Critical horizon. I did not jettison my formalist training–how could one do that? One’s consciousness is determined by one’s social conditioning. The “I” is a fictional synapse of historical contradictions. Adjustments had to be made, resulting into a palimpsest of texts that requires an inventory (to heed Gramsci’s advice), of which this is the latest attempt.

To recapitulate Peirce’s caveat: the private self is nothing but error and ignorance. One’s identity is always the site of an intertextuality traversing the dialectic of base and superstructure,
often overshooting it. Marks of its effect may be found in the much-attacked book from left and right, Subversions of Desire: Prolegomena to Nick Joaquin in 1988. Unbeknownst to the public, it was recently reprinted by the Dominicans of the University of Santo Tomas, since the Jesuits are no longer interested in the unorthodox, difficult and eclectic discourse filled with references to Lacan, Foucault, Benjamin, Jameson, Deleuze-Guattari and Kristeva. They prefer the Nazi sympathizer Heidegger
and the Jewish mystic Emmanuel Levinas. This will be my excuse, at this juncture, to transit to the problem of semiotics based on the Saussurean premise that orients both structuralist and postmodernist thinking (including postcolonial criticism) so fashionable still, though Derrida has been replaced by Butler, Ranciere, Badiou, Agamben and other European imports to the metropole of the declining
but still ferocious American Leviathan of the Trump era. Peircean semiotics remains on the margins
of academic discourse, despite the popularity of Richard Rorty, Cornel West, and Robert Brandom, among others. Harold Bloom is dead; long live Zizek,
Twitter, Instagram, Facebook!

Signifiers Galore

We are near the final reckoning. Even before May 1968, the deluge of the dancing signifiers had begun to wreak havoc on the conservative bastions of putatively higher humanistic learning.
As everyone knows, a crucial event was the 1967 Johns Hopkins Conference on “The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man,” where the archpriests of poststructuralism (Lacan, Derrida, Barthes, Goldman, Todorov, and others) entered the scene, literary theory and criticism suffered a sea- change, as it were.

New Criticism has become old-fashioned, “auf-hebunged.” In After Theory, Terry Eagleton summed up the historic contexts of 1965-1980–”the age of civil rights and student insurgency, national liberation fronts, anti-war and anti-nuclear campaigns, the emergence of the women’s movement, and the heyday of cultural liberation,” in which the sensibility of society had “shifted from the earnest, self-disciplined and submissive to the cool, hedonistic and insubordinate. If there was widespread disaffection, there was also visionary hope” (83) in consumerist, narcissistic society of the spectacle. The expletive “f**k” is now only a cute mannerism, a phatic performance.

The present conjuncture seemed then “the herald of a new future, the portal to a land of boundless possibility”–until 1989, the collapse of the Berlin Wall, shock therapy for the Soviet system, followed closely by the Iraq War, 9 /11 and the global war on terrorism, and the erosion of the Neoliberal dispensation from the 2008 global capitalist earthquake and the explosions in Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria and the entire Middle East. We are still living the aftershock of those events. For

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some, the age of identity politics aka the culture of neoconservative reaction began, overshadowing the fall of the Berlin Wall, demise of the Soviet Union, Tiananmen Square, 9/11, the 2008 neoliberal capitalist meltdown, and the election of Trump and his neofascist “America First” agenda.

To understand this re-arrangement of the furniture in the landscape, I urged our graduate students to review Saussure’s foundational remarks on the dyadic structure of the sign, and the larger frame of Roman Jakobson’s six functions of language in communication. What has become salient
is the arbitrary nature of the signifier-signified nexus, with the inference that meaning is produced by systematic differences. Its divorce from objective reality seems assumed, though parole/speech thrives somewhere out there defying lawful order and any fixed rule. The Russian Marxist Mikhail Bakhtin was unheard of, and Jakobson forgotten. Meanwhile, the enigmatic influence of Lacan signaled the advent of deconstruction, with signifiers shifting over the signified, meaning not only deferred or undecidable, but virtually impossible to pin down. For Lacan, actually, the Name-of-the-Father terminates the sliding of signifiers, thus his infamous phallocentrism overheard in chic salon conversations.

Another parenthesis: when I took a class with I.A. Richards in poetics in my first year at Harvard in 1960–I recall Ching Dadufalza exulting over her acquaintance with the founder of close formalist reading–he of course assigned his book Coleridge on Imagination, as expected. But what surprised me was his strong recommendation that we study carefully Jakobson’s 1958 landmark essay, “Linguistics and Poetics,” given at a conference in Indiana University, but only published later in 1960 in the book Style in Language, which Richards also assigned. Contrary to the canonical views, Richards was not really a formalist but a neo-Hegelian pedagogue informed by the entire Western heritage and enriched by borrowings from Mencius and then current behavior psychology.

I reminded our students not to forget Jakobson’s linguistic analysis. If Jakobson’s diagram on the functions of language were absorbed and popularized, it would have exerted some brake on the prevalence of Nietzschean theorizing applied by Derrida, De Man, Hartman, Spivak, and their huge academic following. Jakobson’s formula on the axis of similarity (metaphor) imposed on the axis of contiguity (metonymy), remains unexplored. To quote Jakobson: “The poetic function projects the principle of equivalence from the axis of selection into the axis of combination” (303). But instead
of this linguistic knowledge used by critics, it is Lacan’s “floating signifiers” that have ruled the day ever since it was given in 1957 and publicized in translation in 1966. Students’ perplexity over Lacan persists, despite Jakobson and the salutary warnings of the American pragmaticist Peirce.

Mis-recognizing the Speaker

It is no longer news to learn of the author’s demise (announced by Roland Barthes) in between the interstitial locus of differance. By author, Barthes referred to the empiricist and rationalist conception of the individual origin of the text, its final signified. This classical idea of the author presumably encloses the text within a single meaning enshrined in the author’s biography, instead of allowing
its intertextuality to induce a variety of readers to produce multiple readings. From the modernist, avant-garde perspective, the texts of Mallarme, Joyce, and others are considered the occasions of language, the circuit of signifiers speaking; they are not the author’s psyche, or a representation of its subjectivity, its interiority. Presumably the narrators of Proust’s novel, or of Ulysses, are generated by the textual machine without anyone programming it–its DNA is the differential logic operating within it. Conceptual art and its sequel, post-conceptualism, thrives on this axiom.

In “What is an Author?” Michel Foucault has also informed us that the author-function is historically variable. It is defined by a variety of discourses and institutions (for example, copyright laws). Ancient epics or medieval romances do not have authors in the modern construal of individual originators or artificers. Foucault’s argument is tied to the death of the human subject, the Cartesian ego, determined not by conscience but by historically specific structures circumscribing its socio-political existence. Thus writing is not something that can be completed and appropriated but an interminable practice, a postmodern theme epitomized by Samuel Beckett’s character saying: “What does it matter

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who is speaking,” someone said, what does it matter who is speaking?” (Foucault 123). Peirce had anticipated this in the 1870s with his anti-Cartesian critique and the inauguration of a triadic theory of language, in contrast to the dualistic one by Saussure and epigones.

On second thought, it matters who is being addressed, who is listening or overhearing these utterances. For now, I will quickly summarize Peirce’s semiotic triad so as to get to the prime exhibit for today, the censored poem “Man is a Political Animal” reproduced below from the Philippine Collegian (see San Juan, Balikbayan Sinta: An E. San Juan Reader, 249-252).

For Peirce, meaning is produced by the triad of signifier (representamen), the object signified, and the interpretant, which connects signifier and signified (Peirce; San Juan). The representamen is something which stands to somebody for something; it addresses someone and creates in the mind
an equivalent sign, the interpretant of the first sign, and this too stands for something, namely, the object or idea of that first sign. Communication is the result of the interplay between representamen,

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interpretant, and object/idea. This mediating item in Peirce’s theory of signification, or meaning- production, namely, the interpretant, is missing or invisible in the Saussurean dyadic scheme. Without this interpretant, it is impossible to figure out what connects the signifier and the hypothetical signified. Robert Scholes remarks that, following Saussure, signs do not refer to things, “they signify concept, concepts are aspects of thought, not of reality.” We move then into the realm of thought.

Peirce is recognized as the founder of pragmaticism, not the psychologistic version of pragmatism popularized by his friend William James, or the postmodern version of antifoundationalism propagated by Richard Rorty. Peirce’s maxim or principle was first formulated in his 1878 essay “How to Make Our Ideas Clear”: “In order to ascertain the meaning of an intellectual conception we should consider what practical consequences might conceivably result by necessity from the truth of that conception; and the sum of these consequences will constitute the entire meaning of the conception” (146; see also Short, Peirce’s Theory of Signs). Peirce explained that the “sum of these consequences”
is equivalent to a process of rational conduct open to fallibilistic inquiry. The early Peirce may have speculated on infinite semiosis, as Eco and Derrida supposed. Later on Peirce concluded that we should strive for a “concrete reasonableness” and its embodiment in a community of inquirers open to the impact of experience, the intractable factuality of an objective world, the historicity of life, and the influence of traditions” (95).

To go back to the connection between the signifier and the signified, namely, the interpretant, Peirce enumerates three possible forms of interpretant (in his “Letters to Lady Welby”): “the interpretant as represented or meant to be understood, its interpretant as it is produced; and its interpretant in itself” (Peirce 404-06). There are two main kinds of interpretants: the dynamic interpretant, and immediate interpretant. Later in his life, Peirce speculated on the third kind of interpretant, the logical or final interpretant that would sum up the findings of the first two. The dynamic interpretant can treat the sign/signifiers as something the reasonableness of which will be acknowledged; or as an act of insistence; or something for contemplation. Meanwhile, the immediate interpretant considers the signifiers into three kinds: 1) those interpretable in thoughts or other signs of the same kind in infinite series; 2) those which are interpretable in actual experiences; and 3) those which are interpretable in qualities or feelings (for further elaboration, see essays on the interpretant in Muller and Brent).

Examine the varieties of interpretants drawn from the published reactions to the poem in question. If we look at the three interpretants you have, those by Amador Daguio, Ramon Tapales, and Franz Arcellana, the first two can be classified as examples of immediate interpretants: they translate the poem into actual experiences that are morally censurable, invoking convention and disciplinary codes or instruments of punishment. They are limited and inadequate. Meanwhile, the third would exemplify the dynamic interpretant that treat the poem as something reasonable, but would judge its performance as lacking in qualities or feelings–not actual experiences–ascribable to an accomplished work of art. It would invoke the institution of like-minded arbiters of taste. In short, the first two interpretants draw inferences outside the parameter of aesthetics, while the third confines itself to the value of the signifiers/representamen as inadequate to expressing a hypothetical idea of art implied by the critic.

What is decisive, then, in the formulation of interpretants is the sociopolitical purpose framing them and the historical conjuncture underlying the purpose. Contextualizing the act of reading/ interpreting is thus imperative to arrive at a wide-ranging, judicious, and dynamic appreciation of a text/speech-act. Otherwise, it would be a prejudiced, polemical or tactically instrumental reading and evaluation of the event/text/utterance—ultimately, a flawed comprehension for a limited audience or community of inquirers.

Differences, however, need not supersede comparison and prohibit judgment. I would like
to recommend to readers my earlier reflection on this incident in my book Balikbayang Sinta: An E. San Juan Reader (249-252) as one more proof that the subject is indeed constructed through differences. Or, if not bifurcated, the subject-in-question (always identified as error or ignorance) is pluralized by time-

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space mutations. The subject speaking/writing in 2008 differs from the subject performing as author/ speaker in 1957. Likewise, the subject now speaking today, March 13, 2018, in this lecture for a visiting professor—the original pretext and matrix for this essay—is different from the author revising this text before you.

However, despite these disjunctions and equivocations, this does not imply that meaning
is forever deferred. The ultimate interpretant awaits, even though the context is unstable, unfixed, relational, or essentially undecidable. Indeed, one may discern an aporia in the rhetoric of the
poem, the rubric “political animal” of Aristotelian origin clashing with the Browningesque dramatic monologue imitated from model poetic patterns of Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis, editor of avant- garde publications like BLAST in the London milieu of the first two decades of last century. Of all the reactors, Franz Arcellana, who never really censored the poem as adviser of the Collegian then, was the most disingenuously ironic. Incidentally, Franz confessed to me in 1987 that he was a “fall guy” during that time, as if to exonerate himself from some dilemma. To be sure, I would assert here that he was not responsible for the proscription of the author from publishing for a year; I refrained from putting him and the editors in endless predicaments.

Provisional Epilogue

The event may be trivial for many now except as a means of reviving nostalgia for the presence of Arcellana and Gonzalez in the U.P. faculty. Allow me then to add a footnote here by saying that I am grateful to Franz Arcellana for encouraging me during my undergraduate days, and as a token of this esteem I wrote the commentary on his short story about Christmas, and on “The Yellow Shawl” in the concluding pages of Toward a People’s Literature (170-173). Personally I did not associate him at all with my suspension–there was no written statement from the UP administration, except a verbal notice from the Editor that they would not print anything from me for a while–because this whole incident was symptomatic of the religious-secular conflict in the University at that time arising from the role of Father John Delaney and Prof. J.D. Constantino charging Professor Ricardo Pascual and his cohort of agnostics and atheists of Communistic leanings. This is a whole historic period before Martial Law that I cannot review here (see the excellent analysis by Preciosa de Joya). There are other historic pressures one can infer from this complex conjuncture if one considers the institutional function of college newspapers, the selection of their editors and staff, their funding and distribution by an ideological state apparatus such as the University of the Philippines.

In retrospect, the whole affair was a repercussion of the Cold War and McCarthyism particularized in the neocolonial situation of the Philippines during the regimes of Magsaysay and its successors. Indeed, from 1954 to 1960, the Cold War and its local manifestations (the Huk uprising, local McCarthyism, the internecine bloodletting among local oligarchs, the endemic corruption, extra- judicial killings, gangsterism everywhere) constitute the condition of possibility for the poem and its programmed reactions (for a historical overview, see Constantino, The Philippines: The Continuing Past, 226-345; Abaya, The Making of a Subversive).

One can perhaps locate somewhere the lesson of this incident in this abstract of the talk: With the death of the “author,” the subject-position framed in postmodern critical theory becomes a field
of contestation. The linguistic turn in literary studies has made even this subject precarious, reputed
to be a victim of the perpetual sliding of the Lacanian signifier. As a performing subject of this public discourse, I hope to recover the position of the “author” by recollection of my U.P. experience in
the fifties, specifically as the suspended student-writer of a controversial poem. The narration of this event is mediated through various interpretants. With a slight detour through Peirce’s triadic theory of signs, this brief intervention hopes to rescue the protagonists of that field, temporarily stabilized here, from being swallowed forever in the “vertiginous abyss” of socio-cultural “underdevelopment.” As
for the identity of the subject-in-process, or subject-on-trial, as Julia Kristeva would put it, I seek your indulgence in ending this paper with reference to my 1986 comment on the now historic document,

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“Declaration of the Coalition of Writers and Artists for Freedom and Democracy” signed by Filipino writers, intellectuals, and bureaucrats allied to the then moribund Marcos dictatorship, a document destined for the fabled “dustbin of history” (for my comment, see San Juan, Commentary: What Shall We Do with All of Marcos’ Hacks? ).

WORKS CITED

Abaya, Hernando. The Making of a Subversive. Quezon City: New Day Publishers, 1984.
Alfon, Estrella D. “Fairy Tale for the City.” The Manila Chronicle, This Week, April 1955, pp. 22-25.
Ayer, Alfred. Language, Truth and Logic. New York: Dover Publications, 1952.
Brooks, Cleanth, John Purser, and Robert Penn Warren, editors. An Approach to Literature. New York: Appleton-

Century-Crofts Inc., 1964.
Constantino, Renato. The Philippines: The Continuing Past. Quezon City: The Foundation for Nationalist Studies,

1978.
de Joya, Preciosa. “Exorcising Communist Specters and Witch Philosophers: The Struggle for Academic Freedom

in 1961.” Kritika Kultura, no. 26, 2016, pp. 4-32.
de Waal, Cornelis de. Peirce: A Guide for the Perplexed. New York: Bloomsbury, 2013
Eagleton, Terry. After Theory. New York: Basic Books, 2003.
Espina-Varona, Inday. “A Solidarity Statement of young women leaders, in response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s

misogynistic statements.” Medium, medium.com/@indayespinavarona/read-a-solidarity-statement

Accessed 19 May 2018.
Foucault, Michel. Language, Counter-Memory, Practice. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977.
Goldman, Lucien. “Criticism and Dogmatism in Literature.” To Free a Generation, edited by David Cooper, Collier

Books, 1968, pp. 287-337.
Jakobson, Roman.“Linguistics and Poetics.” Essays on the Language of Literature, edited by Seymour Chatman and

Samuel Levin, Houghton Mifflin Co, 1967, pp. 296-322.
Kristeva, Julia. The Kristeva Reader, edited by Toril Moi. New York: Columbia University Press, 1986.
Leitch, Vincent, editor. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. New York: W.W. Norton, Inc., 2001.
Lodge, David. Modern Criticism and Theory. New York: Longman, 1988.
Muller, John and Joseph Brent, editors. Peirce, Semiotics, and Psychoanalysis. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University

Press, 2000.
Peirce, Charles S. Peirce on Signs, edited by James Hoopes. Durham NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1991. ——. Selected Writings, edited by Philip Wiener. New York: Dover Publications, 1958.
——-. The Essential Peirce Volume 1, edited by Nathan Houser and Christian Kloesel. Bloomington: Indiana

University Press, 1992.
——. The Essential Writings, edited by Edward C. Moore. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1998.
Read, Herbert. English Prose Style. New York: Pantheon, 1952.
Richards, I.A. “Poetic Process and Literary Analysis.”Style in Language, edited by Thomas Sebeok, MIT Press, 1960,

pp.9-23.
San Juan, E. Balikbayan Sinta: An E. San Juan Reader. Quezon City: Ateneo University Press, 2008.
——. Carlos Bulosan and the Imagination of the Class Struggle. Quezon City: University of the Philippines, 1975.
——. Carlos Bulosan: Revolutionary Filipino Writer in the United States. New York: Peter Lang, 2017
——. “Commentary: What Shall We Do with All of Marcos’ Hacks?” Philippine News, October 22-28, 1986, p.6. ——. Hegemony and Strategies of Transgression. Albany: SUNY Press, 1995.
——. “Interview with Joon Park”. The Asian-Pacific American Journal, vol. 71, 1998, pp.100-109
——. “Man is a Political Animal.” The Philippine Collegian, July 1957, p.7.
——. editor, Marxism and Human Liberation. New York: Dell, 1972.
Toward a People’s Literature. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1984.
——. “Metakomentaryo sa Pagkakataon ng Kolokyum ukol sa “The Places of E. San Juan, Jr.,” Kritika Kultura 26,

https://journals.ateneo.edu/ojs/index.php/kk/article/view/KK2016.02625 Accessed 19 May 2018. ——. ”Remembrance of Things Almost Past by an English Major in U.P. (1954-58),” Manila Times, March 4,

2012, p. 6.

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——. “Saussure/Peirce: Escaping from the Prison-House of Language.” Filipinas Everywhere. Sussex, UK: Sussex Academic Press, 2016.

—— . Subversions of Desire: Prolegomena to Nick Joaquin. Quezon City: Ateneo University Press, 1988. ——. Spinoza and the Terror of Racism. Sheffield: Sheffield Hallam University Press, 2002.
Short, T, L. Peirce’s Theory of Signs. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007. ___________________

E. SAN JUAN, Jr. is emeritus professor of English, Ethnic Studies and Comparative Literature, University of Connecticut & Washington State University; professorial lecturer, Polytechnic University of the Philippines; previously fellow of W.E.B. Institute, Harvard University, and Fulbright professor of American Studies, Leuven University, Belgium; recent books include: U.S. Imperialism and Revolution in the Philippines (Palgrave MacMillan), Filipinas Everywhere (Sussex Academic Press), Carlos Bulosan: Revolutionary Filipino Writer in the U.S. (Peter Lang), and Between Empire and Insurgency, and Kontra-Modernidad (U.P. Press).

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Posted in DISCOURSES ON CONTRADICTIONS

Foreword to Jose Maria Sison, REFLECTIONS (2019)


FOREWORD TO JOSE MARIA SISON’S REFLECTIONS

by E. San Juan, Jr.DSC_0405 [Desktop Resolution]

 

Writing for the Madrid journal La Solidaridad in 1889, a decade before the United States occupied the Philippines as its new possession, Jose Rizal surmised in his essay “Filipinas dentro de cien anos”: “Perhaps the great American Republic, whose interests lie in the Pacific and who has no hand in the spoliation of Africa may some day dream of foreign possession….” But if she did, even contrary to her tradition, the European powers would forbid it, and if the United States tried to, “Very likely the Philippines will defend with inexpressible valor the liberty secured at the price of so much blood and sacrifice.” (1972, 127). Rizal’s uncanny presentiment was a warning: the natives resisted McKinley’s “Benevolent Assimilation” and U.S. “tutelage” from 1898 on. They persevered up to the Sakdal and Huk uprisings, and the ongoing resistance of the National Democratic Front and its national-popular combatants. 

Under the aegis of global capitalism’s “war against terrorism,” the carnage has worsened in the longest-held U.S. neocolony in Asia since its annexation at the turn of the last century..  After 9/11, U.S. imperial subjugation of the Philippines intensified with successive counterinsurgency schemes dating back to the Cold War. Beyond the three million Filipinos killed by U.S. troops in the Filipino-American War (1899-1913, dubbed the “first Vietnam”), thousands died in the bloody years of the Marcos dictatorship (1972-1986) supported by Washington and the Pentagon (Ahmad 1971; Zinn 1984).

We are witness to current U.S. interventions via the Visiting Forces Agreement, EDCA, Operation Pacific Eagle-Philippines, and other bilateral transactions to preserve its neocolonial domination. This includes supply of weaponry, logistics, and supervision over the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). This was recently demonstrated by the U.S. participation in the devastation of Marawi City in 2017. Without U.S. stranglehold of key ideological-state apparatuses implementing IMF/World Bank/WTO regulations, the local oligarchy of landlords, compradors, and bureaucrat-capitalists from 1899 to 1972—as Jose Maria Sison has expounded in Philippine Society and Revolution (PSR)— would not survive.

Sison is universally recognized as a pertinacious radical leader of the Filipino contingent challenging U.S. imperialism. His signal accomplishment, in my view, is his cogent re-telling of the narrative of the Filipino national-liberation odyssey in PSR, updated in 1986. Of exceeding importance is Julieta De Lima’s perspicuous thematic inquiry of this narrative in “Jose Maria Sison on the Mode of Production” (Sison and De Lima 1988). Earlier attempts have been made by Apolinario Mabini, Claro Recto, Teodoro Agoncilo, Renato Constantino, among others. But only with PSR did the Filipino masses finally acquire a counter-hegemonic voice, freeing the energies of its long-repressed incarnate Geist, and enabling the rekindling of revolutionary agency. Of course, world events, in particular the 1955 Bandung Conference, the Cuban Revolution, the 1965-68 Cultural Revolution in China, the Civil Rights struggle in the U.S. coinciding with worldwide resistance against U.S. aggression in Vietnam, and the resurgence of the nationalist movement in the 1970 “First Quarter Storm,” etc.—all these and more provided fertile ground for its germination.

In 1968, Sison broke away from the old Soviet-inspired Communist Party  initially led by Crisanto Evangelista and Pedro Abad Santos. Its caretakers (the Lava brothers, etc.) easily succumbed to the Marcos regime. Humans make history but not under circumstances of their choosing.  Sison undertook the necessary critical inventory and launched a rectification campaign that led to the re-establishment of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) by Sison and his comrades in 1968. It was preceded by his formation of Kabataang Makabayan in November 1964. The concept of united front in the national-democratic, anti-imperialist campaign acquired saliency, accompanied by a regeneration of commitment to the ideals of emancipatory praxis. The new CPP was inspired by Mao’s vision of conducting people’s war in a non-European setting. What was at stake was not a set of dogmas or personality-cult but a model of guidelines or methods for testing hypotheses and applying Marxist-Leninist principles on the historical specificities of the Philippine socio-economic formation  (see “Programme for a People’s Democratic Revolution in the Philippines” (Saulo 1990, 196-209; San Juan 2015)

Curiously enough, the U.S. State Dept 1950 report on the Huk insurgency concurs with Sison’s re-emphasis on the central role of the peasantry in elucidating the feudal/landlord problem (1987). Just as Mao renewed Marxist dialectics in his 1927 investigation of the Hunan peasant movement, Sison’s re-appraisal of the diverse political forces involved in the unremitting class struggle from Spanish times to the present revitalized historical-materialist thinking applied to Philippine reality. He tested Lenin’s methodology of concrete analysis of historically dynamic situations,  focused on “the weak links,” which led to Lenin’s insight into the decisive role of national-liberation struggles in catalyzing the Western proletariat’s internationalist mission (1968).  He examined the historical particularities of crucial conjunctures in the saga of our uneven development. What proved to be decisive was the revaluation of the strategy and tactics of the class struggle with the founding of the New People’s Army on March 29, 1969, and the application of Mao Zedong’s theory of  protracted war pursuing various interlocking stages of the revolutionary process (Ch’en 1965; Rossanda 1970).

The next historic milestone in Sison’s contribution to the Marxist archive is the 1974 discourse on Specific Characteristics of People’s War in the Philippines. Sison was arrested by the Marcos regime in 1977 and endured torture and other indignities until its overthrow in February 1986. He has described this ordeal and its aftermath in his poems, letters, interviews, and other essays collected in Cotinuing the Struggle for National and Social Liberation (2015). After the U.S. debacle in Vietnam and at the height of the Cultural Revolution in China, the gains of the CPP and New People’s Army made possible the reaffirmation of the Filipino struggle as part of the radical democratic-socialist transformations around the world initiated by the 1917 Russian revolution.

Historians have argued that Instead of homogenizing the planet, capitalism generates zones of differences, asymmetrical or disaggregated networks of actions and motivations that defy synthesis. Unity and conflict of opposites prevail. While the 1930 Depression stimulated union organizing among migrant workers of Bulosan’s generation, the Japanese Occupation taught the peasants the various modes of guerilla warfare and collective mobilization. The Cold War from the Fifties to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 ushered the need for an uninterrupted, all-encompassing Cultural Revolution. What is original in Sison’s 1974 discourse is the re-articulation of the country’s historical peculiarities in line with the national-democratic program: the mountainous archipelagic terrain, the dialectic of rural and urban zones, and in particular the contours of strategic defensive-tsalemate-offensive stages in the uninterreupted transition from a feudal-bourgeois to a new-democratic formation. Following this trajectory, the National Democratic Front Philippines, founded in 1973, issued the 10-Point (later 12-Point) program, which informs the ultimate agenda of the peace talks.

In 1988, Dr. Rainer Werning conducted a wide-ranging series of interviews with Sison in The Philippine Revolution: The Leader’s View. Sison’s travels around the world interacting with various progressive organizations afforded him opportunities to connect the Philippine project with other third-world and European solidarity movements. Before that, in 1980, we were able to arrange the publication of Sison’s other writings in the volume Victory to Our People’s War released in Quebec, Canada.

With the next historic intervention in 1992, “Reaffirm our Basic Principles and Rectify Errors,” Sison demonstrated once again his grasp of a dialectical analysis of the interaction of strategy and tactics, fallibilistic hypotheses and contingencies, enabling a grasp of the multi-layered contradictions in the vicissitudes of the national-democratic endeavor. By refusing the empiricist or eclectic position of his critics, Sison has applied the concept of the unity of opposites as the fundamental law of dialectical materialism, a concept which Mao first addressed in the classic 1937 discourse, “On Contradiction” (elaborated further in the 1957 talk, “On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People” (1977, 384-419; see Knight 1997, 104). Failure to recognize the unity and antagonism of opposites has led to various left and right opportunisms (pacifism, revisionist compromises, etc.), including collusion with reactionary security agencies and CIA counterinsurgency schemes (Distor 1977). The bankruptcy of such deviations has been evidenced in the spectacle of former leftists functioning as apologists of U.S. neoliberal policies, with assorted NGOs set up to serve the corrupt oligarchy (landlords, compradors) managing the neocolonial State bureaucracy.

Sison’s vocation as a Fiipino advocate for national sovereignty and human rights in the diaspora has opened a new field of internationalist contestation. Over ten million Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) are scattered today around the world, forcing candidates for office to campaign in Hong Kong, Singapore, in the Middle East, etc. Their remittances are significant in relieving the Philippine foreign debt as well as intensifying commodity-fetishism, alienation, and consumerist decadence. Meanwhile, Filipino activists are politicizing these communities in the U.S., Europe, and in the Netherlands where Sison has been a political refugee since 1988. Apart from his imprisonment by the Marcos regime, his detention by the Dutch government in August 28, 2007 until September  13, 2007, for unsubstantiated charges has made Sison a symbol of all the thousands victimized by the U.S. imperial “war on terror.” Since 2001 he has guided the International League of People’s Struggles, the biggest international united front of people’s organizations along the anti-imperialist and democratic line.

One of the most instructive sections of these interviews is Sison’s insightful critique of the neocolonial administrations since the fall of Marcos up to the current fascist Duterte regime. His discussion of the impact of global changes on the Philippine system, in particular the capitalist restoration in the former Soviet Union and in China, as well as the decline of U.S. global hegemony, gives us the framework for speculations on the prospects of the Philippine revolution amidst a worldwide socialist resurgence. Again, the focus is on the exploited and oppressed, the community of victims, workers and peasants whose narratives remain to be written. With the assassination of NDFP consultant Felix Malayao and the arrest of other progressive activists at the behest of U.S. imperialist agencies, Sison believes a peace agreement is unikely—unless the revolutionary mass movement unleashes its counter-hegemonic force against Duterte’s murderous regime, with its horrendous record of extra-judicial killings and betrayal of the nation’s patrimony and sovereignty.

Equally fascinating in this volume is Sison’s reflections on diverse topics as a Filipino patriot, chief political consultant of the NDFP, and as an intransigent Marxist public intellectual. Sison invokes his descent from the first Filipino socialist agitator, Isabelo de Los Reyes, who organized the first labor unions and also co-founded the nationalistic Iglesia Filipino Independiente. Sison pays homage to the Enlightenment tradition of de los Reyes, Rizal, Mabini and others which the Chinese patriot Sun Yat-sen had the sagacity to admire.  Sison sums up his legacy “in the form of theoretical and political writings needed for the reestablishment and development of the CCP as a revolutionary party of the proletariat and for the creation and growth of all other necessary revolutionary forces, including the NPA, the NDFP, the mass organizations and the people’s democratic government from the village level upward.” Indeed, this legacy today continues to be a powerful challenge to predatory capitalism worldwide, a “disintegrated capitalism” wreaking havoc on the environment and mutilating the lives of millions, unable to resolve the contradictions inherent in the system and therefore destined to either destroy the planet or be thoroughly replaced by a socialist/communist alternative (Harvey 2014).

Overall, this volume contains the most important record of Sison’s life based on his prodigious memory and ability to contextualize the most significant events shaping his thoughts and actions. It contributes substantial information on his education, political inquiries, and the scope and depth of his artistic creativity. It also documents his timely interventions into the most pivotal moments of our history. It gives a nuanced orchestration to his dialogue with his European interviewer.  I am sure it will furnish material for future biographies and commentaries on the symbiosis of human will and objective circumstances. However, to anticipate the chances that the reader may miss the historic resonance of these interviews, I would like to add a personal note. We (if I may speak for our group of militants in the East Coast circa 1965-80) read Marx, Lenin, Mao, Luxemburg, Fanon, Lukacs, Che Guevarra, and others before we encountered PSR. We were then trying to mobilize the “brainwashed” Filipino community in the U.S. against Marcos’ barbaric rule, his violation of human rights, his opening the country to foreign corporate plunder, etc. It was difficult until PSR provided a clue to arousing the historical consciousness of young Pinoys/Pinays. And so we began to retell the story of Lapu-Lapu, Gabriela Silang, Gomburza, Bonifacio, Sakay, Salud Algabre, Teresa Magbanua, Maria Lorena Barros, and countless heroic protagonists of our history.

“Only connect,” as the saying goes. We thus succeeded in organizing rallies and learning/teaching seminars, lobbying legislators to cut off military aid to Marcos, supporting multiethnic farmworkers exploited by the same corporations pillaging their homeland, and other activities. We also used Carlos Bulosan’s works together with the testimonies of Filipino unionists who spearheaded dangerous strikes in the fields of Hawaii and California.  For us, PSR then afforded us an excellent pedagogical instrument which sparked the conscientization (Paulo Freire’s term) of almost two generations of activists in the U.S. and elsewhere. PSR is now a legendary document that, contextualized in its milieu and with reference to Sison’s whole career, can be more justly appreciated as a contribution to the advance of counter-hegemonic, national-popular movements around the world.

The Filipino people today, with Its long durable tradition of anti-colonial and anti-feudal resistance, finds itself at a crossroad. The moribund system in its convulsive death-pangs eviscerates both victims and victimizers. The global crisis is worsening every day. Profit accumulation by finance capital signifies prolonging and aggravating underdevelopment—the povery and misery of millions—particularly in the non-industrialized, neocolonized regions such as the Philippines. The Permanent People’s Tribunal held in the Hague in 2007, which I attended, pronounced the U.S.-Arroyo regime guilty of massive crimes, among them untold cases of extra-judicial killings, torture, enforced disappearances, barbaric brutalities with impunity —commnities destroyed or dispersed, millions of lives wasted (for Marcos’ crimes, see McCoy 2011). The verdict declared that the systematic violations of the rights of the Filpino people, its sovereignty and integrity, by the Bush and Arroyo governments are crimes against humanity. The Tribunal also condemned those powers that “under the pretext of the so-called ‘war on terrorism’ and in the mantle of “market- and profit-driven globalization’—deprive the marginalized of a life in justice, dignity, and peace” (San Juan 2007, 252-53).

History unfortunately seems to repeat itself. On 19 September 2018, this same Tribunal after days of sifting the evidence and hearing oral testimonies, arrived at a verdict sounding much the same as the 2007 one, this time the defendants on trial were Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and U.S, President Donald Trump. They were found guilty of “gross and systematic violations of human rights—civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights—in particular, “the rights of the people to national self-determination and development, the people’s right to liberation” (Cohn 2019). Whether these outrages will continue for the next decades or so, barring ecological cataclysms, are the urgent questions to which Sison’s interviews here can provide the answers if not the heuristic orientation necessary in clarifying what needs to be done.   As we celebrate the golden anniversary of the founding of the New People’s Army, and the 80th birthday of its founder, we forge our passage through the “labor of the negative,” expressing here the travails and hopes of the proletarianized masses in the long march not to a proverbial utopia but to a sense of fulfillment in having affirmed our people’s dignity, integrity, and inexhaustible creativity.

REFERENCES

Ahmad, Eqbal. 1971. “The Theory and Fallacies of Counter-Insurgency.”  The 

Nation (August 2); 19-26.

Ch’en, Jerome.  1965.  Mao and the Chinese Revolution.  New York: Oxford

University Press.

Cohn, Marjorie. 2019.  “Tribunal Declares Trump and Duterte Guilty of Crimes 

Against Humanity.”  Truthout (March 14). <hhtp://truthout.org>

Communist Party of the Philippines.  1990. “Programme for a People’s 

Democratic Revolution in the Philippines.” In Communism in the 

Philippines : An Introduction by Alfredo Saulo.  Quezon City: Ateneo de 

Manila University Press.

Distor, Emerita Dionisio. 1977.  “Maoism and the Development of the Communist

Party of the Philippines.” In Critical Perspectives on Mao Zedong’s

Thought, ed. Arif Dirlik, Paul Healy and Nick Knight.  New Jersey:    

Humanities Press.

Harvey, David. 2014.  Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism.  New

York: Oxford University Press.

Knight, Nick. 1977.  “The Laws of Dialectical Materialism in Mao Zedong’s

Thought: The Question of ‘Orthodoxy’.” In Critical Perspectives on Mao

Zedong’s Thought.  New Jersey: Humanities Press.

Lanin, Vladimir.  1968.  National Liberation, Socialism and Imperialism: Selected 

     Writings.  New York: International Publishers.

Mao Zedong.  1977. “On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the

People.”  Selected Works of MaoTsetung. Volume V.  Peking: Foreign

Languages Press.

McCoy, Alfred. 2011. “Dark Legacy: Human Rights under the Marcos Regime.” 

Memory, Truth Telling and the Pursuit of Justice: A Conference on the 

Legacies of the Marcos Dictatorship. Ateneo de Manila University: Office

of Research and Publications,pp. 129-144.

Rizal, Jose. 1979. “The Philippines A Century Hence”(Derbyshire translation). In 

     Jose Rizal.  Manila: National Historical Institute, pp. 96-129.

Rossanda, Rossana. 1971. “Mao’s Marxism.” Sociallist Register : 53-80.

San Juan, E.  2007.  U.S. Imperialism and Revolution in the Philippines. New 

York: Palgrave Macmillan.

——. 2015.  Between Empire and Insurgency.  Quezon City: University of the

Philippines Press.

Sison, Jose Maria [Amado Guerrero, pseudonym]. 1971.  Philippine Society and

          Revolution.  Manila: Pulang Tala.

——.  [Amado Guerrero, pseudonymn]. 1974.  Specific Charateristics of People’s

War in the Philippines.  Oakland, CA: International Association of Filipino 

Patriots.

——.  2015.  Continuing the Struggle for National Liberation.  Manila:

International Network for Philippines Studies and Aklat ng Bayan, Inc.

Sison, Jose Maria and Juliet De Lima. 1998.  Philippine Economy and Politics. 

Manila: Aklat ng Bayan Publishing House.

U.S. State Dept.  1987.  “The Hukbalahaps.”  In The Philippines Reader, ed.

Daniel B. Schirmer and Stephen Shalom.  Boston: South End Press, pp. 

70-77.

Zinn, Howard.  1984.  The Twentieth Century.  New York: Harper.tapaya_mural

Posted in DISCOURSES ON CONTRADICTIONS

WALA: mga tula ni E. San Juan, a review


BOOK REVIEW: 

Wala: Mga Tula (2018): E. San Juan Jr.’s post-conceptual interventions

By Karlo Mikhail I. MongayaBakas 1e tyvmL copy

“Selection of what is seen, recording of insignificant facts that gradually transforms the true objects into a sort of background against which another designation of meaning suddenly emerges, …a kind of dissolving view, reminding us of the reflection of Paul of Tarsus, all is calm and yet: this world as we see it is passing away.

This passage from Paul Virilio’s The Aesthetics of Disappearance — the epigraph to Wala: Mga Tula ni E. San Juan, Jr. (2018) — illustrates the concept behind San Juan’s latest intervention in conceptual and post-conceptual art and literature. As its title suggests, Wala takes on the various shades of meaning of the Filipino word referring to nothingness, disappearance, absence, loss, lack, or non-existence in Filipino.

Going against the current of dominant art practice characterized by the privileging of craft and the figure of the artist as a consequence of the sheer force of received habits and convention, conceptualism and post-conceptualism has given premium to the concept or idea behind an artistic production — a focus that allows for self-reflexive investigations on what San Juan calls the “spectral” standing of art and its entanglement with the status quo.

Especially in the wake of the 11 September 2001 World Trade Center bombings and the 2008 financial crash, San Juan locates this post-conceptual turn in the questioning of the triumphalist narrative of capitalism as “the end of history.” He also criticizes it as the only horizon for thinking art that has meant the stranglehold of the author, the work, and the audience as the only purview of approved creative writing and art criticism in the Philippines.

At the surface level, we can read San Juan’s latest experimentations as another addition to his engagement in various fields of creative writing, literary criticism, cultural studies, and political interventions that has been embodied in an extensive corpus amounting to “around 52 monographs, 21 volumes of poetry and fiction in English and Filipino, and 232 academic articles published between 1963 and 2015.”

But far from simply manifesting the compulsion to keep up with the latest intellectual fashion in the West, a malady common among academic intellectuals, I contend that San Juan’s post-conceptual interventions are in fact a self-reflexive revisiting that looks back to his very own poetic and critical practice.

San Juan has already been drawn to avant-garde poetics early in his life with his experiments in in the 1960s in abolishing Tagalog metrics that can be read in the collection Alay sa Paglikha ng Bukang-Liwayway (2002), a fondness further shored up by his close association with poets Amado Hernandez and Alejandro Abadilla during this decade.

But the patently conceptualist trajectory began to take form with his Sapagkat Iniibig Kita at iba pang Bagong Tula (2004), a typographical experiment following the model of Stephane Mallarme’s “A Throw of the Dice will Never Abolish Chance”, and reached a greater level of experimentation with Ambil: Mga Pagsubok, Pahiwatig & Interbensiyon (2015), which had as its underlying principle the definition of the Tagalog word “ambil,” i.e. repetition of expressions and misdirection of intended meanings, to draw attention to social contradictions in which both author and reader are enmeshed.

Textualizing Spectral Presences

To illustrate, the chapbook’s banner piece “Wala” plays on a list of definitions of the word “wala” (an operation that made its first appearance in Ambil), introducing its diverging meanings before ending with an enumeration of words prefixed by “wala” to signify the overlapping and overflowing of signification, an excess which at the same time ironically marks the very loss of meaning.

Pieces like “Libog” (“Libido”), “Bugtungang Erotika” (“Erotic Riddles”), “Parabula ng Buto ng Mustasa” (“Parable of the Mustard Seed”), and “Lumang Tugtugin, Bagong Sayaw” (“Old Tune, New Dance”) appropriate the forms of prayers, parables, and riddles that evoke this elusiveness of meaning and thereby question the fixedness of everything. This intertextual strategy is further explored in San Juan’s latest collection, Bakas Alingawngaw (Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2019).

San Juan elaborates irony further in “Alingawngaw” (“Echo”) which touches on voicelessness as an instance of absence: “Walang tinig” (“No voice”), “Walang bigkas” (“No speech”), “Walang ingay” (“No noise”), “Walang hikbi” (“No lamentation”), “Walang huni” (“No sound”). The last few lines juxtaposes the scene of someone knocking and asking for help but with no one responding, thereby dramatizing the peace of the dead imposed by fascism.

San Juan has been frequently criticized for his alleged difficulty for the lay reader, admittedly an unfair accusation given the specialized academic readership of most of his writings. In a way, San Juan does push his readers of Wala away from passively consuming the text, urging the reader’s playful collaboration.

Taking off from the Virilio epigraph, “Bakas” (“Trace”), “Unang Paalam” (“First Farewell”), “Balikbayang Sinta” (“Beloved Repatriate”), and many other pieces in the chapbook patches together stark details of city life and time spent in the Metro Manila of the 1950-60s, the memories of the Philippines before San Juan’s exile into the United States of which only traces remain.

Iterations of the word “dating” (arrival) are repeated in the piece “Dating”: as adjective, as adverb, as verb in different degrees of progression. This creates a defamiliarizing effect that at the same time makes for an enigmatic note on the tension between the act of waiting for the opportune moment and making that instance arrive. In effect, San Juan’s poetics strives to enact a dialectical mediation of being and nothingness into the process of becoming, a dramatic rendition of the Hegelian concept of Aufhebung (transcendence).

Notions of waiting and desire, which are always relational to that which is missing, forms another dimension of lack that the chapbook’s first three pieces — “Tipanan sa Pinto ng Hardin” (“Rendezvous at the Garden Gate”), “Bitin” (“Wanting”), and “Pasumalang Tadhana” (“Random Fate”) ruminates on.

“Niyari” (“Produced”) relays the construction of the contours of a concept as always going beyond the limits of this production: “umalpas / umigpaw / umapaw” (“transcends / leaps over an obstacle / overflows”). Ultimately, readers are enjoined to partake in the revisiting of these spectral presences and traces from San Juan’s own past as well as from the unresolved contradictions of contemporary Philippine society that are textualized in these pieces.

Locating the Post-Conceptual 

However, as San Juan also warns, treating appropriation, self-referentiality and other defamiliarizing textual techniques associated with avant-garde artistic movements sans any concern for content or context ends up in formalist games that does not at all partake in the subversion of dominant literary institutions and politico-economic structures.

San Juan has come a long way since he came of age as a poet and scholar in the 1950s and 1960s. As a third year college student at the University of the Philippines Diliman, his poem “Man is a Political Animal” was censored in the 1957 issue of the Philippine Collegian for allegedly using “blasphemous” language. This resulted in his being banned from being published in the student paper as an undergraduate.

The young poet had by then begun to abandon the hegemonic formalist tradition in favour of politically-engaged literary practice amidst the radicalization engendered from the shadow of the Huk rebellion, intellectual debates between religious sectarianism and liberalism, the birth of the national democratic movement, and the anti-dictatorship struggle in the Philippines and the rising civil rights, anti-war, and new left movements in the West.

This shift is exemplified by his writing of the Radical Tradition in Philippine Literature (1971) and Carlos Bulosan and the Imagination of the Class Struggle (1972), landmark attempts at recuperating the revolutionary impulses in Philippine literary production. It is also articulated in the combative poems and essays penned in the wake of his involvement in the mass movement against the US-Marcos dictatorship as a Filipino scholar in exile in America that have been collected in Kung Ikaw ay Inaapi, Bakit Hindi Ka Magbalikwas? at iba pang Tula (1984), Only by Struggle (Kalikasan Press, 1988), and Himagsik: Pakikibaka Tungo sa Mapagpalayang Kultura (De la Salle University Press, 2004).

Unlike the intellectual trajectory of many scholars and academics from his era who have since turned their backs on their militant involvements, San Juan’s writings continue to engage with what he calls the radical tradition in Philippine culture and literature as rooted in the various social movements in the country’s history that emerged against colonial and imperialist oppression. San Juan had been active in the anti-Marcos dictatorship movement in the US from 1969 to the 1980s and continues to be involved in the Fil-Am advocacy group Kamalayan and the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP).

The post-conceptual trend provides San Juan another platform to look back into the place and interconnections of both his endeavours to produce anti-imperialist scholarship that sought to counter the dominant colonial and neo-colonial writing on Philippine history and culture and poetic productions that are crafted as additional arsenals in the national liberation struggle.

This is a step away from the sometimes fashionable use of activist vocabulary that does not critique the social position of one’s own literary practice or the equally uncritical penchant for seeking “utopian” impulses in every consumer product churned out by the culture industry just because they are patronized by the masses. Today hegemonic conception of the literary and the artistic has become so entrenched that it is very well easier to imagine the end of the world than to picture the dismantling of dominant literary institutions.

The ultimate realization of post-conceptual practice moves away from such naturalized ideological impressions by moving, as Angelo Suarez propositions, from textual games towards collective acts that inscribe themselves on the body of the social — that is, in taking to the streets and seizing the means of production rather than the mere scribbling of “metaphors for mass protest” and “weaponized literature.” While falling short from reaching this full emancipatory potentials of post-conceptualism, it is nonetheless in works like Wala that we begin to conceive something new.

NOTES

Review of E. San Juan, Jr, Wala (Polytechnic University of the Philippines Press, 2016; revised edition, Philippines Studies Center, 2018).

Posted in DISCOURSES ON CONTRADICTIONS

Panitikang post-konseptwal, sining konseptwal: Kritika ni E. San Juan, Jr.


U.S.T. KRITIKE VOLUME THIRTEEN NUMBER ONE (JUNE 2019) 1-26Featured Essay

Demo

Sining-Konseptwal, Panitikang Post-Konseptwal: Pilosopiya at Politika ng Postmodernong Sining

Epifanio San Juan, Jr.

 

Abstract: Controversies regarding conceptual art and post-conceptual practices are central to the understanding of cultural trends in globalization. The case of post-conceptual artist Kenneth Goldsmith illustrates the various ramifications of this development. The essay introduces this aesthetic field into Filipino Studies, exploring local commentaries and examples.

Keywords: Goldsmith, sining-konseptwal, post-konseptwal, postmodernismo

The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum, a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.

—Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks

The class struggle, which is always present to a historian influenced by Marx, is a fight for the crude and material things without which no refined and spiritual things could exist …. There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.

—Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History

Malubhang sitwasyon ng kulturang kontemporaryo—sintomas ng masahol na kondisyon ng kabuhayan sa Pilipinas. Bagamat maitatambuli na tayo’y nakarating na sa saray ng mga modernisadong kalinangan sa panahon ng globalisasyon at paghahari ng neoliberlismong kapital, nakalubog pa rin tayo sa piyudal at neokolonisadong kumunoy, Hindi lamang ito totoo sa ekonomiya at pulitika. Kaagapay rin ang pagkabimbin sa lumang tradisyon ng burgesiyang pananaw, kaakibat ng mapagsunurang gawing minana sa kolonyalismong Espanyol. Magkatuwang ang pagkakulong sa lumang pananampalataya— utos/ritwal ng simbahang Katoliko ang nananaig—at indibidwalistikong asta at malig ng pagkilos. Hindi ko tinutukoy ang atrasadong teknolohiya kundi

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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2 SINING-KONSEPTWAL, PANITIKANG POST-KONSEPTWAL

ang inaaliping mentalidad/saloobin ng mga mamamayan sa neokolonyang sinakop dito sa Timog-Silangang Asiya.

Mapanghamong tanong: maaari kayang malunasan ang di-pantay na pagsulong kung babaguhin natin ang kamalayan? O lagi ba itong tagasunod lamang sa ekonomiyang pagbabago, ayon sa nakasanayang modelo ng “base/superstructure”? Idinaramay ko rito hindi lamang mga alagad-ng- sining at intelihensiya kundi lahat ng mamamayang nag-aangkin ng budhi at pintig ng pagkalinga sa kapwa-tao.1

Subukan nating ipanukala ang pag-aaral at paghalaw ng ilang leksiyon sa konseptwalisting kaisipan na sumibol sa Kanluran noong dekada 1960 at 1970, hanggang sa postkonseptwalistang epokang isinaad ni Peter Osborne sa kanyang The Postconceptual Condition (2018). Ang mga pagbabagong naganap matapos ang Digmaang Pandaigdig II (WW II) ay kaalinsabay ng mga kilusang Civil Rights, anti-Vietnam War, at pakikibaka ng mga kabataan at kababaihan na sumukdol sa Paris 1968 rebelyon. Sumiklab rin ang anti-imperyalistang giyera sa Aprika, Palestine, at Latino- Amerika (Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Grenada), at sa Pilipinas sa paglunsad ng Bagong Hukbong Bayan at paghuhunos ng Partido Komunista sa ilalim ng Kaisipang Mao Tsetung. Hindi maihihiwalay ang materyalistikong basehan ng mga pulitiko-ideolohiyang pagsulong na taglay ang diyalektikang (hindi tuwirang) pagtutugma. Gayunman, dapat isaloob na masalimuot ang ugnayan ng mga elemento sa totalidad ng anumang politiko-ekonomiyang pormasyon.

Krisis ng Sistema, Sigalot sa Kaluluwa

Pangunahing nawasak ang banghay ng modernisasyong sekular (alyas kapitalismong pampinansiyal). Isiniwalat ng 1917 Bolshevik Revolution ang di-mapipigilang pagbulusok ng kapitalismo- imperyalismong orden. Lumala ang krisis nito sa 1929 Wall Street bagsak, at pagkatapos ng WW II, ang pagtamo ng kasarinlan ng dating kolonisadong bayan, pati na Vietnam at Cuba. Nabuwag ang naratibo ng walang-taning na pag-unlad ng kapitalismong naka-sentro sa kompetisyon ng bawat indibidwal, sa walang patid na akumulasyon ng tubo (surplus-value) at dominasyon ng Kalikasan. Kaagapay nito ang pagtakwil sa ilang paniniwalang aksyomatiko sa larang ng sining, tulad ng: 1) Isang tiyak na hiyerarkya ng kahalagahan nakabatay sa isang matatag na kaayusang global; 2) dogma na nakasalig ang sining sa pagsalamin/pagkopya sa realidad; 3) pag-aari ng artista/manlilikha ang isang galing/birtud, talino at kasanayang

1 E. San Juan, Lupang Hinirang, Lupang Tinubuan (Manila: De la Salle University Publishing House, 2016).

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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E. SAN JUAN 3

inaruga sa disiplinang personal; 4) namumukod ang artistang henyo, kaakuhang taglay ang mahiwaga’t banal na imahinasyon/dunong; 5) ang diskurso sa sining ay nakasalig sa tatlong kategoryang magkalangkap: artista, likhang-sining, awdiyens.

Sa kanluran, ang paglunsad ng kilusang avant-garde laban sa modernismo (binansagang postmodernismo, dekonstruksiyon, poststrukturalismo) ay tumingkad sa taong 1966–1972. Panahon ng “dematerialization of the art object,” hinalinhan ang romantikong aura/fetish ng obra-maestra (mula Michelangelo hanggang Cezanne, Picasso, Pollock) ng idea/information art, sa kalaunan, conceptual art. Naging isang tipo ng art- labor ang pagmumuni o pagninilay na inilaan sa interogasyon ng problema ng sining.2

Kung tutuusin, ang kaisipang tinutukoy ay pagsisiyasat at pag- analisa sa kondisyon, haka-haka, pala-palagay, prehuwisyo na namamahala sa pagyari, sirkulasyon at pagpapahalaga sa sining. Mithiin nito ang buwagin ang modernismong pangitain (Weltanschauung) katalik ng burgesyang ideolohiya’t ekonomyang pampolitika. Kalakip ng burgesyang modernidad ang malubhang alyenasyon at reipikasyong bunga ng pagsikil sa uring manggagawa at pagsasamantala sa mayorya. Adhikain nitong wasakin ang hangganang humahati sa araw-araw na ordinaryong buhay at katas-diwa ng sagradong sining—ang pinakabuod na hangarin ng makaproletaryongavantgarde sa kasaysayan. Huwag kalimutan na mayroon ding reaksyonaryo’t pasistang avant-garde (Marinetti, Dali), kaya dapat kongkretong analisis sa masalimuot na pagsalikop ng mga puwersa sa iba’t ibang antas ng galaw ng lipunan sa tiyak na yugto, hindi mekanikal na paghimay sa habi ng historya.3

Kongkretong Imbestigasyon sa Milyu

Matutunghayan ang mga paniniwalang nabanggit sa kasalukuyang dominanteng panlasa ngayon. Kalagayang neokolonyal pa rin bagamat nayanig na ang status quo sa 1986 Pebrero, “People Power” rebelyon at masiglang pagbanyuhay ng pambansang-demokratikong pakikibaka. Mistulang hindi naaapekto ng sunod-sunod na krises pampolitika ang mga guwardya ng elitistang istandard. Ihanay natin ang ilang ebidensiyang kalunos-lunos.

2 Michael Corris, “Black and White Debates,” in Corrected Slogans, ed. by Lucy Ives and Alexander Provan (Brooklyn: Triple Canopy, 2013).

3 Stefan Morawski, “Introduction,” in Marx and Engels on Literature and Art (St. Louis, MO: Telos Press, 1973).

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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4 SINING-KONSEPTWAL, PANITIKANG POST-KONSEPTWAL

Sa pambungad ni Virgilio Almario sa kanyang Hiyas ng Tulang Tagalog, inatupag lamang ang kaibahan ng tema o paksang naghihiwalay kina Teo Baylen at Amado Hernandez, walang puna sa tunggalian ng mga puwersang historikal. Makitid at mababaw rin ang makasektaryang pagwari sa tatak modernismo dahil gumagamit ng “malayang taludturan … at kaisipang pribado’t indibidwalista.”4 Sa kabilang dako, ayon kay Rene Villanueva, ang dula “ay laging nagtatangkang isaayos ang isang tiyak na karanasan upang mapaghanguan ng manonood o mambabasa ng mga pananaw tungkol sa buhay.”5 Lumalayo sa moralistikong tingin ni Villanueva si Gary Devilles sa pinamatnugutan niyang antolohiya, Pasakalye.Mapagwawari na ang talinghaga ng paglalakbay, punto at kontrapunto, ay liberalismong pagsukat sa “muhon ng panitikan” na hindi maikukulong sa simbolo ng transportasyon o hulagway hango sa teknolohiya.

Hindi pa tumatalab ang kuro-kurong radikal ng mga Minimalista’t konseptwalista.

Isang parikala na masisinag natin ang estetika ng mga sinaunang pantas (tulad nina Inigo Regalado, Lope K. Santos, Julian Cruz Balmaseda6na hango sa klasikong modelo nina Aristotle at Horace sa militanteng panunuri ni Bienvenido Lumbera. Sinuyod ni Lumbera ang pagsulong ng kritisismo mula sa pormalistikong pananaw hanggang sa realismong sosyal. Itinakwil na ang tradisyonal na pamantayan ng “ganda,” “lalim” o “kinis,” subalit kay Lumbera, mas importante ang “bisa” ng pagpapahayag o pagpapadama, “pagtatampok sa nilalaman,”7 na di tinitiyak kung sa anong layon o adhika nakatutok ang bisa, at kung anong kontekstong historikal nakaangkla ang nilalaman. Sina Isagani Cruz at Soledad Reyes ay nagpatuloy sa kanilang empirisistikong talaan ng mga awtor na marunong makibagay sa kalakaran, tulad nina Nemesio Caravana at A.C. Fabian na batid “kung paano pawiwilihin ang mga taong basahin ang kanilang mga akda.”8 Lahat ng nabanggit na opinyon ay nakasandig pa rin sa lumang tatsulok ng artista, likhang-sining, awdiyens—ang padron ng aprubadong panulat.

4 Virgilio Almario, ed., Hiyas ng Tulang Tagalog (Metro Manila: Aklat ng Bayan, 2015), xxv.

5 Rene Villanueva, “Ang Dula: Introduksiyon,” in Paano Magbasa ng Panitikang Filipino: Mga Babasahing Pangkolehiyo, ed. by Bienvenido Lumbera, Joi Barrios, Rolando Tolentino, and Rene Villanueva (Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2000), 103.

6 Galileo Zafra, ed., Mga Lektura sa Kasaysayan ng Panitikan (Metro Manila: Aklat ng Bayan, 2013).

7 Bienvenido Lumbera, Suri (Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2017),

36.
8 Isagani Cruz and Soledad Reyes, eds., Ang Ating Panitikan. (Manila: Goodwill

Trading Co., 1984), 258.

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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Oryentasyong Pangkasaysayan

Uminog at umalimbukay ang kosmos ng diskursong mapanuri sa epoka ng neoliberalisasyon. Pagkaraang lagumin ang tradisyonal na konsensus tungkol sa mga katangian ng likhang-sining, kuro-kuro ni Stefan Morawski na hindi esensyal na sangkap ang ekspresyon, techne, at porma: “Conceptualism is but the final step on the journey ‘beyond’ art”9—ibig sabihin, iyong tipong nakagawian. Ilang bagong pangyayari ang “theatricalization” sa sining, ang ritwalistikong paglalaro sa “performance art,” collage sa pelikula (Godard) at musika (Stockhausen). Salungat naman ang dulang walang dulaan nina Jean Genet at Beckett, sampu ng mga nobela nina Robbe-Grillet, Butor, Calvino, Garcia Marquez—ang estruktura nito ay bunga ng partisipasyon ng mambabasa o nanonood.

Tigmak ng ikonoklastikong hakbang ang postmodernistang improbisasyon. Dito lumantad na ang politika ng distribusyon ng “sensibles,” dalumat at danas, na tinalakay ni Jacques Ranciere sa The Politics of Aesthetics(2004), ay makatuturan pa rin bagamat ang tuon ng pansin ay nailipat sa yugto ng kaisipang humihikayat at umaantig patungong praktika/aksyon.

Umabot na tayo sa nagpagkasunduang punto. Ang prinsipyong umuugit sa bisa ng representasyon sa iba’t ibang midya at sa nakasentrong- sabject sa rason/katwiran ay inusig, nilitis, at hinatulang walang silbi sa pagpapaliwanag sa krisis ng modernismo. Hindi lumaganap ito. Nakakulong pa rin ang akademikong teksbuk nina P. Flores at Cecilia de la Paz (1997) sa pagdiin sa pormalistikong paradigm kung saan “teknik at imahinasyon” ang nakatampok. Bagamat nakadawit sa panlipunang usapin, mahigpit pa rin ang bigat ng subhetibong pagkiling mula kina Kant kung saan ang hatol- estetika “cannot be other than subjective.”10 Napapanahon na ang paghuhunos. Kailangang sariwain ang kamalayang pangkasaysayan upang matalikuran ang dogmatikong ugali ng sistemang umuugit sa paninindigang makasarili at pananalig sa batas ng negosyo’t pamilihan.

Simula pa ng kilusang Dada, suryalismo, Constructivism, Cubismo, hanggang Pop Art, Fluxus (kabilang na si Yoko Ono) at Minimalism, unti- unting naagnas ang pagtitiwala sa isang ordeng matiwasay kahit nambubusabos. Sumalisi ang udyok ng aksidente at pagbabakasakali kaakibat ng anarkiya ng walang regulasyon sa kalakal. Sumaksi ang pagtutol sa estetisismo at komoditi-petisismo nina Yves Klein, Robert Rauschenberg,

9 Stefan Morawski, Inquiries into the Fundamentals of Aesthetics (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1974), 120.

10 Immanuel Kant, Analytic of the Beautiful, trans. by Walter Cerf (New York: The Bobbs- Merrill Co., 1969), 4. Tingnan din Collingwood, R.G., “The Expression of Emotion,” in The Problems of Aesthetics, ed. by Eliseo Vivas and Murray Krieger (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1953).

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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6 SINING-KONSEPTWAL, PANITIKANG POST-KONSEPTWAL

atbp. Ibinasura na ang prinsipyong expresyonista nina Bosanquet at Croce mula pa nang ipanukala nina Walter Benjamin at Lewis Mumford (circa 1930) ang mapanghamong kalidad ng makina sa reproduksiyon ng art-object. Pinagtibay din ng mga saliksik hinggil sa sining ng Silangan at primitibong kabihasnan na kailangan lamang ng ulirang halimbawa, huwarang balangkas at panuntunan upang makayari ng artipak/bagay na makasasapat sa depinisyong napagkasunduan hinggil sa likhang-sining.

Argumentong Magkatumbalik

Dumako tayo sandali sa yugto ng Minimalism na tumiwalag sa naghaharing Abstract Expressionism ni Pollock.11 Tanyag na halimbawa ang “Lever” ni Carl Andre, “Series A” ni Sol Lewitt, ang mga “Untitled” nina Robert Morris at Donald Judd, potograpiya ni Dan Graham, atbp. Kalakip ang tendensiyang anti-expressionist, sumubaybay din sila sa konstruktibistang inhinyera ng naunang Bauhaus at Proletkult. Dagling bumulas ang konseptwalismo upang paigtingin ang depersonalisadong padron/paradigma ng konstruktibismo’t mapanirang ugali ng Dada at mapagbirong Fluxus. Hindi nagtagal, isinusog ng konseptwalistang artista na ang kanilang aktibidad/gawa ay isang pagsisiyasat sa magusot at malabong katayuan ng sining. Sumbat nila sa elitistang alipores na humuhubog ng kodigo: wala kayong katuwiran kundi puwersa ng kombensyon at minanang ugali. Tumalikod sila sa palengke/pamilihan at publikong nagumon sa konsumerismo, nakaugat sa hedonismong mapinsala—rahuyong pinakaubod sa pusod ng problematikong pangitaing burgis sa mundo ngayon.

Balangkasin natin ang trajektorya ng konseptwalismo sa apat na bugso ng pakikipagsapalaran nito. Una, pinalawak nito ang aralin hinggil sa kaisahan at materyalidad ng obhetong tinaguriang sining. Karugtong ito ng self-reflexivity ng modernismong pumoproblema’t tumitimbang sa iba’t ibang salik at sangkap ng sining. Pangalawa, tinanggihan nito ang kostumbreng biswal ng praktikang pansining. Isinaisantabi na ang isyu ng midya. Pangatlo, inilapat ang sining sa lugar at konteksto ng pagbilad nito sa publiko. Pang-apat, sinipat ang kalagayan ng uri ng distribusyon at pakikibahagi ng sining sa lipunan—ang usapin ng demokrasya’t pagkakapantay-pantay.

Tunay na masalimuot ang hibla ng pinagbuhatan ng konseptwalismo, pati na ang estratehiyang pagbabago nito. Buhat pa nang itanghal ni Marcel Duchamp ang kanyang urinal at iba pang “ready-made”

11 Tingnan ang Gregory Battcock, Minimal Art: A Critical Anthology (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1968).

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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E. SAN JUAN 7

bilang art-object simula 1913, gumana na ang generic modernismong humiwalay sa pribilehiyong midya. Wala nang espesyal na katas-diwang estetiko; impormasyon, dokumentasyon, at iba pang determinadong negasyon ng institusyonalisadong sining ang itinataguyod sa sari-saring praktikang dinudukal sa kasalukuyan. Walang partikular na materyales o pamamaraan ang iniririserba para sa paghubog sa likhang-sining.

Ikintal natin dito ang ilang tagpo sa naratibo ng konseptwalismo. Mag-umpisa muna sa lingguwistikong palitang-kuro nina Joseph Kosuth at ang Art & Language Group sa UK circa 1968–69. Itinakwil nila ang talinong teknikal sa pagyari ng bagay na taglay ang integral na kalidad. Naglaho ang materyal na bagay na nakikita, ang biswal na produkto na nagdulot ng kabuluhan sa pagsasanib ng tiyak at alanganing sangkap nito. Binalewala na ng “ready-made” ni Duchamp ang morpolohiyang artipak nina Cezanne, Manet, atbp. Idiniin ang konsepto ng kahulugang hindi nakaangkla sa reperent. Ang sining ay isang analitikong proposisyon, hindi sintetikong hugot sa karanasan—proklama ni Kosuth. Sa sipat nina Atkinson at Baldwin, ang sining ay pagdeklara ng kontekstong pansining sa metalingwistikang metodolohiya. Sinibak ang pormalismo at kognitibong biswalidad ng tradisyonal na sining, dagling pinalitan ng impormasyon/dokumentasyon at iba pang hulmahang hiram sa pinagtambal na kodigong analog/digital.

Gunitain ang proseso ng reduksiyon o demateryalisasyon ng bagay na binansagang “art-object”12 Tulad nang nabanggit, nailunsad ito sa paglagay sa galerya ng mga bagay na nagsasarili. Pagkatapos, inilapat iyon sa pook o lugar hanggang ito’y mawala. Sa kalaunan, idiniin ang lamang-isip o konsepto sa halip na ituon ang atensiyon sa masasalat na sisidlan na kinaluluklukan ng kahulugan. Hindi pagmasid kundi pagkapa at paghinuha ng kahulugan mula sa anumang bagay na dinanas. Matindi’t mabalasik ang mga argumento sa diskursong metalingwistikal hinggil sa sining; ang gamit sa wika bilang makahulugang materyal/laman ay bininyagang ideya-sining.

Sining Bilang Kabatiran/Wari

Sapagkat laging sinisipi ang dokumentong “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art” (1967) ni Sol LeWitt, nais kong talakayin ang ilang tema nito. Kabilang ang mga kagrupong Mel Bochner, Hann Darhoven at iba pa, si LeWitt ay hindi sang-ayon sa “linguistic conceptualism” nina Kosuth at Art & Language. Binura ni LeWitt ang namamatyagang bagay at ibiniling ang sipat sa prosesong konseptwal na kaiba sa expresyonistang atitudo na nakabatay sa anyong biswal. Pinupukaw at inuuntag ang isip, hindi mata, ng

12 Lucy Lippard and John Chandler, “The Dematerialization of Art,” in Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology, ed. by Alexander Alberro and Blake Stimson (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999).

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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konseptwalistang artista na nakapokus sa ideya/hinagap ng dinamikong makinang yumayari ng sining. Lahat ng pagpapasiya tungkol sa kung paano lilikhain ang bagay ay naisakatuparan na sa proseso ng pag-iisip/pagninilay. Hindi na kailangan ang intuwisyon o pangangatwiran dahil nailatag na ang lohikang susundin, ang tinaguriang “OS” (Operating System).

Sa iskemang apriori, wala nang papel na gaganapin ang henyong indibidwal, ang saloobing personal, na dinakila ng mga romantikong pilosopo (Coleridge, Goethe, Schiller, Croce). Pahayag ni LeWitt: “To work with a plan that is pre-set is one way of avoiding subjectivity … The idea itself, even if not made visual, is as much a work of art as any finished product …. Those that show the thought-process of the artist are sometimes more interesting than the finished product.”13 Napalitan ang kamalayang interyor ng prosesong mala- matematika na gumitaw sa ulirat, may angking lohikang nag-uudyok sa mambabasa o nanonood na lumahok sa pabrikasyon ng danas.

Sa pagkilatis ni Fredric Jameson, ang espasyo/lunan ang importante sa konseptwalistang kadalubhasaan:

Conceptual art may be described as a Kantian procedure whereby, on the occasion of what first seems to be an encounter with a work of art of some kind, the categories of the mind itself—normally, not conscious, and inaccessible to any direct representation or to any thematizable self-consciousness or reflexibility—are flexed, their structuring presence now felt laterally by the viewer like musculature or nerves of which we normally remain insensible, in the form of those peculiar mental experiences Lyotard terms paralogisms.14

Pakiwari ko’y mali ang positibistikong akala ni Jameson. Limitado ni Kant ang ideya sa palapag na penomenal, kaya di makaakyat sa kongkretong yunibersal ng sining. Dapat intindihin na hindi ang anatomya o biyolohiya ng utak ang nakataya rito kundi ang proseso ng hinuha (inference) na mahuhugot sa nailahad na direksiyon/instruksiyon ng artista.

Pagkawala ng rasyonalistikong sabjek/awtor, sumupling ang depersonalisadong sining sa danas at panlasa ng nakararaming tao. Malaya na ang sinumang nais magpahalaga at magpakahulugan sa anumang bagay o pangyayari na pwedeng kabitan ng etiketa, “sining ito.”

13 Sol LeWitt, “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art,”in Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology, ed. by Alexander Alberro and Blake Stimson (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999), 13-14. Sa paksang ito, knsultahin din ang kuro-kuro ni Peter Osborne, Anywhere or Not at All. New York: Verso, 2013).

14 Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham: Duke University Press, 1991), 157.

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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Dalawang halimbawa ang maiuulat dito. Sa Following Piece (1969) ni Vito Acconci, yumari ng isang listahang naglalarawan ng publikong pagsubaybay ng isang taga-lungsod sa sinuman hanggang makarating ito sa kanilang destinasyon. Tila prinsipyong apriori ang metodo ng pagsunod sa isang iskema kasangkot ang katawan ng artista ay tuwirang notasyon ng ilang insidente. Walang naratibo, komposisyon, o pagpapasiya ng saloobin ang mamamalas dito. Sinuman na nasa lungsod ay makagaganap ng papel ng artista kung susundin ang tagubilin at panutong nailahad.

Isa pang makatuturang dating ng konseptwalistang paraan ay mamamasid sa demokratikong pagpapalaganap ng sining sa nakararaming tao, sa pagbuo nito at pagtanggap ninuman. Mapapatunayan ito sa sining ni Lawrence Weiner. Sa halip na lumikha ng mararamdamang bagay, pinahayag lamang niya ang impormasyon tungkol sa sining na aayusin. Matris ng proyekto ang mga pangungusap niya na nagtatakda ng estrukturang materyal at metodo ng paggawa. Halimbawa, “One hole in the ground Approximately 1’ x 1’ x 1’ One Gallon Water-based White Paint Poured into this Hole.” Ginamit ang pandiwaring pasado sa patalastas upang ipahiwatig ang pagkatiyak ng paglalarawan at posibilidad ng pagsasakatuparan nito sa hinaharap. Ang serye ng mga ginawa ni Weiner sa Statements (1968) ay siya mismong nakadispley na sining sa exibisyon. Kahalintulad nito ang mga avant-garde iskor, “Three Aqueous Events” (1961) sa musika ni George Brecht ng Fluxus (tungkol sa Le Magasin de Ben ni Ben Vautier, tingnan si Kearney [1988]), o mga notasyon sa musika ni John Cage. Kahawig din ang mga iniulat na “happenings” ni Yoko Ono sa Grapefruit, pinaka-pioneer ng sining- konseptwal—kasabay sa pag-unawa sa patalastas o habilin ang performans/pagsasadula nito.

Kahit tagubilin pasalita, o kilos na inirekord sa dokumento, ang naisagawa ay isang kawing lamang sa isang mahabang kadenang metonimiko. Dapat unawain ang sinkroniko’t diyakronikong galaw hitik ng indeks-senyas at sagisag. Kasangkot doon ang komunikasyong oral, ang inilathalang instruksiyon, ang proseso ng paglabas ng deklarasyon, ang kinahinatnan, ang dokumentasyong potograpiko, atbp. Sa maikling salita, iba’t ibang anyo o hugis pisikal ang maaaring manipestasyon ng konsepto. Nararapat ikabit dito ang kasaysayan ng sining, hindi estetikang ideyalistiko ni Kant o Lyotard. Pagnilayin ang matatag na “declaration of intent” ni Weiner na modipikasyon ng simulaing ipinahayag ni LeWitt:

  1. The artist may construct the piece
  2. The piece may be fabricated
  3. The piece need not be built© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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Each being equal and consistent with the intent of the artist, the decision as to condition rests with the receiver upon the occasion of receivership.15

Simbiyotika ng Teorya at Praktika

Higit na radikal kaysa kina Kosuth at Lewitt ang panukala ni Weiner. Bukod sa pagbaklas sa mito ng paglikhang depende sa awtoridad ng awtor/artistang bukal ng orihinalidad, ang pagkasangkot ng awdiyens, ang demokratikong paglahok ng tumatanggap/nakatanggap ng sining, ay nakabuwag sa tradisyonal na pananaw. Lumalim at tumalas ito sa sumunod na uri ng konseptwalismo nina Daniel Buren, Hans Haacke, Marcel Broodthaers. Pinuntirya nila ang kondisyong ideolohikal ng institusyong pansining (museo, galerya, midyang sosyal), ang mga regulasyon at batas, ang kanonisadong doktrinang upisyal na nagpapasiya kung anong bagay ang ituturing na sining. Halimbawa, sa Gallery-Visitors-Profile, isiniwalat ni Haacke ang sistemang nagtatakda kung ano ang kahulugan at kabuluhan ng bagay na tinaguriang likhang-sining.16

Alalahanin na iba ang sitwasyon ng Global South sa Global North. Asymetrikal ang tayo ng neokolonyang Pilipinas kumpara sa industriyalisadong Europa o Norte Amerika. Sa Latino-Amerika, iniangkop ang “Media Art” sa krisis ng lipunan. Halimbawa, ang Grupo de Artistas de Vanguardia sa Argentina ang nagpropaganda sa “Nasusunog ang Tucuman,” kung saan ang pagtipon ng impormasyon at pagpapalaganap nito sa midya (tungkol sa panunupil at pagsikil sa mga taga-Tucuman) ay magkabuklod na praktika sa sining at politika. Ibinunyag nila ang kasinungalin ng Estado. Isinakdal ang institusyon ng pag-aaring indibidwal, pati na ang ilusyon ng aliw at kariktan mula sa pambihirang art-object. Pwedeng gawing modelo ang aksyon ng mga aktibista sa Argentina. Ngunit dapat tandaan o isaalang-alang na ang sitwasyon ng neokolonyang Pilipinas ay kaiba sa iba pang bansang hindi sinakop ng imperyalismong U.S. at nagtamasa ng biyaya ng industriyalisasyon at repormang pang-agraryo.

Nang pumasok ang dekada 1970–1980, isinaisantabi na ang linguwistiko-analitikong konseptualismong nauna. Yumabong ang tipo ng postkonseptualismo nina Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, Mary Kelley, at iba pa, na nagproblema sa palasak na pormalistikong relasyon ng imahen/wika/suhetibidad. Pinuna sila ng grupo nina Martha Roseler, Alan Sekula, atbp. Ipinaliwanag ng huli na ang ideolohiyang identidad ay hindi hiwalay sa lenggwaheng ginagamit. Kaya kung natanggal man ang ahensiya

15 Sinipi ni Alberro sa Alexander Alberro, “Reconsidering Conceptual Art, 1966-1977,” in Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology, ed. by Alexander Alberro and Blake Stimson (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999), xxii.

16 Tony Godfrey, Conceptual Art (New York: Phaidon Press, 1998).

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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E. SAN JUAN 11

o kalooban ng ulilang artistang nasukol ng puwersa ng kapaligiran at nabalaho sa bangin ng “art-for-art’s sake,” pwede pa ring bumuo ng estratehiya ng interbensiyon.

Bukod sa masidhing performans ni Adrian Piper na nakasentro sa sabwatang rasismo/machismo sa Norte Amerika’t Europa, magandang halimbawa ang “The Bowery in Two Inadequate Descriptive Systems” (1974) ni Martha Rosler. Maimpluwensiya pa rin ang reduktibismo’t reflexibidad-sa- sarili, mabisa pa rin ang “ready-made” sa Pop Art at Minimalism. Ngunit ang pangunahing tagumpay ng konseptwalismo, sa pangkalahatan, ay naisuma ng dalubhasang Benjamin Buchloch17 sa kritika ng institusyon, ang demistipikasyon ng burgesyang pananaw tungkol sa midya, impormasyon, publisidad, at sining. Anumang sitwasyon ay tigib ng sapin-saping kontradiksyong nagsisilbing motor sa pagsulong ng kasaysayan.

Pagbuno sa Palaisipan & Suliranin

Sa pagbabalik-tanaw sa kasaysayan ng konseptwalismo sa sining, idiniin ni Craig Dworkin, na impresario ng konseptwalistang panulat, ang pagpanaw ng awtor, ang imbentor ng orihinal na likhang-sining (naibalita na nina Roland Barthes at Michel Foucault ang pagkamatay ng awtor). Naipasinaya ng pagburol ng malikhaing awtor ang pagsilang ng “uncreative writing” sa bagong milenyo, sa epoka ng “War on Terrorism” pagkaraan ng pagsabog ng Twin Tower sa New York, USA, noong ika-11 Setyembre 2001.

Sa gayon, nararapat iangkop ang tendensiya ng panulat sa daloy ng kapaligiran. Halaw sa eksperimentasyon sa wika nina Dan Graham, Mel Ramsden, Robert Barry at John Baldessari, naisuma ni Dworkin ang ilang katangiang gagabay sa makabagong panulat: hindi na kailangang magsikap tumuklas ng orihinal na gawa. Tratuhin ang wika bilang datang mabibilang, materyal na limbag. Pwedeng kumopya o gumagad ng ibang teksto na magiging iba o bago dahil iba o bago na ang konteksto—isang takdang panahon at lugar—ng artistang sumusunod sa isang procedure o iskema. Kaya ng minakinilya muli ni Kenneth Goldsmith sa kanyang Day ang isang isyu ng New York Times, ang tanskrispyon ay pagsasakatuparan ng kanyang ideya/konsepto ng sining. Kahambing ito ng After Walker Evans ni Sherrie Levine, o ang mga collage Nina Richard Prince, Andy Warhol, atbp.

Appropriation/pag-angkin, pagkumpiska/pang-aagaw, ang namamayaning estilo at modo ng pagkatha ngayon sa literaturang nangunguna. Sa milyung umaapaw ng kompyuter, elektronikong teknolohiya, sumagana’t kumalat ang “remix culture” ng hip-hop, global DJ

17 Benjamin Buchloch, “Conceptual Art 1962-1969: From the Aesthetic of Adminstration to the Critique of Institutions,” in Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology, ed. by Alexander Alberro and Blake Stimson (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999).

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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12 SINING-KONSEPTWAL, PANITIKANG POST-KONSEPTWAL

kultura, sampling, mash-up, montage, cut-up, atbp. Ginagagad ng manunulat ang “database logic” ng bagong midya,” ayon kay Dworkin, “wherein the focus is no longer on the production of new material but on the recombination of previously produced and stockpiled data. Conceptual poetry, accordingly, often operates as an interface—returning the answer to a particular query; assembling, rearranging, and displaying information; or sorting and selecting from files of accumulated language according to a certain algorithm.”18 Ayon kay Walter Benjamin, sa reproduksyong mekanikal ng modernong kabihasnan, natanggal ang “aura” sa mga pribadong pag-aaring signos ng pribilehiyo/kapangyarihan, at diumano’y naging demokratiko ang pagtatamasa ng ligayang dulot ng sining.19 Totoo ba ito?

Kung tutuusin, walang panganib o hamong nakasisindak sa status quo ang konseptwalismong lumaganap at hinangaan. Nasaring nga ni Robert Smithson na naging aliporis ng sistemang kapital ang dating avantgarde: ginawa ni Warhol ang kapitalismo bilang isang alamat/mito pagsuob sa “production for production’s sake.”20 Yumaman ang mga artistang dating pariahsa Establisimyento. Samantala, ang “uncreative writing” ni Goldsmith ay nagtamo ng mayamang tagumpay, naging bantog at kinilalang sopistikadong biyaya ng pambihirang moda. Pinarangalan sila. Pihikang panlasa?

Hintay, isang araw, inanyayahan si Goldsmith na bumigkas ng isang tula sa isang program sa Brown University, ang “The Body of Michael Brown,” na dagling naging kontrobersiyal. Hintay muna …. Pinatindi ang reaksyon sa balita na nagbunsod ng umaatikabong tuligsa, pati banta ng pagpatay sa makata. Pakli ni Goldsmith: “There’s been too much pain for many people around this, and I do not want to cause anymore.”21

Sa dagling pagtaya, ang performans ni Goldsmith ay simple lamang. Ito’y pagbasa ng ilang talatang sinipi sa autopsy report ng pulisya ng Ferguson, Missouri, na pumaslang kay Michael Brown, isang 18 taong gulang na Aprikano-Amerikanong lalaki, noong 13 Marso 2014. Pumutok ang maraming demonstrasyon sa buong bansa laban sa awtoridad. Sa itaas ng entablado ng unibersidad pinaskil ang malaking graduation photo ni Brown. Walang emosyon ang pagbasang tumagal ng 30 minutos, walang imik ang nakinig. Pagkaraang kumalat ang balita sa Internet, umarangkada ang

18 Craig Dworkin, “The Fate of Echo,” in Against Expression, ed. by C. Dworkin and Kenneth Goldsmith (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2011), xlii.

19 Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” inIlluminations, trans. by Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken Books, 2007), 217-251.

20 Robert Smithson, “Production for Production’s Sake,” in Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology, ed. by Alexander Alberro and Blake Stimson (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999), 285.21 Alison Flood, “US poet defends reading of Michael Brown autopsy report as a poem,” The Guardian (17 March 2015), <https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015

/mar/17/michael-brown-autopsy-report-poem-kenneth-goldsmith>.

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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E. SAN JUAN 13

batikos at tuligsa: “tacky,” “new racist lows,” “white elite institutions pay … another white man holding the corpse of a black child, saying “Look at what I’ve made.”22 Pinag-initan ang Puting pagsamsam sa kahirapan ng mga Itim, ang paghamak at pagkutya sa kamatayan ng isang inosenteng biktima ng marahas na paghahari ng White Supremacy.

Masusing pag-aralan ang matapang at mahayap na komentaryo ni Anne Waldman:

I was not present, but by all reports what we seem to have is a solipsistic clueless bubble of unsupportable ‘art’ attitude and privilege. What was Kenny Goldsmith thinking? That it’s okay to self-appoint and perform the autopsy report of murdered black teenager Michael Brown and mess with the text, and so “own” it and get paid for his services? No empathy no sorrow for the boy, the body, the family, ignorant of the ramifications, deaf ear to the explosive demonstrations and marches? Reeks of expoitation, of the ‘racial imaginary.’ Black Dada Nihilismus is lurking on the lineaments of the appropriated shadow of so much suffering.23

Alingawngaw sa Kaharian ng Arte

Dagling nawala ang pretext ng kontrobersiya. Biglang inurong ni Goldsmith ang tula sa Web, at pinalitan ng isang pagtatanggol (sa Facebook) ng signature estilong pagkopya, pagputol, pagdikit, pag-angkin ng digital text mula sa cyberspace. Ikinatwiran ang ethos ng sampling, reblogging, mimesis, replikasyon, procedure ng pagmanipula, paglilipat at pakikibahagi ng impormasyon na primaryang imbakan ng konseptwalistang panulat. Maingat nating pagliripin ang paliwanag (hindi apologia) ni Goldsmith sa kanyang pagsala, paghimay at pagsasaayos ng isang publikong dokumento na pinamagatang “The Body of Michael Brown”—pinagsamantalahang ipuslit ang autopsy report upang makaani ng pansariling “symbolic capital”:

In the tradition of my previous book Seven American Deaths and Disasters, I took a publicly available document from an American tragedy that was witnessed first-hand (in this case by the doctor performing the autopsy) and simply read it. Like Seven American Deaths, I did not editorialize. I simply read it

22 Ibid.

23 C.A. Conrad, “Kenneth Goldsmith Says He Is an Outlaw,” Poetry Foundation (June 2015), <https://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2015/06/kenneth-goldsmith-says-he-is-an- outlaw>.

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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14 SINING-KONSEPTWAL, PANITIKANG POST-KONSEPTWAL

without commentary or additional editorializing. Many of you have heard me read from Seven American Deaths. This reading was identical in tone and intention. This, in fact, could have been the eighth American death and disaster. The document I read from is powerful. My reading of it was powerful. How could it be otherwise? Such is my long- standing practice of conceptual writing: like Seven American Deaths, the document speaks for itself in ways that an interpretation cannot. It is a horrific American document, but then again it was a horrific American death.24

Pagtugis sa Katunayan at Kabulaanan

Masinop na imbestigasyon ang kailangan. Kabulaanan ang igiit ni Goldsmith na hindi niya binago ang dokumento. Tandisang litaw na pinili niya, sinipi at niretoke ang ilang detalye ng postmortem examination at ipinasiyang magwakas sa maselang bahagi. Narito ang nakasulat sa report: “Male Genital System: There is foreskin present near the head of the penis. The remaining male genitalia system is unremarkable” (galing sa Office of the Medical Examiner, Dr Gershom; 2014 # 5143). Bakit dito piniling huminto ang akda ni Goldsmith?

Bukod sa pihikang komentaryong inilagay ni Goldsmith sa Facebook, ang pagbigkas noon ng isang puting Amerikano, sa kontekstong wala pang napagkasunduang pagsisiyasat at paglilitis kung makatarungan ang pagpaslang sa kanya, ay mapupuna. Lumalabas na editorializing at panghihimasok ang ginawa. Ipinasiya ni Goldsmith na idaos ang teatro niya sa Brown University, isang ivy-league na institusyon na dating pasimuno’t yumaman sa tubo ng kalakal ng mga esklabong Aprikano noong siglo 1700– 1800. Batid din ni Goldsmith na magulo’t matinik pa ang usapin tungkol sa karahasan ng pulisya—hindi maiwawaglit ang kontekstong ito, na sa tahasang asersyon ni Goldsmith, ay personal na pag-ani ng “cultural capital.”25. Tunay na hindi makatotohanan ang pangangatwiran ni Goldsmith. Maiging suriin ang dugtong niya (mula sa kanyang Facebook post):

I altered the text for poetic effect. I translated into plain English many obscure medical terms that would have stopped the flow of the text; I narrativized it in ways that made the text

24 Flood, “US poet defends reading of Michael Brown autopsy report as a poem.”

25 Kenneth Goldsmith, “Why Conceptual Writing? Why Now?” Against Expression, ed. by C. Dworkin and Kenneth Goldsmith (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2011), xviii.

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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E. SAN JUAN 15

less didactic and more literary. I indeed stated at the beginning of my reading that this was a poem called “The Body of Michael Brown”: I never stated, “I am going to read the autopsy report of Michael Brown.” But then again, this is what I did in Seven Deaths and Disasters. I always massage dry texts to transform them into literature, for that is what they are when I read them. That said, I didn’t add or alter a single word or sentiment that did not preexist in the original text, for to do so would be to go against my nearly three decades’ practice of conceptual writing, one that states that a writer need not write any new texts but rather reframe those that already exist in the world to greater effect than any subjective interpretation could lend. Perhaps people feel uncomfortable with my uncreative writing, but for me, this is the writing that is able to tell the truth in the strongest and clearest was possible.

Ecce homo. Behold the man.

Walang pasubali, hindi ito salitang humihingi ng paumanhin. Sa katunayan, isang rasyonalisasyon ito sa pagtatanggol sa kanyang tipo ng panulat. Samakatwid, ang “reframing” o pagmasahe sa dokumento ni Goldsmith ang nakataya rito. Sa malas, talaga bang na-defamiliarize ang Estadong rasista’t pasista, ang layunin ng makata na ipahayag ang katotohanan sa pinakamabisang paraan?

Umuukilkil ang ilang tanong hinggil sa dating, sa impak ng impormasyong naipaabot. Binago niya, amin ng makata, upang magkaroon ng bisang matulain. Anong kahulugan o kabuluhan ng estetikang naipahatid nito? Ito ba ang birtud ng pagkamakatotohanan ng konseptwalismo? Katunayan ba kaninuman, sa lahat ng oras, saanmang lugar? Anong damdamin, atitudo, saloobin, ang inaadhika ng “unoriginal genius” ng makata? Kung ilalapat natin ang haka o hinuha nina Vanessa Place at Robert Fitterman na “Conceptual writing is allegorical writing,”26 anong klaseng mensaheng literal at matalinghaga ang isinadula ni Goldsmith sa pagkasangkapan niya ng postmortem report—barokong alegorya, hybrid simulacra, o tusong pagkukunwari?

Sa anu’t anoman, mahirap maipaghiwalay ang interogasyong pang- estetika sa politikal, etikal at moral na suliraning bumabagabag sa publikong konsiyensiya.

26 Vanessa Place and Robert Fitterman, Notes on Conceptualisms (New York: Ugly Duckling Presse, 2013), 13.

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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16 SINING-KONSEPTWAL, PANITIKANG POST-KONSEPTWAL

Diskurso ng Pagkilala o Pagwalang-pansin

Tulad ng nabanggit na, binatikos si Goldsmith, ang poet laureate ng Museum of Modern Art, ng maraming kolega at manunulat sa website ng Poetry Foundation.27 at iba pang lugar sa Internet at lathalain. Sa marahas na bintang na ang akda ni Goldsmith ay dokumento ng “white supremacy poetics,” kung saan naroon ang “white power dissecting colored body,” sulyapan ang website ng “Mongrel Coalition Against Gringpo”: “The murdered body of Mike Brown’s medical report is not our poetry, it’s the building blocks of white supremacy, a miscreant DNA infecting everyone in the world. We refuse to let it be made literary.” 28

Kaunting repaso. Magsimula muli tayo sa pagtutugma ng sining at situwasyon ng mundo, ang yugto ng krisis ng kapitalismong global/neoliberal. Masahol ang kalagayan ng mga taong-may-kulay, lalo na ang Aprikano-Amerikano sa mga nabubulok na urbanidad ng pasistang U.S. Mapanganib na rin ang lagay ng petiburgesyang edukado; walang trabaho karamihan ng graduweyt sa humanidades, sampu ng mga manunulat-artista, atbp. Ginagamit ang sining bilang investment, tulad ng pagtitinda ng mga likha nina Warhol, Francis Bacon, Cy Twombly, Gerhard Richter sa Sotheby at iba pang organo ng komodipikasyon. Hinirang na propesor sa University of Pennsylvania, si Goldsmith ay isa sa mga mapalad na konseptwalistang awtor na kinilala ng Establisimyento (naimbita pa ni dating Pangulong Obama sa White House).

Mapaparatangan bang nagkasala si Goldsmith sa komodipikasyon ng bangkay ni Brown? Nagkasala ba siya sa pagbebenta ng tekstong ninakaw sa Internet, at pagpuslit ng simbolikong kapital bilang “meme macho”?29 Ano ang kahulugan ng pangyayaring ito sa larangan ng politikang digmaan sa U.S. at ligalig na dulot ng krisis internasyonal sa pagtutunggalian ng kapitalistang bansa?

Sa perspektibang historiko-materyalistiko, matatarok na may tatlong panig ang problemang hinarap ni Goldsmith (kahit hindi niya ito dama o alam). Una, ang kontradiksiyon ng pagkatao ng Aprikano-Amerikanong grupo (si Brown ay kinatawan nila) at paglait sa bangkay (“quantified self” ni Brown). Nananaig pa rin ang aparatong ideolohikal ng Estado sa

27 Conrad, “Kenneth Goldsmith Says He Is an Outlaw.”

28 Sinipi ni Wilkinson sa Alec Wilkinson, “Something Borrowed,” The New Yorker (7 October 2015), <https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/10/07/something-borrowed- wilkinson>.

29 Kenneth Goldsmith, “Paragraphs on Conceptual Writing,” University of Buffalo Webpage, <http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/goldsmith/conceptual_paragraphs.html&gt;.

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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E. SAN JUAN 17

pagpapanatili ng rasismo/makismo. Pangalawa, sa harap ng dumaragsangmemes, bulto-bultong dami ng datos digital, labis-labis na “disposable data- basing,” blogging, identity ciphering, mabilisang programing, paano maisasaayos ng makata ang kumplikadong penomena upang magkaroon iyon ng halaga sa buhay natin? Pangatlo, paano malulutas ang hidwaang nabanggit kung ang paraang konseptwal ay makina-ng-ideyang walang silbi, hindi utilitaryan, matipid, mahigpit ang paghawak, nais lamang pukawin ang isip, walang balisa sa pagsasakatuparan ng konsepto? Tatlong problemang dapat lutasin upang makahulagpos sa bilanggo ng burgesyang orden.

Sa gitna ng ating pagkalito, iginiit ni Goldsmith: “Arbitrary or chance decisions would be kept to a minimum, while caprice, taste and other whimsies would be eliminated from the making of the text.”30 Sa gayon, hindi awtomatikongcollage, pastiche, o transkripsyon ang ginanap na pagbigkas ni Goldsmith. Tunay na iyon ay interbensiyong marahas, wangis gahasa ng puting lahi sa bangkay ng aliping kulay-itim, tanda ng barbarikong nekropilya. Sa tatlong kontradiksiyong nabanggit, anong pinili’t hinulmang paraan ang sinubok ng awtor sa paglutas ng inilatag na suliranin?

Totoong hindi niyutral o walang pakialam ang manunulat sa paraan at estilo ng paglalahad. Puna ni Marjorie Perloff, masinop si Goldsmith (tulad ni Duchamp) sa paghakot at pagsasalansan ng inilipat na tekso sa kanyangTraffic: “What Goldsmith wants us to see is what the world we live in is actually like.”31 Bilang isang pormang ideolohikal, nakapaloob sa kathang binigkas ni Goldsmith ang paglalarawan ng lohika ng rasistang lipunan bilang oposisyon ng kantidad (abstraktong pagkilatis sa bangkay ni Brown gawa ng Estado) versus makataong pagtransporma ni Goldsmith sa paraan ng satirikong pagmasahe sa autopsy report. Samakatwid, lumabag siya sa mungkahi ng kasamang Dworkin na ang konseptwalisting bricolage ay nakapako sa “recontextualizing language in a mode of strict citation.”32

Maselan ang detournement o paghuhugis ng nakumpiskang teksto sa Internet. Hindi naiba ng “reframing” ang konteksto ng diskursong kumbensyonal. Nakapokus din sa reduksiyon ng liping Aprikano sa sukat ng genitalia, kaya ipinabulaanan ni Goldsmith ang stereotype sa pagwakas ng kanyang pag-ilit sa medikong ulat na normal lamang ang seks ni Brown— “unremarkable” genitalia.33 Sa mismong pag-uulit ng rasismong kategorya, salungat sa kanyang tangka, dinulutan ng positibong bantas ang gawing rasista: ang tao ay katumbas ng kanyang anatomya/biyolohiya.

30 LeWitt, “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art,” 13.

31 Perloff, Marjorie, Poetics in a New Key: Interviews and Essays (Manila: De La Salle University Publishing House, 2013), 160.

32 Craig Dworkin, “The Fate of Echo,” xlvii.33 Wilkinson, “Something Borrowed.”

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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18 SINING-KONSEPTWAL, PANITIKANG POST-KONSEPTWAL

Subersiyong Radikal o Kompromisong Liberal?

Kakatwa ang kinalabasan sa ronda ng impormasyong kumalat. Sa kumpas ng diumano’y pagdaramay ni Goldsmith sa trahedyang pagkabaril sa inosenteng sibilyan, nabigyang-buhay rin ang liberalismong ideolohiya ng burgesyang uri—isang ironikal na pagbalikwas ng balak, parikalang di tangka. Ipinagtibay ang teorya nina Balibar at Macherey na ang literatura ay “imaginary solution of ideological contradictions.”34 Nadulutan ni Goldsmith ng isang tanghalan, mise en scene, ang di-malulutas na kontradisiyon ng burgesyang lipunan sa paraang huwad: ang rasismo ay bunga lamang ng teknolohiya/abstraksyon, na maireresolba sa humanistikong pagtingin kay Brown bilang ordinaryong tao. Mapinsalang ilusyon ito. Alalaong-baga’y hindi kailangan ang transpormasyon ng institusyon, ang di-makatarungang paghahati ng poder at yaman, ng karapatan at katungkulan, sa lipunang naghihiwalay sa mga may-ari ng kapital/produktibong kagamitan at pulubing uri ng mga trabahador, pati gitnang-uring petiburgis. Samakatwid, pinaikot lamang ni Goldsmith ang neokonserbatibong doktrina ng mga panginoon ng sistemang kapitalismong global.

Sa perspektibang ideyalistiko/metapisikal, maituturing na repormista ang prinsipyo ni Goldsmith (sampu nina Dworkin at mga kapanalig) sa pagtutol sa ortodoksiya ng romantiko’t mistikal na pagkilala sa awtor. Ang tipo ng mapanghamig na suhetibidad ay batayan ng burgesya- kapitalistang orden. Makatwiran din ang tatlong negasyon (ng obhetibidad ng likhang-sining, ng midyum biswal, at ng autonomiya ng art-object) na iniulat ni Osborne.35 Nagbunga iyon ng uri ng sining/panitikan na gumagamit o kumakasangkapan sa umiiral na diskurso/teksto sa midya upang mabago ang mga institusyong pang-araw-araw. Kabilang si Goldsmith sa pag-repunksiyon at sirkulasyon ng normatibong doxa tungkol sa identidad at karapatang pantao na masasagap sa cyberspace.

Ngunit, sanhi sa limitadong kaalaman, natigil doon sa produksiyon para sa sariling kapakanan. Nasaksihan ang kaunting “defamiliarization,” birtud ng mapanghimagsik na kritika, pero walang pagtakwil sa institusyon at estrukturang pampolitika. Walang pasubaling may simpatiya si Goldsmith sa protesta ng mga biktima ng karahasan ng pulisya. Ngunit hindi magkapareho ang sinulat na preskripyon at ang aktwal na pagsasagawa nito. Hindi nagampanan ni Goldsmith ang tungkuling isinabalikat nina Rosler, Haacke, at iba pang sumuri, gumalugad, at kumilatis sa di-makatarungang

34 Etienne Balibar and Pierre Macherey, “On Literature as an Ideological Form,” inMarxist Literary Theory, ed. by Terry Eagleton and Drew Milne (Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1996),

285.
35 Peter Osborne, Conceptual Art (New York: Phaidon Press, 2002), 18.

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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E. SAN JUAN 19

relasyon ng kapangyarihang nakapaloob sa sistema ng institusyong nangangasiwa’t kumokontrol sa sining/panitikan, sa buong aparato ng kultura/ideolohiya. Naibunyag na ni Charles Harrison ang “utopian fantasy”36ng rebolusyonaryong programa ng avantgarde kilusan na nagsimula pa kina Andre Breton, Duchamp, Mondrian, Joseph Beuys, Minimalism, Fluxus, hanggang kina Adrian Piper, Barbara Kruger, Sherrie Levine, atbp.

Mapanganib na suliranin ang pagkaligta sa mediyasyong diyalektikal ng gawaing manwal at intelektwal. Walang direktong korespondensiya ang transpormasyon sa literatura at sa ekonomyang pampulitika. Maisusulit dito na ang malaking kamalian nina Dworkin at Goldsmith, pati na rin ang kanilang taga-suportang si Marjorie Perloff, ay walang pakundangang pananatili sa burgesyang kuwadrong humahatol: ang awtor bilang “unoriginal genius,” at wika/diskursong kumbensyonal bilang niyutral o sariwang salik/sangkap na maihuhugis sa anumang direksiyon, di alintana ang nagtatakdang kasaysaya’t ideolohiyang nakabuklod doon.

Bukod dito, partikular din na hindi iniuugnay ng konseptwalismong aprubado ang institusyon ng museo, galerya, mass media, at akademyang makapangyarihan sa pagtakda ng paghahati ng lakas-paggawa ayon sa means-ends rasyonalidad ng burgesyan orden. Ito nga ang dahilan ng bangguwardyang pagsisikap na siya ring nagtutulak sa konseptwalistang eksperimento.37 Sa kabilang dako, maihahalintulad ang transisyonal na katangian ng kalakarang ito sa trahedyang Griyego na, sa loob ng reaksyonaryong porma, sinikap nina Aeschylus, Sophocles, at Euripedes na ipasok doon ang pinakarasyonal, demokratiko’t materyalistikong paninindigan ng progresibong uri ng panahong iyon.38 Masinop na pagliripin ang diyalektikang pagsusulit na matutuklasan sa mga nobela nina Lope K. Santos, Faustino Aguilar, Amado Hernandez, Lazaro Francisco, Efren Abueg, Lualhati Bautista, Jun Cruz Reyes, atbp.39

Tungo sa Palatuntunan ng Pananagutan

Siyasatin natin ang ibang semiotika bukod kay Saussure at mga dekonstruksyonista. Ang malaking pagkukulang ng kritikang institusyonal ay isang bagay na mapupunan kung susundin ang pragmatikong tagubilin ni Charles Peirce hinggil sa kahulugan ng konsepto/ideya:

36 Charles Harrison, Conceptual Art and Painting (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001), 38.

37 Peter Burger, “Theory of the Avant-garde and Critical Literary Science,” inContemporary Marxist Literary Criticism, ed. by Francis Mulhern. (London: Longman, 1992).

38 Tingnan ang George Thomson, The Human Essence: The Sources of Science and Art(London: China Policy Study Group, 1974), 88-100.

39 E. San Juan, Himagsik: Pakikibaka Tungo sa Mapagpalayang Kultura (Manila: De La Salle University Press, 2004).

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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20 SINING-KONSEPTWAL, PANITIKANG POST-KONSEPTWAL

a conception, that is, the rational purport of a word or other expression, lies exclusively in its conceivable bearing upon the conduct of life; so that, since obviously nothing that might not result from experiment can have any direct bearing upon conduct, if one can define accurately all the conceivable experimental phenomena that the affirmation or denial of a concept could imply, one will have therein a complete definition of the concept.40

Ipinag-uugnay nito ang teorya at praktika, udyok na pumapatnubay din sa avantgardistang awtor. Nakaugat din ito sa paniwalang ang sining na buod ng mapanlikhang simbuyo’t kakayahan ng tao ay hindi mauunawaan sa pagkahumaling sa intuwisyon, bisyon, organikong porma ng ekspresyon, atbp. Sa halip, dapat idiin ang konsepto/ideya ng sining bilang “polysignificant language dealing with specific types,” at walang silbi ang dakdak tungkol sa porma/anyo/hugis kung walang “eidos or dianoia or idea or concept,” susog ni Galvano della Volpe.41

Sa Pilipinas, bukod sa nasubukan nina Angelo Suárez at kapanalig, pambihirang makakita ng masugid na pagdukal sa konseptwalistang teritoryo. Ipauubaya ko sa iba ang pag-ulat sa iba pang pagsubok postkonseptwal. Magkasya na munang banggitin dito ang ilang proyekto ng awtor sa gilid ng pagsasalaysay sa naratibo ng konseptwalismong Kanluran, na baka makatulong sa kilusan laban sa imperyalismo’t oligarkyang kasabwat nito.42

Malayo na ang nalakbay natin mula sa katipunang Alay Sa Paglikha ng Bukang-Liwayway (2000). Alinsunod sa panukala nina Peirce at Della Volpe, sinikap naming umpisahan ang konseptwalismong pakikipagsapalaran sa ilang tula sa koleksiyong Sapagkat Iniibig Kita (2004)43at Kundiman sa Gitna ng Karimlan (2014),44 at lubos na nilinang sa Ambil (2015)45 at sa Wala (2018). Tinasahan din ang paraang Oulipo sa kathang

40 Charles S. Peirce, The Essential Writings (Amherts, NY: Prometheus Books, 1998), 264. Ineksamin and kumplekadong semantik ng konspekto ni Lewis. Tingnan ang Clarence Irving Lewis, The Mind and the World-Order (New York: Dover, 1929), 411.

41 Galvano Della Volpe, “Theoretical Issues of a Marxist Poetics,” in Marxism and Art, ed. by Berel Lang and Forrest Williams. New York: David McKay, 1972), 180.

42 San Juan, Himagsik.

43 E. San Juan, Sapagkat Iniibig Kita at Iba pang Bagong Tula (Quezon City: University of the Philippines, 2004).

44 E. San Juan, Kundiman sa Gitna ng Karimlan (Quezon City: University of the Philippines, 2014).

45 E. San Juan, Ambil (Connecticut, USA: Philippines Cultural Studies Center, 2015). Tingnan ang rebyu ni Labayne sa Ivan Emil Labayne, “Review of E. San Juan’s Ambil,” The

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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E. SAN JUAN 21

“Trahedya/Komedyang Moro-Moro sa Mamasapano.”46 Mula sa panghihimasok sa typograpikal na bihis ng tula (imitasyon ng praktika ng concrete poetry, Mallarme, Weiner), suryalismong eksperimentasyon, at iba pang sinubukang palatuntunan, tumawid tayo sa paghiram/pagkumpiska sa mga salawikain at sampling ng bugtong, pati na modipikasyon ng ilang kanonikal na akda. Sa paraan ng alegorikong montage, sinubok ding ilapat ang minimalistikong metodo ng serye o reduksiyon, parikalang pagputol sa kanonisadong teksto, pagkopya ng dokumento ng isang biktima ng tortyur at pagsipi sa midya at diskursong antropologo (tungkol sa alegorikong pahiwatig, konsultahin si Buchloch.47

Mailap ang dating/resepsiyon sa neokolonya. Puna ng ilang guro na mahirap mabatid ang pinakabagong eksperimentasyon ng mga estudyanteng nasanay sa sukat at tugma nina Jose Corazon de Jesus, Ildefonso Santos, Baylen, Hernandez, Abadilla, Antonio, at iba pang putahe sa mga teksbuk. Ibig sabihin, nagumon sa tradisyonal at makalumang sining/panitik ang lasa’t ulirat ng kasalukuyang awdiyens sa paaralan, huwag nang idamay ang hain ng Anvil Publishing Co., at iba pang lathalaing pangkomersiyal. Sintomas ito ng malaking agwat sa pagitan ng libo-libong kabataang sanay sa Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, at mayoryang nakaabot lamang sa elementaryang 4th grade. Bantog tayo sa texting at malling sa buong mundo. Sanay na tayo sa blogging, remix, plagiarism, pagmudmod ng “fake news” ng rehimeng Duterte. Nasa gitna na tayo ng “postconceptual condition,” ayon kay Osborne kung saan ang kinabukasang virtual ay narito na sa aktwalisasyon ng karanasang umiigkas.48 Nahihimbing pa rin ang madlang kamalayan sa ilusyon ng malahimalang espiritu ng guniguni, ng malayang imahinasyon, ng biyaya ng mga anghel at dwende, ng kalikasang walang maliw …. Magdasal at magtiwala sa kapalaran, sa mapanuksong tadhanang magpapadala ng remitans mula Saudi, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Hong Kong, Los Angeles. … Subalit paano tayo makaaahon mula sa kumunoy ng gawi’t ugaling mala-piyudal at burgis, palasuko at taksil sa bayan?

Philippines Matrix Project (26 May 2015), <https://philcsc.wordpress.com/2015/o5/26/review-of-e- san-juans-ambil>.

46 E. San Juan, Wala (Manila: PUP Press, 2016), 47–51.

47 Benjamin Buchloch, “Allegorical Procedures: Appropriation and Montage in Contemporary Art,” in Art After Conceptual Art, ed. by A. Alberro and Sabeth Buchmann (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2006); Tony Godfrey, Conceptual Art.

48 Peter Osborne, The Postconceptual Condition (London: Verso, 2018).

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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22 SINING-KONSEPTWAL, PANITIKANG POST-KONSEPTWAL

Ano Ngayon ang Dapat Gawin?

Makitid at mababaw pa ang kabatiran sa proseso ng avantgardistang sining tulad ng matutunghayan sa saliksik nina Burger, Poggioli, Raymond Williams, Berger, atbp. Postmodernistang pakulo ang hilig ng mga intelektwal sa U.P., Ateneo, De La Salle University, at iba pang babaran. Dumulog tayo sandali sa forum ng Daluyan (Espesyal na Isyung Pampanitikan 2016) tungkol sa “Mga Proseso ng Paghagilap sa Bago at Eksperimental.” Hinagap nating makatagpo ng ilang manunulat na interesado sa konseptwalismong pagsubok sa gitna ng pagkarahuyo sa Internet, elektronikong midya, Visprint, naglipanang workshops. Nabigo kami, tila nasayang ang pagkakataong iyon.

Sari-saring lifestyle/fashion ang pinagkakaabalahan liban na sa krisis ng neokolonyang lipunan. Pinagtuunan ng pansin ang elektronikong midya at kontra-gahum na estilo. Hindi iniugnay ang praktika ng sining/panulat, at institusyon ng gobyerno, akademya, atbp., sa sitwasyon ng bansa (liban na sa nakahiligang pagsambit sa programa ng Kaliwa). Sumasalamin ito sa limitasyong nasulyapan sa praktika ni Goldsmith. Hinimay ni Roland Tolentino ang hanay ng mga sektaryang grupo o barkada (Rejectionists,Reaffirmists) ng mga ilang pribilehiyong nilalang sa daloy ng pakikibaka, pero walang diagnosis kung bakit nagkaganoon, at ano ang nararapat gawin upang makabuo ng kontra-hegemonyang mobilisasyon ngayon.

Naipayo nina Marx at Engels na ang kasaysayan ay “tendentious” bunga ng engkwentro ng sala-salabid na puwersa—katambal ng homo faberang homo ludens sa mga larong panglinggwistikang sinubaybayan ni Wittgenstein.49 Kaya kung realistikong reporma ang kailangan, hindi ito nangangahulugan na itatakwil o magbubulag-bulagan sa mga bumubukong pagsisikap bumalikwas sa kalakaran. Kailangan ng realismo ang propetikong bugso ng mapagpalayang sensibilidad. Napatunayan na sa diskursong historikal-materyalistiko ni Max Raphael50 na diyalektikal, hindi tuwiran, ang pagsulong ng kasaysayan at ang trajektorya ng mapanlikhang dunong ng tao. Bagamat sa analisis nina Marx at Engels hinggil sa “tipikal” na sitwasyon (isang kongkretong yunibersal, susog ni Georg Lukacs [1970]), hindi singkronisado ang katotohanang relatibo sa partikular na bagay at ang absolutong katotohanan na sumasaklaw sa malawak na bahagi ng

49 Morawski, Marx and Engels on Literature and Art, 46.

50 Max Raphael, Proudhon, Marx, Picasso (New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1980); naisakatuparan sa mga dula ni Bertolt Brecht.

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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E. SAN JUAN 23

kasaysayan. Resulta nga ang sumablay na neoavantgardismo ni Goldsmith51at postmodernistang art-komoditi na inilalako sa Sotheby, Amazon.com, Bloomingdale, at Facebook.

Sa pangwakas, ang lokal na artikulasyon ng postkonseptwalistang proyekto, sa palagay ko, ay nabuhos sa masang pagkilos—demo laban sa kontraktwalisasyon, EJK, drug war, pagbomba sa Lumad, atbp.—maliban sa namumukod na akda ni Angelo Suárez, Philippine English.52 Gayunpaman, hindi masasagkaan ang daluyong ng transpormasyong lumalaganap, sa ekonomya, politika, kultura. Maaring walang katubusan sa ating panahon. Paurong ang ibang saray, pasulong ang iba—sa magulong prosesong umaandar, ang triyadikong elemento ng realidad, senyas/signifier, atinterpretant (signified) na bumubuo ng kahulugan sa komunikasyon (ayon sa semiotika ni Peirce53), ay muli’t muling magbabanyuhay at magdudulot ng panibagong pagkilala sa praktika ng sining katugma sa bagong sitwasyon ng buhay. Kasaysayan at kolektibong pagsisikap ng sambayanan ang magtatakda sa direksiyon ng kasalukuyang pakikipagsapalaran at destinasyon sa kinabukasan.

University of Connecticut, USA

References

Alberro, Alexander, “Reconsidering Conceptual Art, 1966–1977,” inConceptual Art: A Critical Anthology, ed. by Alexander Alberro and Blake Stimson (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999).

Almario, Virgilio, ed., Hiyas ng Tulang Tagalog (Metro Manila: Aklat ng Bayan, 2015).

Balibar, Etienne and Pierre Macherey, “On Literature as an Ideological Form,” in Marxist Literary Theory, ed. by Terry Eagleton and Drew Milne (Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1996).

Beckwith, Caleb, “Angelo Suárez’s ‘Philippine English’ and the Language of Conceptual Writing,” Jacket2 (5 February 2016), <http://jacket2.org/article/angelo-suarezs-philippine-english&gt;.

Benjamin, Walter, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” in Illuminations (New York: Schocken Books, 2007).

51 Peter Weibel, “Re-presentation of the Repressed: The Political Revolution of the Neo- avant-garde,” Spheres of Action: Art and Politics, ed. by Eric Alliez and Peter Osborne (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013).

52 Caleb Beckwith, “Angelo Suárez’s ‘Philippine English’ and the Language of Conceptual Writing,” Jacket2 (5 February 2016), <http://jacket2.org/article/angelo-suarezs- philippine-english>.

53 T.L. Short, Peirce’s Theory of Signs (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

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Buchloch, Benjamin, “Conceptual Art 1962–1969: From the Aesthetic of Adminstration to the Critique of Institutions,” in Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology, ed. by Alexander Alberro and Blake Stimson (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999).

__________, “Allegorical Procedures: Appropriation and Montage in Contemporary Art,” in Art After Conceptual Art, ed. by A. Alberro and Sabeth Buchmann (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2006).

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Conrad, C.A., “Kenneth Goldsmith Says He Is an Outlaw,” Poetry Foundation(June 2015), <https://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2015/06 /kenneth-goldsmith-says-he-is-an-outlaw>.

Corris, Michael, “Black and White Debates,” Corrected Slogans, ed. by Lucy Ives and Alexander Provan (Brooklyn: Triple Canopy, 2013).
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McKay, 1972).
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Dworkin, Craig, “The Fate of Echo,” in Against Expression, ed. by C. Dworkin

and Kenneth Goldsmith (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University

Press, 2011).
Flood, Alison, “US poet defends reading of Michael Brown autopsy report as

a poem,” in The Guardian (17 March 2015), https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/mar/17/michael-brown- autopsy-report-poem-kenneth-goldsmith.

Flores, Patrick and Cecilia Sta. Maria de la Paz, Sining at Lipunan (Quezon City: Sentro ng Wikang Filipino, 1997).

Godfrey, Tony, Conceptual Art (New York: Phaidon Press, 1998).
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Press, 2011).
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E. SAN JUAN 25

Gramsci, Antonio, Selections from the Prison Notebooks (New York: International Publishers, 1971).

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Jameson, Fredric, Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism(Durham: Duke University Press, 1991).

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Kearney, Richard, The Wake of Imagination (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988).

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(Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2000). __________, Suri (Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2017).

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Ugly Duckling Presse, 2013).
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26 SINING-KONSEPTWAL, PANITIKANG POST-KONSEPTWAL

Raphael, Max, Proudhon, Marx, Picasso (New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1980). San Juan, E., Alay sa Paglikha ng Bukang-Liwayway (Quezon City: Ateneo

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Posted in DISCOURSES ON CONTRADICTIONS

Sining Konseptwal/Post-konseptwal–Kritika ni E. San Juan, Jr.


KRITIKE VOLUME THIRTEEN NUMBER ONE (JUNE 2019) 1-26Featured Essay

Sining-Konseptwal, Panitikang Post-Konseptwal: Pilosopiya at Politika ng Postmodernong Sining

Epifanio San Juan, Jr.

Abstract: Controversies regarding conceptual art and post-conceptual practices are central to the understanding of cultural trends in globalization. The case of post-conceptual artist Kenneth Goldsmith illustrates the various ramifications of this development. The essay introduces this aesthetic field into Filipino Studies, exploring local commentaries and examples.

Keywords: Goldsmith, sining-konseptwal, post-konseptwal, postmodernismo

The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum, a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.

—Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks

The class struggle, which is always present to a historian influenced by Marx, is a fight for the crude and material things without which no refined and spiritual things could exist …. There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.

—Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History

Malubhang sitwasyon ng kulturang kontemporaryo—sintomas ng masahol na kondisyon ng kabuhayan sa Pilipinas. Bagamat maitatambuli na tayo’y nakarating na sa saray ng mga modernisadong kalinangan sa panahon ng globalisasyon at paghahari ng neoliberlismong kapital, nakalubog pa rin tayo sa piyudal at neokolonisadong kumunoy, Hindi lamang ito totoo sa ekonomiya at pulitika. Kaagapay rin ang pagkabimbin sa lumang tradisyon ng burgesiyang pananaw, kaakibat ng mapagsunurang gawing minana sa kolonyalismong Espanyol. Magkatuwang ang pagkakulong sa lumang pananampalataya— utos/ritwal ng simbahang Katoliko ang nananaig—at indibidwalistikong asta at malig ng pagkilos. Hindi ko tinutukoy ang atrasadong teknolohiya kundi

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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ang inaaliping mentalidad/saloobin ng mga mamamayan sa neokolonyang sinakop dito sa Timog-Silangang Asiya.

Mapanghamong tanong: maaari kayang malunasan ang di-pantay na pagsulong kung babaguhin natin ang kamalayan? O lagi ba itong tagasunod lamang sa ekonomiyang pagbabago, ayon sa nakasanayang modelo ng “base/superstructure”? Idinaramay ko rito hindi lamang mga alagad-ng- sining at intelihensiya kundi lahat ng mamamayang nag-aangkin ng budhi at pintig ng pagkalinga sa kapwa-tao.1

Subukan nating ipanukala ang pag-aaral at paghalaw ng ilang leksiyon sa konseptwalisting kaisipan na sumibol sa Kanluran noong dekada 1960 at 1970, hanggang sa postkonseptwalistang epokang isinaad ni Peter Osborne sa kanyang The Postconceptual Condition (2018). Ang mga pagbabagong naganap matapos ang Digmaang Pandaigdig II (WW II) ay kaalinsabay ng mga kilusang Civil Rights, anti-Vietnam War, at pakikibaka ng mga kabataan at kababaihan na sumukdol sa Paris 1968 rebelyon. Sumiklab rin ang anti-imperyalistang giyera sa Aprika, Palestine, at Latino- Amerika (Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Grenada), at sa Pilipinas sa paglunsad ng Bagong Hukbong Bayan at paghuhunos ng Partido Komunista sa ilalim ng Kaisipang Mao Tsetung. Hindi maihihiwalay ang materyalistikong basehan ng mga pulitiko-ideolohiyang pagsulong na taglay ang diyalektikang (hindi tuwirang) pagtutugma. Gayunman, dapat isaloob na masalimuot ang ugnayan ng mga elemento sa totalidad ng anumang politiko-ekonomiyang pormasyon.

Krisis ng Sistema, Sigalot sa Kaluluwa

Pangunahing nawasak ang banghay ng modernisasyong sekular (alyas kapitalismong pampinansiyal). Isiniwalat ng 1917 Bolshevik Revolution ang di-mapipigilang pagbulusok ng kapitalismo- imperyalismong orden. Lumala ang krisis nito sa 1929 Wall Street bagsak, at pagkatapos ng WW II, ang pagtamo ng kasarinlan ng dating kolonisadong bayan, pati na Vietnam at Cuba. Nabuwag ang naratibo ng walang-taning na pag-unlad ng kapitalismong naka-sentro sa kompetisyon ng bawat indibidwal, sa walang patid na akumulasyon ng tubo (surplus-value) at dominasyon ng Kalikasan. Kaagapay nito ang pagtakwil sa ilang paniniwalang aksyomatiko sa larang ng sining, tulad ng: 1) Isang tiyak na hiyerarkya ng kahalagahan nakabatay sa isang matatag na kaayusang global; 2) dogma na nakasalig ang sining sa pagsalamin/pagkopya sa realidad; 3) pag-aari ng artista/manlilikha ang isang galing/birtud, talino at kasanayang

1 E. San Juan, Lupang Hinirang, Lupang Tinubuan (Manila: De la Salle University Publishing House, 2016).

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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E. SAN JUAN 3

inaruga sa disiplinang personal; 4) namumukod ang artistang henyo, kaakuhang taglay ang mahiwaga’t banal na imahinasyon/dunong; 5) ang diskurso sa sining ay nakasalig sa tatlong kategoryang magkalangkap: artista, likhang-sining, awdiyens.

Sa kanluran, ang paglunsad ng kilusang avant-garde laban sa modernismo (binansagang postmodernismo, dekonstruksiyon, poststrukturalismo) ay tumingkad sa taong 1966–1972. Panahon ng “dematerialization of the art object,” hinalinhan ang romantikong aura/fetish ng obra-maestra (mula Michelangelo hanggang Cezanne, Picasso, Pollock) ng idea/information art, sa kalaunan, conceptual art. Naging isang tipo ng art- labor ang pagmumuni o pagninilay na inilaan sa interogasyon ng problema ng sining.2

Kung tutuusin, ang kaisipang tinutukoy ay pagsisiyasat at pag- analisa sa kondisyon, haka-haka, pala-palagay, prehuwisyo na namamahala sa pagyari, sirkulasyon at pagpapahalaga sa sining. Mithiin nito ang buwagin ang modernismong pangitain (Weltanschauung) katalik ng burgesyang ideolohiya’t ekonomyang pampolitika. Kalakip ng burgesyang modernidad ang malubhang alyenasyon at reipikasyong bunga ng pagsikil sa uring manggagawa at pagsasamantala sa mayorya. Adhikain nitong wasakin ang hangganang humahati sa araw-araw na ordinaryong buhay at katas-diwa ng sagradong sining—ang pinakabuod na hangarin ng makaproletaryongavantgarde sa kasaysayan. Huwag kalimutan na mayroon ding reaksyonaryo’t pasistang avant-garde (Marinetti, Dali), kaya dapat kongkretong analisis sa masalimuot na pagsalikop ng mga puwersa sa iba’t ibang antas ng galaw ng lipunan sa tiyak na yugto, hindi mekanikal na paghimay sa habi ng historya.3

Kongkretong Imbestigasyon sa Milyu

Matutunghayan ang mga paniniwalang nabanggit sa kasalukuyang dominanteng panlasa ngayon. Kalagayang neokolonyal pa rin bagamat nayanig na ang status quo sa 1986 Pebrero, “People Power” rebelyon at masiglang pagbanyuhay ng pambansang-demokratikong pakikibaka. Mistulang hindi naaapekto ng sunod-sunod na krises pampolitika ang mga guwardya ng elitistang istandard. Ihanay natin ang ilang ebidensiyang kalunos-lunos.

2 Michael Corris, “Black and White Debates,” in Corrected Slogans, ed. by Lucy Ives and Alexander Provan (Brooklyn: Triple Canopy, 2013).

3 Stefan Morawski, “Introduction,” in Marx and Engels on Literature and Art (St. Louis, MO: Telos Press, 1973).

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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4 SINING-KONSEPTWAL, PANITIKANG POST-KONSEPTWAL

Sa pambungad ni Virgilio Almario sa kanyang Hiyas ng Tulang Tagalog, inatupag lamang ang kaibahan ng tema o paksang naghihiwalay kina Teo Baylen at Amado Hernandez, walang puna sa tunggalian ng mga puwersang historikal. Makitid at mababaw rin ang makasektaryang pagwari sa tatak modernismo dahil gumagamit ng “malayang taludturan … at kaisipang pribado’t indibidwalista.”4 Sa kabilang dako, ayon kay Rene Villanueva, ang dula “ay laging nagtatangkang isaayos ang isang tiyak na karanasan upang mapaghanguan ng manonood o mambabasa ng mga pananaw tungkol sa buhay.”5 Lumalayo sa moralistikong tingin ni Villanueva si Gary Devilles sa pinamatnugutan niyang antolohiya, Pasakalye.Mapagwawari na ang talinghaga ng paglalakbay, punto at kontrapunto, ay liberalismong pagsukat sa “muhon ng panitikan” na hindi maikukulong sa simbolo ng transportasyon o hulagway hango sa teknolohiya.

Hindi pa tumatalab ang kuro-kurong radikal ng mga Minimalista’t konseptwalista.

Isang parikala na masisinag natin ang estetika ng mga sinaunang pantas (tulad nina Inigo Regalado, Lope K. Santos, Julian Cruz Balmaseda6na hango sa klasikong modelo nina Aristotle at Horace sa militanteng panunuri ni Bienvenido Lumbera. Sinuyod ni Lumbera ang pagsulong ng kritisismo mula sa pormalistikong pananaw hanggang sa realismong sosyal. Itinakwil na ang tradisyonal na pamantayan ng “ganda,” “lalim” o “kinis,” subalit kay Lumbera, mas importante ang “bisa” ng pagpapahayag o pagpapadama, “pagtatampok sa nilalaman,”7 na di tinitiyak kung sa anong layon o adhika nakatutok ang bisa, at kung anong kontekstong historikal nakaangkla ang nilalaman. Sina Isagani Cruz at Soledad Reyes ay nagpatuloy sa kanilang empirisistikong talaan ng mga awtor na marunong makibagay sa kalakaran, tulad nina Nemesio Caravana at A.C. Fabian na batid “kung paano pawiwilihin ang mga taong basahin ang kanilang mga akda.”8 Lahat ng nabanggit na opinyon ay nakasandig pa rin sa lumang tatsulok ng artista, likhang-sining, awdiyens—ang padron ng aprubadong panulat.

4 Virgilio Almario, ed., Hiyas ng Tulang Tagalog (Metro Manila: Aklat ng Bayan, 2015), xxv.

5 Rene Villanueva, “Ang Dula: Introduksiyon,” in Paano Magbasa ng Panitikang Filipino: Mga Babasahing Pangkolehiyo, ed. by Bienvenido Lumbera, Joi Barrios, Rolando Tolentino, and Rene Villanueva (Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2000), 103.

6 Galileo Zafra, ed., Mga Lektura sa Kasaysayan ng Panitikan (Metro Manila: Aklat ng Bayan, 2013).

7 Bienvenido Lumbera, Suri (Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2017),

36.
8 Isagani Cruz and Soledad Reyes, eds., Ang Ating Panitikan. (Manila: Goodwill

Trading Co., 1984), 258.

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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Oryentasyong Pangkasaysayan

Uminog at umalimbukay ang kosmos ng diskursong mapanuri sa epoka ng neoliberalisasyon. Pagkaraang lagumin ang tradisyonal na konsensus tungkol sa mga katangian ng likhang-sining, kuro-kuro ni Stefan Morawski na hindi esensyal na sangkap ang ekspresyon, techne, at porma: “Conceptualism is but the final step on the journey ‘beyond’ art”9—ibig sabihin, iyong tipong nakagawian. Ilang bagong pangyayari ang “theatricalization” sa sining, ang ritwalistikong paglalaro sa “performance art,” collage sa pelikula (Godard) at musika (Stockhausen). Salungat naman ang dulang walang dulaan nina Jean Genet at Beckett, sampu ng mga nobela nina Robbe-Grillet, Butor, Calvino, Garcia Marquez—ang estruktura nito ay bunga ng partisipasyon ng mambabasa o nanonood.

Tigmak ng ikonoklastikong hakbang ang postmodernistang improbisasyon. Dito lumantad na ang politika ng distribusyon ng “sensibles,” dalumat at danas, na tinalakay ni Jacques Ranciere sa The Politics of Aesthetics(2004), ay makatuturan pa rin bagamat ang tuon ng pansin ay nailipat sa yugto ng kaisipang humihikayat at umaantig patungong praktika/aksyon.

Umabot na tayo sa nagpagkasunduang punto. Ang prinsipyong umuugit sa bisa ng representasyon sa iba’t ibang midya at sa nakasentrong- sabject sa rason/katwiran ay inusig, nilitis, at hinatulang walang silbi sa pagpapaliwanag sa krisis ng modernismo. Hindi lumaganap ito. Nakakulong pa rin ang akademikong teksbuk nina P. Flores at Cecilia de la Paz (1997) sa pagdiin sa pormalistikong paradigm kung saan “teknik at imahinasyon” ang nakatampok. Bagamat nakadawit sa panlipunang usapin, mahigpit pa rin ang bigat ng subhetibong pagkiling mula kina Kant kung saan ang hatol- estetika “cannot be other than subjective.”10 Napapanahon na ang paghuhunos. Kailangang sariwain ang kamalayang pangkasaysayan upang matalikuran ang dogmatikong ugali ng sistemang umuugit sa paninindigang makasarili at pananalig sa batas ng negosyo’t pamilihan.

Simula pa ng kilusang Dada, suryalismo, Constructivism, Cubismo, hanggang Pop Art, Fluxus (kabilang na si Yoko Ono) at Minimalism, unti- unting naagnas ang pagtitiwala sa isang ordeng matiwasay kahit nambubusabos. Sumalisi ang udyok ng aksidente at pagbabakasakali kaakibat ng anarkiya ng walang regulasyon sa kalakal. Sumaksi ang pagtutol sa estetisismo at komoditi-petisismo nina Yves Klein, Robert Rauschenberg,

9 Stefan Morawski, Inquiries into the Fundamentals of Aesthetics (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1974), 120.

10 Immanuel Kant, Analytic of the Beautiful, trans. by Walter Cerf (New York: The Bobbs- Merrill Co., 1969), 4. Tingnan din Collingwood, R.G., “The Expression of Emotion,” in The Problems of Aesthetics, ed. by Eliseo Vivas and Murray Krieger (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1953).

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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6 SINING-KONSEPTWAL, PANITIKANG POST-KONSEPTWAL

atbp. Ibinasura na ang prinsipyong expresyonista nina Bosanquet at Croce mula pa nang ipanukala nina Walter Benjamin at Lewis Mumford (circa 1930) ang mapanghamong kalidad ng makina sa reproduksiyon ng art-object. Pinagtibay din ng mga saliksik hinggil sa sining ng Silangan at primitibong kabihasnan na kailangan lamang ng ulirang halimbawa, huwarang balangkas at panuntunan upang makayari ng artipak/bagay na makasasapat sa depinisyong napagkasunduan hinggil sa likhang-sining.

Argumentong Magkatumbalik

Dumako tayo sandali sa yugto ng Minimalism na tumiwalag sa naghaharing Abstract Expressionism ni Pollock.11 Tanyag na halimbawa ang “Lever” ni Carl Andre, “Series A” ni Sol Lewitt, ang mga “Untitled” nina Robert Morris at Donald Judd, potograpiya ni Dan Graham, atbp. Kalakip ang tendensiyang anti-expressionist, sumubaybay din sila sa konstruktibistang inhinyera ng naunang Bauhaus at Proletkult. Dagling bumulas ang konseptwalismo upang paigtingin ang depersonalisadong padron/paradigma ng konstruktibismo’t mapanirang ugali ng Dada at mapagbirong Fluxus. Hindi nagtagal, isinusog ng konseptwalistang artista na ang kanilang aktibidad/gawa ay isang pagsisiyasat sa magusot at malabong katayuan ng sining. Sumbat nila sa elitistang alipores na humuhubog ng kodigo: wala kayong katuwiran kundi puwersa ng kombensyon at minanang ugali. Tumalikod sila sa palengke/pamilihan at publikong nagumon sa konsumerismo, nakaugat sa hedonismong mapinsala—rahuyong pinakaubod sa pusod ng problematikong pangitaing burgis sa mundo ngayon.

Balangkasin natin ang trajektorya ng konseptwalismo sa apat na bugso ng pakikipagsapalaran nito. Una, pinalawak nito ang aralin hinggil sa kaisahan at materyalidad ng obhetong tinaguriang sining. Karugtong ito ng self-reflexivity ng modernismong pumoproblema’t tumitimbang sa iba’t ibang salik at sangkap ng sining. Pangalawa, tinanggihan nito ang kostumbreng biswal ng praktikang pansining. Isinaisantabi na ang isyu ng midya. Pangatlo, inilapat ang sining sa lugar at konteksto ng pagbilad nito sa publiko. Pang-apat, sinipat ang kalagayan ng uri ng distribusyon at pakikibahagi ng sining sa lipunan—ang usapin ng demokrasya’t pagkakapantay-pantay.

Tunay na masalimuot ang hibla ng pinagbuhatan ng konseptwalismo, pati na ang estratehiyang pagbabago nito. Buhat pa nang itanghal ni Marcel Duchamp ang kanyang urinal at iba pang “ready-made”

11 Tingnan ang Gregory Battcock, Minimal Art: A Critical Anthology (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1968).

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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E. SAN JUAN 7

bilang art-object simula 1913, gumana na ang generic modernismong humiwalay sa pribilehiyong midya. Wala nang espesyal na katas-diwang estetiko; impormasyon, dokumentasyon, at iba pang determinadong negasyon ng institusyonalisadong sining ang itinataguyod sa sari-saring praktikang dinudukal sa kasalukuyan. Walang partikular na materyales o pamamaraan ang iniririserba para sa paghubog sa likhang-sining.

Ikintal natin dito ang ilang tagpo sa naratibo ng konseptwalismo. Mag-umpisa muna sa lingguwistikong palitang-kuro nina Joseph Kosuth at ang Art & Language Group sa UK circa 1968–69. Itinakwil nila ang talinong teknikal sa pagyari ng bagay na taglay ang integral na kalidad. Naglaho ang materyal na bagay na nakikita, ang biswal na produkto na nagdulot ng kabuluhan sa pagsasanib ng tiyak at alanganing sangkap nito. Binalewala na ng “ready-made” ni Duchamp ang morpolohiyang artipak nina Cezanne, Manet, atbp. Idiniin ang konsepto ng kahulugang hindi nakaangkla sa reperent. Ang sining ay isang analitikong proposisyon, hindi sintetikong hugot sa karanasan—proklama ni Kosuth. Sa sipat nina Atkinson at Baldwin, ang sining ay pagdeklara ng kontekstong pansining sa metalingwistikang metodolohiya. Sinibak ang pormalismo at kognitibong biswalidad ng tradisyonal na sining, dagling pinalitan ng impormasyon/dokumentasyon at iba pang hulmahang hiram sa pinagtambal na kodigong analog/digital.

Gunitain ang proseso ng reduksiyon o demateryalisasyon ng bagay na binansagang “art-object”12 Tulad nang nabanggit, nailunsad ito sa paglagay sa galerya ng mga bagay na nagsasarili. Pagkatapos, inilapat iyon sa pook o lugar hanggang ito’y mawala. Sa kalaunan, idiniin ang lamang-isip o konsepto sa halip na ituon ang atensiyon sa masasalat na sisidlan na kinaluluklukan ng kahulugan. Hindi pagmasid kundi pagkapa at paghinuha ng kahulugan mula sa anumang bagay na dinanas. Matindi’t mabalasik ang mga argumento sa diskursong metalingwistikal hinggil sa sining; ang gamit sa wika bilang makahulugang materyal/laman ay bininyagang ideya-sining.

Sining Bilang Kabatiran/Wari

Sapagkat laging sinisipi ang dokumentong “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art” (1967) ni Sol LeWitt, nais kong talakayin ang ilang tema nito. Kabilang ang mga kagrupong Mel Bochner, Hann Darhoven at iba pa, si LeWitt ay hindi sang-ayon sa “linguistic conceptualism” nina Kosuth at Art & Language. Binura ni LeWitt ang namamatyagang bagay at ibiniling ang sipat sa prosesong konseptwal na kaiba sa expresyonistang atitudo na nakabatay sa anyong biswal. Pinupukaw at inuuntag ang isip, hindi mata, ng

12 Lucy Lippard and John Chandler, “The Dematerialization of Art,” in Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology, ed. by Alexander Alberro and Blake Stimson (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999).

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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8 SINING-KONSEPTWAL, PANITIKANG POST-KONSEPTWAL

konseptwalistang artista na nakapokus sa ideya/hinagap ng dinamikong makinang yumayari ng sining. Lahat ng pagpapasiya tungkol sa kung paano lilikhain ang bagay ay naisakatuparan na sa proseso ng pag-iisip/pagninilay. Hindi na kailangan ang intuwisyon o pangangatwiran dahil nailatag na ang lohikang susundin, ang tinaguriang “OS” (Operating System).

Sa iskemang apriori, wala nang papel na gaganapin ang henyong indibidwal, ang saloobing personal, na dinakila ng mga romantikong pilosopo (Coleridge, Goethe, Schiller, Croce). Pahayag ni LeWitt: “To work with a plan that is pre-set is one way of avoiding subjectivity … The idea itself, even if not made visual, is as much a work of art as any finished product …. Those that show the thought-process of the artist are sometimes more interesting than the finished product.”13 Napalitan ang kamalayang interyor ng prosesong mala- matematika na gumitaw sa ulirat, may angking lohikang nag-uudyok sa mambabasa o nanonood na lumahok sa pabrikasyon ng danas.

Sa pagkilatis ni Fredric Jameson, ang espasyo/lunan ang importante sa konseptwalistang kadalubhasaan:

Conceptual art may be described as a Kantian procedure whereby, on the occasion of what first seems to be an encounter with a work of art of some kind, the categories of the mind itself—normally, not conscious, and inaccessible to any direct representation or to any thematizable self-consciousness or reflexibility—are flexed, their structuring presence now felt laterally by the viewer like musculature or nerves of which we normally remain insensible, in the form of those peculiar mental experiences Lyotard terms paralogisms.14

Pakiwari ko’y mali ang positibistikong akala ni Jameson. Limitado ni Kant ang ideya sa palapag na penomenal, kaya di makaakyat sa kongkretong yunibersal ng sining. Dapat intindihin na hindi ang anatomya o biyolohiya ng utak ang nakataya rito kundi ang proseso ng hinuha (inference) na mahuhugot sa nailahad na direksiyon/instruksiyon ng artista.

Pagkawala ng rasyonalistikong sabjek/awtor, sumupling ang depersonalisadong sining sa danas at panlasa ng nakararaming tao. Malaya na ang sinumang nais magpahalaga at magpakahulugan sa anumang bagay o pangyayari na pwedeng kabitan ng etiketa, “sining ito.”

13 Sol LeWitt, “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art,”in Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology, ed. by Alexander Alberro and Blake Stimson (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999), 13-14. Sa paksang ito, knsultahin din ang kuro-kuro ni Peter Osborne, Anywhere or Not at All. New York: Verso, 2013).

14 Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham: Duke University Press, 1991), 157.

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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E. SAN JUAN 9

Dalawang halimbawa ang maiuulat dito. Sa Following Piece (1969) ni Vito Acconci, yumari ng isang listahang naglalarawan ng publikong pagsubaybay ng isang taga-lungsod sa sinuman hanggang makarating ito sa kanilang destinasyon. Tila prinsipyong apriori ang metodo ng pagsunod sa isang iskema kasangkot ang katawan ng artista ay tuwirang notasyon ng ilang insidente. Walang naratibo, komposisyon, o pagpapasiya ng saloobin ang mamamalas dito. Sinuman na nasa lungsod ay makagaganap ng papel ng artista kung susundin ang tagubilin at panutong nailahad.

Isa pang makatuturang dating ng konseptwalistang paraan ay mamamasid sa demokratikong pagpapalaganap ng sining sa nakararaming tao, sa pagbuo nito at pagtanggap ninuman. Mapapatunayan ito sa sining ni Lawrence Weiner. Sa halip na lumikha ng mararamdamang bagay, pinahayag lamang niya ang impormasyon tungkol sa sining na aayusin. Matris ng proyekto ang mga pangungusap niya na nagtatakda ng estrukturang materyal at metodo ng paggawa. Halimbawa, “One hole in the ground Approximately 1’ x 1’ x 1’ One Gallon Water-based White Paint Poured into this Hole.” Ginamit ang pandiwaring pasado sa patalastas upang ipahiwatig ang pagkatiyak ng paglalarawan at posibilidad ng pagsasakatuparan nito sa hinaharap. Ang serye ng mga ginawa ni Weiner sa Statements (1968) ay siya mismong nakadispley na sining sa exibisyon. Kahalintulad nito ang mga avant-garde iskor, “Three Aqueous Events” (1961) sa musika ni George Brecht ng Fluxus (tungkol sa Le Magasin de Ben ni Ben Vautier, tingnan si Kearney [1988]), o mga notasyon sa musika ni John Cage. Kahawig din ang mga iniulat na “happenings” ni Yoko Ono sa Grapefruit, pinaka-pioneer ng sining- konseptwal—kasabay sa pag-unawa sa patalastas o habilin ang performans/pagsasadula nito.

Kahit tagubilin pasalita, o kilos na inirekord sa dokumento, ang naisagawa ay isang kawing lamang sa isang mahabang kadenang metonimiko. Dapat unawain ang sinkroniko’t diyakronikong galaw hitik ng indeks-senyas at sagisag. Kasangkot doon ang komunikasyong oral, ang inilathalang instruksiyon, ang proseso ng paglabas ng deklarasyon, ang kinahinatnan, ang dokumentasyong potograpiko, atbp. Sa maikling salita, iba’t ibang anyo o hugis pisikal ang maaaring manipestasyon ng konsepto. Nararapat ikabit dito ang kasaysayan ng sining, hindi estetikang ideyalistiko ni Kant o Lyotard. Pagnilayin ang matatag na “declaration of intent” ni Weiner na modipikasyon ng simulaing ipinahayag ni LeWitt:

  1. The artist may construct the piece
  2. The piece may be fabricated
  3. The piece need not be built

    © 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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Each being equal and consistent with the intent of the artist, the decision as to condition rests with the receiver upon the occasion of receivership.15

Simbiyotika ng Teorya at Praktika

Higit na radikal kaysa kina Kosuth at Lewitt ang panukala ni Weiner. Bukod sa pagbaklas sa mito ng paglikhang depende sa awtoridad ng awtor/artistang bukal ng orihinalidad, ang pagkasangkot ng awdiyens, ang demokratikong paglahok ng tumatanggap/nakatanggap ng sining, ay nakabuwag sa tradisyonal na pananaw. Lumalim at tumalas ito sa sumunod na uri ng konseptwalismo nina Daniel Buren, Hans Haacke, Marcel Broodthaers. Pinuntirya nila ang kondisyong ideolohikal ng institusyong pansining (museo, galerya, midyang sosyal), ang mga regulasyon at batas, ang kanonisadong doktrinang upisyal na nagpapasiya kung anong bagay ang ituturing na sining. Halimbawa, sa Gallery-Visitors-Profile, isiniwalat ni Haacke ang sistemang nagtatakda kung ano ang kahulugan at kabuluhan ng bagay na tinaguriang likhang-sining.16

Alalahanin na iba ang sitwasyon ng Global South sa Global North. Asymetrikal ang tayo ng neokolonyang Pilipinas kumpara sa industriyalisadong Europa o Norte Amerika. Sa Latino-Amerika, iniangkop ang “Media Art” sa krisis ng lipunan. Halimbawa, ang Grupo de Artistas de Vanguardia sa Argentina ang nagpropaganda sa “Nasusunog ang Tucuman,” kung saan ang pagtipon ng impormasyon at pagpapalaganap nito sa midya (tungkol sa panunupil at pagsikil sa mga taga-Tucuman) ay magkabuklod na praktika sa sining at politika. Ibinunyag nila ang kasinungalin ng Estado. Isinakdal ang institusyon ng pag-aaring indibidwal, pati na ang ilusyon ng aliw at kariktan mula sa pambihirang art-object. Pwedeng gawing modelo ang aksyon ng mga aktibista sa Argentina. Ngunit dapat tandaan o isaalang-alang na ang sitwasyon ng neokolonyang Pilipinas ay kaiba sa iba pang bansang hindi sinakop ng imperyalismong U.S. at nagtamasa ng biyaya ng industriyalisasyon at repormang pang-agraryo.

Nang pumasok ang dekada 1970–1980, isinaisantabi na ang linguwistiko-analitikong konseptualismong nauna. Yumabong ang tipo ng postkonseptualismo nina Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, Mary Kelley, at iba pa, na nagproblema sa palasak na pormalistikong relasyon ng imahen/wika/suhetibidad. Pinuna sila ng grupo nina Martha Roseler, Alan Sekula, atbp. Ipinaliwanag ng huli na ang ideolohiyang identidad ay hindi hiwalay sa lenggwaheng ginagamit. Kaya kung natanggal man ang ahensiya

15 Sinipi ni Alberro sa Alexander Alberro, “Reconsidering Conceptual Art, 1966-1977,” in Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology, ed. by Alexander Alberro and Blake Stimson (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999), xxii.

16 Tony Godfrey, Conceptual Art (New York: Phaidon Press, 1998).

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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E. SAN JUAN 11

o kalooban ng ulilang artistang nasukol ng puwersa ng kapaligiran at nabalaho sa bangin ng “art-for-art’s sake,” pwede pa ring bumuo ng estratehiya ng interbensiyon.

Bukod sa masidhing performans ni Adrian Piper na nakasentro sa sabwatang rasismo/machismo sa Norte Amerika’t Europa, magandang halimbawa ang “The Bowery in Two Inadequate Descriptive Systems” (1974) ni Martha Rosler. Maimpluwensiya pa rin ang reduktibismo’t reflexibidad-sa- sarili, mabisa pa rin ang “ready-made” sa Pop Art at Minimalism. Ngunit ang pangunahing tagumpay ng konseptwalismo, sa pangkalahatan, ay naisuma ng dalubhasang Benjamin Buchloch17 sa kritika ng institusyon, ang demistipikasyon ng burgesyang pananaw tungkol sa midya, impormasyon, publisidad, at sining. Anumang sitwasyon ay tigib ng sapin-saping kontradiksyong nagsisilbing motor sa pagsulong ng kasaysayan.

Pagbuno sa Palaisipan & Suliranin

Sa pagbabalik-tanaw sa kasaysayan ng konseptwalismo sa sining, idiniin ni Craig Dworkin, na impresario ng konseptwalistang panulat, ang pagpanaw ng awtor, ang imbentor ng orihinal na likhang-sining (naibalita na nina Roland Barthes at Michel Foucault ang pagkamatay ng awtor). Naipasinaya ng pagburol ng malikhaing awtor ang pagsilang ng “uncreative writing” sa bagong milenyo, sa epoka ng “War on Terrorism” pagkaraan ng pagsabog ng Twin Tower sa New York, USA, noong ika-11 Setyembre 2001.

Sa gayon, nararapat iangkop ang tendensiya ng panulat sa daloy ng kapaligiran. Halaw sa eksperimentasyon sa wika nina Dan Graham, Mel Ramsden, Robert Barry at John Baldessari, naisuma ni Dworkin ang ilang katangiang gagabay sa makabagong panulat: hindi na kailangang magsikap tumuklas ng orihinal na gawa. Tratuhin ang wika bilang datang mabibilang, materyal na limbag. Pwedeng kumopya o gumagad ng ibang teksto na magiging iba o bago dahil iba o bago na ang konteksto—isang takdang panahon at lugar—ng artistang sumusunod sa isang procedure o iskema. Kaya ng minakinilya muli ni Kenneth Goldsmith sa kanyang Day ang isang isyu ng New York Times, ang tanskrispyon ay pagsasakatuparan ng kanyang ideya/konsepto ng sining. Kahambing ito ng After Walker Evans ni Sherrie Levine, o ang mga collage Nina Richard Prince, Andy Warhol, atbp.

Appropriation/pag-angkin, pagkumpiska/pang-aagaw, ang namamayaning estilo at modo ng pagkatha ngayon sa literaturang nangunguna. Sa milyung umaapaw ng kompyuter, elektronikong teknolohiya, sumagana’t kumalat ang “remix culture” ng hip-hop, global DJ

17 Benjamin Buchloch, “Conceptual Art 1962-1969: From the Aesthetic of Adminstration to the Critique of Institutions,” in Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology, ed. by Alexander Alberro and Blake Stimson (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999).

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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12 SINING-KONSEPTWAL, PANITIKANG POST-KONSEPTWAL

kultura, sampling, mash-up, montage, cut-up, atbp. Ginagagad ng manunulat ang “database logic” ng bagong midya,” ayon kay Dworkin, “wherein the focus is no longer on the production of new material but on the recombination of previously produced and stockpiled data. Conceptual poetry, accordingly, often operates as an interface—returning the answer to a particular query; assembling, rearranging, and displaying information; or sorting and selecting from files of accumulated language according to a certain algorithm.”18 Ayon kay Walter Benjamin, sa reproduksyong mekanikal ng modernong kabihasnan, natanggal ang “aura” sa mga pribadong pag-aaring signos ng pribilehiyo/kapangyarihan, at diumano’y naging demokratiko ang pagtatamasa ng ligayang dulot ng sining.19 Totoo ba ito?

Kung tutuusin, walang panganib o hamong nakasisindak sa status quo ang konseptwalismong lumaganap at hinangaan. Nasaring nga ni Robert Smithson na naging aliporis ng sistemang kapital ang dating avantgarde: ginawa ni Warhol ang kapitalismo bilang isang alamat/mito pagsuob sa “production for production’s sake.”20 Yumaman ang mga artistang dating pariahsa Establisimyento. Samantala, ang “uncreative writing” ni Goldsmith ay nagtamo ng mayamang tagumpay, naging bantog at kinilalang sopistikadong biyaya ng pambihirang moda. Pinarangalan sila. Pihikang panlasa?

Hintay, isang araw, inanyayahan si Goldsmith na bumigkas ng isang tula sa isang program sa Brown University, ang “The Body of Michael Brown,” na dagling naging kontrobersiyal. Hintay muna …. Pinatindi ang reaksyon sa balita na nagbunsod ng umaatikabong tuligsa, pati banta ng pagpatay sa makata. Pakli ni Goldsmith: “There’s been too much pain for many people around this, and I do not want to cause anymore.”21

Sa dagling pagtaya, ang performans ni Goldsmith ay simple lamang. Ito’y pagbasa ng ilang talatang sinipi sa autopsy report ng pulisya ng Ferguson, Missouri, na pumaslang kay Michael Brown, isang 18 taong gulang na Aprikano-Amerikanong lalaki, noong 13 Marso 2014. Pumutok ang maraming demonstrasyon sa buong bansa laban sa awtoridad. Sa itaas ng entablado ng unibersidad pinaskil ang malaking graduation photo ni Brown. Walang emosyon ang pagbasang tumagal ng 30 minutos, walang imik ang nakinig. Pagkaraang kumalat ang balita sa Internet, umarangkada ang

18 Craig Dworkin, “The Fate of Echo,” in Against Expression, ed. by C. Dworkin and Kenneth Goldsmith (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2011), xlii.

19 Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” inIlluminations, trans. by Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken Books, 2007), 217-251.

20 Robert Smithson, “Production for Production’s Sake,” in Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology, ed. by Alexander Alberro and Blake Stimson (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999), 285.21 Alison Flood, “US poet defends reading of Michael Brown autopsy report as a poem,” The Guardian (17 March 2015), <https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015

/mar/17/michael-brown-autopsy-report-poem-kenneth-goldsmith>.

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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E. SAN JUAN 13

batikos at tuligsa: “tacky,” “new racist lows,” “white elite institutions pay … another white man holding the corpse of a black child, saying “Look at what I’ve made.”22 Pinag-initan ang Puting pagsamsam sa kahirapan ng mga Itim, ang paghamak at pagkutya sa kamatayan ng isang inosenteng biktima ng marahas na paghahari ng White Supremacy.

Masusing pag-aralan ang matapang at mahayap na komentaryo ni Anne Waldman:

I was not present, but by all reports what we seem to have is a solipsistic clueless bubble of unsupportable ‘art’ attitude and privilege. What was Kenny Goldsmith thinking? That it’s okay to self-appoint and perform the autopsy report of murdered black teenager Michael Brown and mess with the text, and so “own” it and get paid for his services? No empathy no sorrow for the boy, the body, the family, ignorant of the ramifications, deaf ear to the explosive demonstrations and marches? Reeks of expoitation, of the ‘racial imaginary.’ Black Dada Nihilismus is lurking on the lineaments of the appropriated shadow of so much suffering.23

Alingawngaw sa Kaharian ng Arte

Dagling nawala ang pretext ng kontrobersiya. Biglang inurong ni Goldsmith ang tula sa Web, at pinalitan ng isang pagtatanggol (sa Facebook) ng signature estilong pagkopya, pagputol, pagdikit, pag-angkin ng digital text mula sa cyberspace. Ikinatwiran ang ethos ng sampling, reblogging, mimesis, replikasyon, procedure ng pagmanipula, paglilipat at pakikibahagi ng impormasyon na primaryang imbakan ng konseptwalistang panulat. Maingat nating pagliripin ang paliwanag (hindi apologia) ni Goldsmith sa kanyang pagsala, paghimay at pagsasaayos ng isang publikong dokumento na pinamagatang “The Body of Michael Brown”—pinagsamantalahang ipuslit ang autopsy report upang makaani ng pansariling “symbolic capital”:

In the tradition of my previous book Seven American Deaths and Disasters, I took a publicly available document from an American tragedy that was witnessed first-hand (in this case by the doctor performing the autopsy) and simply read it. Like Seven American Deaths, I did not editorialize. I simply read it

22 Ibid.

23 C.A. Conrad, “Kenneth Goldsmith Says He Is an Outlaw,” Poetry Foundation (June 2015), <https://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2015/06/kenneth-goldsmith-says-he-is-an- outlaw>.

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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14 SINING-KONSEPTWAL, PANITIKANG POST-KONSEPTWAL

without commentary or additional editorializing. Many of you have heard me read from Seven American Deaths. This reading was identical in tone and intention. This, in fact, could have been the eighth American death and disaster. The document I read from is powerful. My reading of it was powerful. How could it be otherwise? Such is my long- standing practice of conceptual writing: like Seven American Deaths, the document speaks for itself in ways that an interpretation cannot. It is a horrific American document, but then again it was a horrific American death.24

Pagtugis sa Katunayan at Kabulaanan

Masinop na imbestigasyon ang kailangan. Kabulaanan ang igiit ni Goldsmith na hindi niya binago ang dokumento. Tandisang litaw na pinili niya, sinipi at niretoke ang ilang detalye ng postmortem examination at ipinasiyang magwakas sa maselang bahagi. Narito ang nakasulat sa report: “Male Genital System: There is foreskin present near the head of the penis. The remaining male genitalia system is unremarkable” (galing sa Office of the Medical Examiner, Dr Gershom; 2014 # 5143). Bakit dito piniling huminto ang akda ni Goldsmith?

Bukod sa pihikang komentaryong inilagay ni Goldsmith sa Facebook, ang pagbigkas noon ng isang puting Amerikano, sa kontekstong wala pang napagkasunduang pagsisiyasat at paglilitis kung makatarungan ang pagpaslang sa kanya, ay mapupuna. Lumalabas na editorializing at panghihimasok ang ginawa. Ipinasiya ni Goldsmith na idaos ang teatro niya sa Brown University, isang ivy-league na institusyon na dating pasimuno’t yumaman sa tubo ng kalakal ng mga esklabong Aprikano noong siglo 1700– 1800. Batid din ni Goldsmith na magulo’t matinik pa ang usapin tungkol sa karahasan ng pulisya—hindi maiwawaglit ang kontekstong ito, na sa tahasang asersyon ni Goldsmith, ay personal na pag-ani ng “cultural capital.”25. Tunay na hindi makatotohanan ang pangangatwiran ni Goldsmith. Maiging suriin ang dugtong niya (mula sa kanyang Facebook post):

I altered the text for poetic effect. I translated into plain English many obscure medical terms that would have stopped the flow of the text; I narrativized it in ways that made the text

24 Flood, “US poet defends reading of Michael Brown autopsy report as a poem.”

25 Kenneth Goldsmith, “Why Conceptual Writing? Why Now?” Against Expression, ed. by C. Dworkin and Kenneth Goldsmith (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2011), xviii.

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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E. SAN JUAN 15

less didactic and more literary. I indeed stated at the beginning of my reading that this was a poem called “The Body of Michael Brown”: I never stated, “I am going to read the autopsy report of Michael Brown.” But then again, this is what I did in Seven Deaths and Disasters. I always massage dry texts to transform them into literature, for that is what they are when I read them. That said, I didn’t add or alter a single word or sentiment that did not preexist in the original text, for to do so would be to go against my nearly three decades’ practice of conceptual writing, one that states that a writer need not write any new texts but rather reframe those that already exist in the world to greater effect than any subjective interpretation could lend. Perhaps people feel uncomfortable with my uncreative writing, but for me, this is the writing that is able to tell the truth in the strongest and clearest was possible.

Ecce homo. Behold the man.

Walang pasubali, hindi ito salitang humihingi ng paumanhin. Sa katunayan, isang rasyonalisasyon ito sa pagtatanggol sa kanyang tipo ng panulat. Samakatwid, ang “reframing” o pagmasahe sa dokumento ni Goldsmith ang nakataya rito. Sa malas, talaga bang na-defamiliarize ang Estadong rasista’t pasista, ang layunin ng makata na ipahayag ang katotohanan sa pinakamabisang paraan?

Umuukilkil ang ilang tanong hinggil sa dating, sa impak ng impormasyong naipaabot. Binago niya, amin ng makata, upang magkaroon ng bisang matulain. Anong kahulugan o kabuluhan ng estetikang naipahatid nito? Ito ba ang birtud ng pagkamakatotohanan ng konseptwalismo? Katunayan ba kaninuman, sa lahat ng oras, saanmang lugar? Anong damdamin, atitudo, saloobin, ang inaadhika ng “unoriginal genius” ng makata? Kung ilalapat natin ang haka o hinuha nina Vanessa Place at Robert Fitterman na “Conceptual writing is allegorical writing,”26 anong klaseng mensaheng literal at matalinghaga ang isinadula ni Goldsmith sa pagkasangkapan niya ng postmortem report—barokong alegorya, hybrid simulacra, o tusong pagkukunwari?

Sa anu’t anoman, mahirap maipaghiwalay ang interogasyong pang- estetika sa politikal, etikal at moral na suliraning bumabagabag sa publikong konsiyensiya.

26 Vanessa Place and Robert Fitterman, Notes on Conceptualisms (New York: Ugly Duckling Presse, 2013), 13.

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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16 SINING-KONSEPTWAL, PANITIKANG POST-KONSEPTWAL

Diskurso ng Pagkilala o Pagwalang-pansin

Tulad ng nabanggit na, binatikos si Goldsmith, ang poet laureate ng Museum of Modern Art, ng maraming kolega at manunulat sa website ng Poetry Foundation.27 at iba pang lugar sa Internet at lathalain. Sa marahas na bintang na ang akda ni Goldsmith ay dokumento ng “white supremacy poetics,” kung saan naroon ang “white power dissecting colored body,” sulyapan ang website ng “Mongrel Coalition Against Gringpo”: “The murdered body of Mike Brown’s medical report is not our poetry, it’s the building blocks of white supremacy, a miscreant DNA infecting everyone in the world. We refuse to let it be made literary.” 28

Kaunting repaso. Magsimula muli tayo sa pagtutugma ng sining at situwasyon ng mundo, ang yugto ng krisis ng kapitalismong global/neoliberal. Masahol ang kalagayan ng mga taong-may-kulay, lalo na ang Aprikano-Amerikano sa mga nabubulok na urbanidad ng pasistang U.S. Mapanganib na rin ang lagay ng petiburgesyang edukado; walang trabaho karamihan ng graduweyt sa humanidades, sampu ng mga manunulat-artista, atbp. Ginagamit ang sining bilang investment, tulad ng pagtitinda ng mga likha nina Warhol, Francis Bacon, Cy Twombly, Gerhard Richter sa Sotheby at iba pang organo ng komodipikasyon. Hinirang na propesor sa University of Pennsylvania, si Goldsmith ay isa sa mga mapalad na konseptwalistang awtor na kinilala ng Establisimyento (naimbita pa ni dating Pangulong Obama sa White House).

Mapaparatangan bang nagkasala si Goldsmith sa komodipikasyon ng bangkay ni Brown? Nagkasala ba siya sa pagbebenta ng tekstong ninakaw sa Internet, at pagpuslit ng simbolikong kapital bilang “meme macho”?29 Ano ang kahulugan ng pangyayaring ito sa larangan ng politikang digmaan sa U.S. at ligalig na dulot ng krisis internasyonal sa pagtutunggalian ng kapitalistang bansa?

Sa perspektibang historiko-materyalistiko, matatarok na may tatlong panig ang problemang hinarap ni Goldsmith (kahit hindi niya ito dama o alam). Una, ang kontradiksiyon ng pagkatao ng Aprikano-Amerikanong grupo (si Brown ay kinatawan nila) at paglait sa bangkay (“quantified self” ni Brown). Nananaig pa rin ang aparatong ideolohikal ng Estado sa

27 Conrad, “Kenneth Goldsmith Says He Is an Outlaw.”

28 Sinipi ni Wilkinson sa Alec Wilkinson, “Something Borrowed,” The New Yorker (7 October 2015), <https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/10/07/something-borrowed- wilkinson>.

29 Kenneth Goldsmith, “Paragraphs on Conceptual Writing,” University of Buffalo Webpage, <http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/goldsmith/conceptual_paragraphs.html&gt;.

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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E. SAN JUAN 17

pagpapanatili ng rasismo/makismo. Pangalawa, sa harap ng dumaragsangmemes, bulto-bultong dami ng datos digital, labis-labis na “disposable data- basing,” blogging, identity ciphering, mabilisang programing, paano maisasaayos ng makata ang kumplikadong penomena upang magkaroon iyon ng halaga sa buhay natin? Pangatlo, paano malulutas ang hidwaang nabanggit kung ang paraang konseptwal ay makina-ng-ideyang walang silbi, hindi utilitaryan, matipid, mahigpit ang paghawak, nais lamang pukawin ang isip, walang balisa sa pagsasakatuparan ng konsepto? Tatlong problemang dapat lutasin upang makahulagpos sa bilanggo ng burgesyang orden.

Sa gitna ng ating pagkalito, iginiit ni Goldsmith: “Arbitrary or chance decisions would be kept to a minimum, while caprice, taste and other whimsies would be eliminated from the making of the text.”30 Sa gayon, hindi awtomatikongcollage, pastiche, o transkripsyon ang ginanap na pagbigkas ni Goldsmith. Tunay na iyon ay interbensiyong marahas, wangis gahasa ng puting lahi sa bangkay ng aliping kulay-itim, tanda ng barbarikong nekropilya. Sa tatlong kontradiksiyong nabanggit, anong pinili’t hinulmang paraan ang sinubok ng awtor sa paglutas ng inilatag na suliranin?

Totoong hindi niyutral o walang pakialam ang manunulat sa paraan at estilo ng paglalahad. Puna ni Marjorie Perloff, masinop si Goldsmith (tulad ni Duchamp) sa paghakot at pagsasalansan ng inilipat na tekso sa kanyangTraffic: “What Goldsmith wants us to see is what the world we live in is actually like.”31 Bilang isang pormang ideolohikal, nakapaloob sa kathang binigkas ni Goldsmith ang paglalarawan ng lohika ng rasistang lipunan bilang oposisyon ng kantidad (abstraktong pagkilatis sa bangkay ni Brown gawa ng Estado) versus makataong pagtransporma ni Goldsmith sa paraan ng satirikong pagmasahe sa autopsy report. Samakatwid, lumabag siya sa mungkahi ng kasamang Dworkin na ang konseptwalisting bricolage ay nakapako sa “recontextualizing language in a mode of strict citation.”32

Maselan ang detournement o paghuhugis ng nakumpiskang teksto sa Internet. Hindi naiba ng “reframing” ang konteksto ng diskursong kumbensyonal. Nakapokus din sa reduksiyon ng liping Aprikano sa sukat ng genitalia, kaya ipinabulaanan ni Goldsmith ang stereotype sa pagwakas ng kanyang pag-ilit sa medikong ulat na normal lamang ang seks ni Brown— “unremarkable” genitalia.33 Sa mismong pag-uulit ng rasismong kategorya, salungat sa kanyang tangka, dinulutan ng positibong bantas ang gawing rasista: ang tao ay katumbas ng kanyang anatomya/biyolohiya.

30 LeWitt, “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art,” 13.

31 Perloff, Marjorie, Poetics in a New Key: Interviews and Essays (Manila: De La Salle University Publishing House, 2013), 160.

32 Craig Dworkin, “The Fate of Echo,” xlvii.33 Wilkinson, “Something Borrowed.”

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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18 SINING-KONSEPTWAL, PANITIKANG POST-KONSEPTWAL

Subersiyong Radikal o Kompromisong Liberal?

Kakatwa ang kinalabasan sa ronda ng impormasyong kumalat. Sa kumpas ng diumano’y pagdaramay ni Goldsmith sa trahedyang pagkabaril sa inosenteng sibilyan, nabigyang-buhay rin ang liberalismong ideolohiya ng burgesyang uri—isang ironikal na pagbalikwas ng balak, parikalang di tangka. Ipinagtibay ang teorya nina Balibar at Macherey na ang literatura ay “imaginary solution of ideological contradictions.”34 Nadulutan ni Goldsmith ng isang tanghalan, mise en scene, ang di-malulutas na kontradisiyon ng burgesyang lipunan sa paraang huwad: ang rasismo ay bunga lamang ng teknolohiya/abstraksyon, na maireresolba sa humanistikong pagtingin kay Brown bilang ordinaryong tao. Mapinsalang ilusyon ito. Alalaong-baga’y hindi kailangan ang transpormasyon ng institusyon, ang di-makatarungang paghahati ng poder at yaman, ng karapatan at katungkulan, sa lipunang naghihiwalay sa mga may-ari ng kapital/produktibong kagamitan at pulubing uri ng mga trabahador, pati gitnang-uring petiburgis. Samakatwid, pinaikot lamang ni Goldsmith ang neokonserbatibong doktrina ng mga panginoon ng sistemang kapitalismong global.

Sa perspektibang ideyalistiko/metapisikal, maituturing na repormista ang prinsipyo ni Goldsmith (sampu nina Dworkin at mga kapanalig) sa pagtutol sa ortodoksiya ng romantiko’t mistikal na pagkilala sa awtor. Ang tipo ng mapanghamig na suhetibidad ay batayan ng burgesya- kapitalistang orden. Makatwiran din ang tatlong negasyon (ng obhetibidad ng likhang-sining, ng midyum biswal, at ng autonomiya ng art-object) na iniulat ni Osborne.35 Nagbunga iyon ng uri ng sining/panitikan na gumagamit o kumakasangkapan sa umiiral na diskurso/teksto sa midya upang mabago ang mga institusyong pang-araw-araw. Kabilang si Goldsmith sa pag-repunksiyon at sirkulasyon ng normatibong doxa tungkol sa identidad at karapatang pantao na masasagap sa cyberspace.

Ngunit, sanhi sa limitadong kaalaman, natigil doon sa produksiyon para sa sariling kapakanan. Nasaksihan ang kaunting “defamiliarization,” birtud ng mapanghimagsik na kritika, pero walang pagtakwil sa institusyon at estrukturang pampolitika. Walang pasubaling may simpatiya si Goldsmith sa protesta ng mga biktima ng karahasan ng pulisya. Ngunit hindi magkapareho ang sinulat na preskripyon at ang aktwal na pagsasagawa nito. Hindi nagampanan ni Goldsmith ang tungkuling isinabalikat nina Rosler, Haacke, at iba pang sumuri, gumalugad, at kumilatis sa di-makatarungang

34 Etienne Balibar and Pierre Macherey, “On Literature as an Ideological Form,” inMarxist Literary Theory, ed. by Terry Eagleton and Drew Milne (Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1996),

285.
35 Peter Osborne, Conceptual Art (New York: Phaidon Press, 2002), 18.

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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E. SAN JUAN 19

relasyon ng kapangyarihang nakapaloob sa sistema ng institusyong nangangasiwa’t kumokontrol sa sining/panitikan, sa buong aparato ng kultura/ideolohiya. Naibunyag na ni Charles Harrison ang “utopian fantasy”36ng rebolusyonaryong programa ng avantgarde kilusan na nagsimula pa kina Andre Breton, Duchamp, Mondrian, Joseph Beuys, Minimalism, Fluxus, hanggang kina Adrian Piper, Barbara Kruger, Sherrie Levine, atbp.

Mapanganib na suliranin ang pagkaligta sa mediyasyong diyalektikal ng gawaing manwal at intelektwal. Walang direktong korespondensiya ang transpormasyon sa literatura at sa ekonomyang pampulitika. Maisusulit dito na ang malaking kamalian nina Dworkin at Goldsmith, pati na rin ang kanilang taga-suportang si Marjorie Perloff, ay walang pakundangang pananatili sa burgesyang kuwadrong humahatol: ang awtor bilang “unoriginal genius,” at wika/diskursong kumbensyonal bilang niyutral o sariwang salik/sangkap na maihuhugis sa anumang direksiyon, di alintana ang nagtatakdang kasaysaya’t ideolohiyang nakabuklod doon.

Bukod dito, partikular din na hindi iniuugnay ng konseptwalismong aprubado ang institusyon ng museo, galerya, mass media, at akademyang makapangyarihan sa pagtakda ng paghahati ng lakas-paggawa ayon sa means-ends rasyonalidad ng burgesyan orden. Ito nga ang dahilan ng bangguwardyang pagsisikap na siya ring nagtutulak sa konseptwalistang eksperimento.37 Sa kabilang dako, maihahalintulad ang transisyonal na katangian ng kalakarang ito sa trahedyang Griyego na, sa loob ng reaksyonaryong porma, sinikap nina Aeschylus, Sophocles, at Euripedes na ipasok doon ang pinakarasyonal, demokratiko’t materyalistikong paninindigan ng progresibong uri ng panahong iyon.38 Masinop na pagliripin ang diyalektikang pagsusulit na matutuklasan sa mga nobela nina Lope K. Santos, Faustino Aguilar, Amado Hernandez, Lazaro Francisco, Efren Abueg, Lualhati Bautista, Jun Cruz Reyes, atbp.39

Tungo sa Palatuntunan ng Pananagutan

Siyasatin natin ang ibang semiotika bukod kay Saussure at mga dekonstruksyonista. Ang malaking pagkukulang ng kritikang institusyonal ay isang bagay na mapupunan kung susundin ang pragmatikong tagubilin ni Charles Peirce hinggil sa kahulugan ng konsepto/ideya:

36 Charles Harrison, Conceptual Art and Painting (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001), 38.

37 Peter Burger, “Theory of the Avant-garde and Critical Literary Science,” inContemporary Marxist Literary Criticism, ed. by Francis Mulhern. (London: Longman, 1992).

38 Tingnan ang George Thomson, The Human Essence: The Sources of Science and Art(London: China Policy Study Group, 1974), 88-100.

39 E. San Juan, Himagsik: Pakikibaka Tungo sa Mapagpalayang Kultura (Manila: De La Salle University Press, 2004).

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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20 SINING-KONSEPTWAL, PANITIKANG POST-KONSEPTWAL

a conception, that is, the rational purport of a word or other expression, lies exclusively in its conceivable bearing upon the conduct of life; so that, since obviously nothing that might not result from experiment can have any direct bearing upon conduct, if one can define accurately all the conceivable experimental phenomena that the affirmation or denial of a concept could imply, one will have therein a complete definition of the concept.40

Ipinag-uugnay nito ang teorya at praktika, udyok na pumapatnubay din sa avantgardistang awtor. Nakaugat din ito sa paniwalang ang sining na buod ng mapanlikhang simbuyo’t kakayahan ng tao ay hindi mauunawaan sa pagkahumaling sa intuwisyon, bisyon, organikong porma ng ekspresyon, atbp. Sa halip, dapat idiin ang konsepto/ideya ng sining bilang “polysignificant language dealing with specific types,” at walang silbi ang dakdak tungkol sa porma/anyo/hugis kung walang “eidos or dianoia or idea or concept,” susog ni Galvano della Volpe.41

Sa Pilipinas, bukod sa nasubukan nina Angelo Suárez at kapanalig, pambihirang makakita ng masugid na pagdukal sa konseptwalistang teritoryo. Ipauubaya ko sa iba ang pag-ulat sa iba pang pagsubok postkonseptwal. Magkasya na munang banggitin dito ang ilang proyekto ng awtor sa gilid ng pagsasalaysay sa naratibo ng konseptwalismong Kanluran, na baka makatulong sa kilusan laban sa imperyalismo’t oligarkyang kasabwat nito.42

Malayo na ang nalakbay natin mula sa katipunang Alay Sa Paglikha ng Bukang-Liwayway (2000). Alinsunod sa panukala nina Peirce at Della Volpe, sinikap naming umpisahan ang konseptwalismong pakikipagsapalaran sa ilang tula sa koleksiyong Sapagkat Iniibig Kita (2004)43at Kundiman sa Gitna ng Karimlan (2014),44 at lubos na nilinang sa Ambil (2015)45 at sa Wala (2018). Tinasahan din ang paraang Oulipo sa kathang

40 Charles S. Peirce, The Essential Writings (Amherts, NY: Prometheus Books, 1998), 264. Ineksamin and kumplekadong semantik ng konspekto ni Lewis. Tingnan ang Clarence Irving Lewis, The Mind and the World-Order (New York: Dover, 1929), 411.

41 Galvano Della Volpe, “Theoretical Issues of a Marxist Poetics,” in Marxism and Art, ed. by Berel Lang and Forrest Williams. New York: David McKay, 1972), 180.

42 San Juan, Himagsik.

43 E. San Juan, Sapagkat Iniibig Kita at Iba pang Bagong Tula (Quezon City: University of the Philippines, 2004).

44 E. San Juan, Kundiman sa Gitna ng Karimlan (Quezon City: University of the Philippines, 2014).

45 E. San Juan, Ambil (Connecticut, USA: Philippines Cultural Studies Center, 2015). Tingnan ang rebyu ni Labayne sa Ivan Emil Labayne, “Review of E. San Juan’s Ambil,” The

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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E. SAN JUAN 21

“Trahedya/Komedyang Moro-Moro sa Mamasapano.”46 Mula sa panghihimasok sa typograpikal na bihis ng tula (imitasyon ng praktika ng concrete poetry, Mallarme, Weiner), suryalismong eksperimentasyon, at iba pang sinubukang palatuntunan, tumawid tayo sa paghiram/pagkumpiska sa mga salawikain at sampling ng bugtong, pati na modipikasyon ng ilang kanonikal na akda. Sa paraan ng alegorikong montage, sinubok ding ilapat ang minimalistikong metodo ng serye o reduksiyon, parikalang pagputol sa kanonisadong teksto, pagkopya ng dokumento ng isang biktima ng tortyur at pagsipi sa midya at diskursong antropologo (tungkol sa alegorikong pahiwatig, konsultahin si Buchloch.47

Mailap ang dating/resepsiyon sa neokolonya. Puna ng ilang guro na mahirap mabatid ang pinakabagong eksperimentasyon ng mga estudyanteng nasanay sa sukat at tugma nina Jose Corazon de Jesus, Ildefonso Santos, Baylen, Hernandez, Abadilla, Antonio, at iba pang putahe sa mga teksbuk. Ibig sabihin, nagumon sa tradisyonal at makalumang sining/panitik ang lasa’t ulirat ng kasalukuyang awdiyens sa paaralan, huwag nang idamay ang hain ng Anvil Publishing Co., at iba pang lathalaing pangkomersiyal. Sintomas ito ng malaking agwat sa pagitan ng libo-libong kabataang sanay sa Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, at mayoryang nakaabot lamang sa elementaryang 4th grade. Bantog tayo sa texting at malling sa buong mundo. Sanay na tayo sa blogging, remix, plagiarism, pagmudmod ng “fake news” ng rehimeng Duterte. Nasa gitna na tayo ng “postconceptual condition,” ayon kay Osborne kung saan ang kinabukasang virtual ay narito na sa aktwalisasyon ng karanasang umiigkas.48 Nahihimbing pa rin ang madlang kamalayan sa ilusyon ng malahimalang espiritu ng guniguni, ng malayang imahinasyon, ng biyaya ng mga anghel at dwende, ng kalikasang walang maliw …. Magdasal at magtiwala sa kapalaran, sa mapanuksong tadhanang magpapadala ng remitans mula Saudi, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Hong Kong, Los Angeles. … Subalit paano tayo makaaahon mula sa kumunoy ng gawi’t ugaling mala-piyudal at burgis, palasuko at taksil sa bayan?

Philippines Matrix Project (26 May 2015), <https://philcsc.wordpress.com/2015/o5/26/review-of-e- san-juans-ambil>.

46 E. San Juan, Wala (Manila: PUP Press, 2016), 47–51.

47 Benjamin Buchloch, “Allegorical Procedures: Appropriation and Montage in Contemporary Art,” in Art After Conceptual Art, ed. by A. Alberro and Sabeth Buchmann (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2006); Tony Godfrey, Conceptual Art.

48 Peter Osborne, The Postconceptual Condition (London: Verso, 2018).

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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22 SINING-KONSEPTWAL, PANITIKANG POST-KONSEPTWAL

Ano Ngayon ang Dapat Gawin?

Makitid at mababaw pa ang kabatiran sa proseso ng avantgardistang sining tulad ng matutunghayan sa saliksik nina Burger, Poggioli, Raymond Williams, Berger, atbp. Postmodernistang pakulo ang hilig ng mga intelektwal sa U.P., Ateneo, De La Salle University, at iba pang babaran. Dumulog tayo sandali sa forum ng Daluyan (Espesyal na Isyung Pampanitikan 2016) tungkol sa “Mga Proseso ng Paghagilap sa Bago at Eksperimental.” Hinagap nating makatagpo ng ilang manunulat na interesado sa konseptwalismong pagsubok sa gitna ng pagkarahuyo sa Internet, elektronikong midya, Visprint, naglipanang workshops. Nabigo kami, tila nasayang ang pagkakataong iyon.

Sari-saring lifestyle/fashion ang pinagkakaabalahan liban na sa krisis ng neokolonyang lipunan. Pinagtuunan ng pansin ang elektronikong midya at kontra-gahum na estilo. Hindi iniugnay ang praktika ng sining/panulat, at institusyon ng gobyerno, akademya, atbp., sa sitwasyon ng bansa (liban na sa nakahiligang pagsambit sa programa ng Kaliwa). Sumasalamin ito sa limitasyong nasulyapan sa praktika ni Goldsmith. Hinimay ni Roland Tolentino ang hanay ng mga sektaryang grupo o barkada (Rejectionists,Reaffirmists) ng mga ilang pribilehiyong nilalang sa daloy ng pakikibaka, pero walang diagnosis kung bakit nagkaganoon, at ano ang nararapat gawin upang makabuo ng kontra-hegemonyang mobilisasyon ngayon.

Naipayo nina Marx at Engels na ang kasaysayan ay “tendentious” bunga ng engkwentro ng sala-salabid na puwersa—katambal ng homo faberang homo ludens sa mga larong panglinggwistikang sinubaybayan ni Wittgenstein.49 Kaya kung realistikong reporma ang kailangan, hindi ito nangangahulugan na itatakwil o magbubulag-bulagan sa mga bumubukong pagsisikap bumalikwas sa kalakaran. Kailangan ng realismo ang propetikong bugso ng mapagpalayang sensibilidad. Napatunayan na sa diskursong historikal-materyalistiko ni Max Raphael50 na diyalektikal, hindi tuwiran, ang pagsulong ng kasaysayan at ang trajektorya ng mapanlikhang dunong ng tao. Bagamat sa analisis nina Marx at Engels hinggil sa “tipikal” na sitwasyon (isang kongkretong yunibersal, susog ni Georg Lukacs [1970]), hindi singkronisado ang katotohanang relatibo sa partikular na bagay at ang absolutong katotohanan na sumasaklaw sa malawak na bahagi ng

49 Morawski, Marx and Engels on Literature and Art, 46.

50 Max Raphael, Proudhon, Marx, Picasso (New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1980); naisakatuparan sa mga dula ni Bertolt Brecht.

© 2019 Epifanio San Juan, Jr. https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_24/sanjuan_june2019.pdf ISSN 1908-7330

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E. SAN JUAN 23

kasaysayan. Resulta nga ang sumablay na neoavantgardismo ni Goldsmith51at postmodernistang art-komoditi na inilalako sa Sotheby, Amazon.com, Bloomingdale, at Facebook.

Sa pangwakas, ang lokal na artikulasyon ng postkonseptwalistang proyekto, sa palagay ko, ay nabuhos sa masang pagkilos—demo laban sa kontraktwalisasyon, EJK, drug war, pagbomba sa Lumad, atbp.—maliban sa namumukod na akda ni Angelo Suárez, Philippine English.52 Gayunpaman, hindi masasagkaan ang daluyong ng transpormasyong lumalaganap, sa ekonomya, politika, kultura. Maaring walang katubusan sa ating panahon. Paurong ang ibang saray, pasulong ang iba—sa magulong prosesong umaandar, ang triyadikong elemento ng realidad, senyas/signifier, atinterpretant (signified) na bumubuo ng kahulugan sa komunikasyon (ayon sa semiotika ni Peirce53), ay muli’t muling magbabanyuhay at magdudulot ng panibagong pagkilala sa praktika ng sining katugma sa bagong sitwasyon ng buhay. Kasaysayan at kolektibong pagsisikap ng sambayanan ang magtatakda sa direksiyon ng kasalukuyang pakikipagsapalaran at destinasyon sa kinabukasan.

University of Connecticut, USA

References

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Almario, Virgilio, ed., Hiyas ng Tulang Tagalog (Metro Manila: Aklat ng Bayan, 2015).

Balibar, Etienne and Pierre Macherey, “On Literature as an Ideological Form,” in Marxist Literary Theory, ed. by Terry Eagleton and Drew Milne (Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1996).

Beckwith, Caleb, “Angelo Suárez’s ‘Philippine English’ and the Language of Conceptual Writing,” Jacket2 (5 February 2016), <http://jacket2.org/article/angelo-suarezs-philippine-english&gt;.

Benjamin, Walter, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” in Illuminations (New York: Schocken Books, 2007).

51 Peter Weibel, “Re-presentation of the Repressed: The Political Revolution of the Neo- avant-garde,” Spheres of Action: Art and Politics, ed. by Eric Alliez and Peter Osborne (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013).

52 Caleb Beckwith, “Angelo Suárez’s ‘Philippine English’ and the Language of Conceptual Writing,” Jacket2 (5 February 2016), <http://jacket2.org/article/angelo-suarezs- philippine-english>.

53 T.L. Short, Peirce’s Theory of Signs (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

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Buchloch, Benjamin, “Conceptual Art 1962–1969: From the Aesthetic of Adminstration to the Critique of Institutions,” in Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology, ed. by Alexander Alberro and Blake Stimson (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999).

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E. SAN JUAN 25

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Posted in DISCOURSES ON CONTRADICTIONS

Speaking Filipino/Teaching Filipino in the U.S.


 

DSC_0405 [Desktop Resolution]

 

Inventing Vernacular Speech-Acts: Articulating Filipino Self-Determination in the United States􏰀

E. San Juan, Jr.

From the time Filipinos arrived in the United States as “colonial wards” or subaltern subjects in the first decade of the twentieth century, the practice of speaking their vernacular tongues (whether Ilocano, Cebuano, Tagalog, or any of the other dozen regional languages) has been haunted by an interdiction. This accompanied the defeat of the revolutionary government of the first Philippine Republic at the end of the Filipino–American War (1899–1903) and the institutionalization of English as the official medium of communication in government, business, education, and so on. American English became an instru- ment of political and ideological domination throughout colonial rule (1898–1946) and neocolonial hegemony (1946–). With competence in English as the legal and ideological passport for entry of Filipinos into the continental United States as pensionados and contract laborers, the native vernaculars suffered virtual extinction in the public sphere. In exchange, the Philippines acquired the distinction of belonging to the empire of English-speaking peoples, texting messages intelligible at least to the merchants of global capitalism if not to George W. Bush and the Homeland surveillance agents at the airport. That is also the reason why Filipina domestic workers are highly valued in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and other countries in Europe and the Middle East.

U.S. linguistic terrorism has continued via subtle cooptation and juridical fiat. Up to the last quarter of the twentieth century, the custom of speaking the vernacular in the workplace was discouraged if not prohibited. Filipino nurses and government employees talking in Filipino/Pilipino were penalized, triggering legal suits by the aggrieved immigrants or naturalized citizens. “English Only” prevails.

􏰀A shorter version of this article appeared in DANYAG (June 2002).

Socialism and Democracy, Vol.19, No.1, March 2005, pp.136–154
ISSN 0885-4300 print/ISSN 1745-2635 online
DOI: 10.1080=0885430042000338462 # 2005 The Research Group on Socialism and Democracy

page1image3780256

Filipinos need not be heard or listened to so long as they performed according to expectations. Why learn or study the Filipino vernaculars when “they” can speak and understand English? With the sudden increase of Filipino migrants after 1965 and the growth of the multi- cultural ethos of the ’80s and ’90s, Filipinos discovered anew that they have always been speaking their native languages even while they ventriloquized in English. Filipino (usually referred to as “Pilipino”) has indeed become a lingua franca for recent immigrants in the “land of the free,” making it possible for the newly arrived from the “boondocks” to read post-office guidelines and tax regulations in Filipino.

But Filipino is still an exotic language, despite its vulgarization and accessibility via Internet and satellite media. While today courses in Arabic have become necessary aids for preparing all students for global citizenship, a college course in Filipino is a rarity. In the ’50s and ’60s, when the Huk insurgency disturbed the peace of the Cold War Establishment, courses in Tagalog were introduced in the univer- sities as part of Area Studies; experts were trained at least to read cap- tured documents from the underground, if not to assist in the propaganda and psy-war effort of the local military (San Juan 2000). In the ‘70s, politicized Filipino Americans successfully initiated pro- jects to teach Tagalog inside and outside the academy. With the displacement of the Philippines as a contested zone in Southeast Asia (despite the Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front), administrators have shifted resources to the study of Indonesian, Thai and Vietnamese cultures. After all, isn’t the Philippines now a suburb of California? And hasn’t the current Arroyo administration reversed the trend of Filipinization by promulgating English as truly the privi- leged language for individual success, prestige, and acceptance?

Historical necessity has once more intervened in the “belly of the beast.” Filipinos have become the largest group in the Asian American ethnic category and are slowly beginning to realize the political impact of this demographic trend. With the upsurge of Filipino-Americans entering college and moving on to graduate schools, and given the heightened racial and ethnic antagonisms in this period of the border- less war against terrorism (recall the hundreds of Filipinos summarily deported in handcuffs and chains immediately following the 9/11 cat- astrophe), a new “politics of identity” seems to be emerging, this time manifesting itself in a demand for the offering of credited courses in Filipino as part of the multiculturalist program (San Juan 2002). In Spring 2002, I was requested by the community of Filipino and Filipino American students at the University of California, Irvine, to share my

E. San Juan, Jr. 137

138 Socialism and Democracy

ideas about the “language question.” The following provisional theses attempt to address this question in the context of the struggle of the Filipino nationality in the U.S. for democratic rights and the Filipino people in the Philippines and in the diaspora for national self- determination. It goes without saying that there are other still undiscerned factors overdetermining this complex conjuncture, particularly in this stage of the advanced corporatization of the U.S. university in late modernity; the following observations are meant to induce an exploration of the totality of social relations subtending this issue.

I

In dealing with the issue of linguistic freedom and bondage, I begin with the thesis that language cannot be separated from material-social activity, from human interaction. Marx and Engels write in The German Ideology: “Language, like consciousness, only arises from the need, the necessity, of intercourse with other humans.” Language is essentially a social phenomenon, embedded in collective human activity. Con- sciousness and language cannot be divorced; both are social products; they originate from work, from the labor process, whose historical changes determine the function of language as a means of communi- cation and as an integral component of everyday social practice, a signifier of national or ethnic identity.

Work or social labor then explains the structural properties of language. This does not mean, however, that given the unity of thought and language, linguistic structures imply different ways of thinking, world outlooks, etc. Contrary to Hitler’s idealizing slogan “Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Sprache,” race, culture and language are not equivalent. We do not live in isolated language compartments with singular “takes” on reality. Forms of thought manifest a certain universality that are not affected by linguistic differences, even though speech acts derive their full import from the historical contexts and specific conditions of their performance. “Ideas do not exist sepa- rately from language” (Marx, Grundrisse, 1973, 163). And since the ideas of the ruling class prevail in every epoch as the ruling ideas, the uses of a particular language often reveal the imprint of this ruling class. Various classes may use the same language or operate in the same lin- guistic field, hence this domain of sign usage becomes, to quote Bakhtin/Voloshinov, “an arena of class struggle” (1986, 23). For exam- ple, Rizal used Spanish to counter the corrupt abuses of the friars and

reach his Spanish-speaking compatriots as well as reform-minded liberals in Spain. Likewise, Tagalog and other vernaculars were used by the Filipino elite in persuading peasants and workers to conform to American policies and ideas.

In sum, language as a practice of signification is not only reflective but also productive and reproductive of antagonistic social relations and political forces. It is a vehicle and an embodiment of power. Language usage manifests the pressure of contradictory class relations and concrete ideological structures that are registered on the level of special subcodes and idiolects.1 Language then is a socio-ideological phenomenon whose empirical manifestation can be investigated with scientific rigor.

Using this frame of inquiry, let us examine the status of Filipino/ Pilipino vis-a`-vis English within the Filipino community (totaling nearly 3 million) in the United States. A historical background is imperative in assessing the worth of languages relative to each other, specifically in the context of the fraught relations between the Philippines as a former colony, now a neocolony, of the United States, and the hegemonic nation-state, now the “only remaining super- power” in this period of “endless war” against terrorist multitudes.

With the violent conquest of the Philippines after the Filipino– American War of 1899 to 1914 (I include the wars that tried to pacify the Moros), which cost 1.4 million Filipino lives, the U.S. imposed colo- nial institutions on the subjugated natives. The process of what Renato Constantino famously called “the mis-education of Filipinos” began with the imposition of English as the chief medium of instruction. This was not, as one historian puts it (Arcilla 1971), because the teacher-volunteers who arrived on the St. Thomas in 1901 knew no Spanish, but rather because English was the language of the U.S. ruling class, the vehicle for inculcating the American “way of life,” its institutions and normative practices, in their colonial subjects (see Martin 2002). Contrary to the supposed intention of democratizing society, the use of English “perpetuated the existence of the ilustra- dos—American ilustrados” loyal to the United States, analogous to the Spanish-speaking Filipino elite who sought reforms within Spanish

1. While “idiolects” refer to those aspects of an individual’s speech pattern that deviate from group norms, the idiolect of, say, a Christian or Islamic fundamentalist believer represents a code of free variants mimicking certain sociocultural patterns of thought (Ducrot & Todorov 1979, 57). An idiolect then becomes intelligible as a departure from the normal usage of words (Riffatere 1983) and resembles what Mikhail Bakhtin calls “ideologeme” or “utterance” amenable to rational semantic analysis (1981).

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hegemony. Constantino cites Simoun’s denunciation of the latter in Rizal’s novel El Filibusterismo:

You ask for equal rights, the Hispanization of your customs, and you don’t see that what you are begging for is suicide, the destruction of your nationality, the annihilation of your fatherland, the consecration of tyranny! What will you be in the future? A people without character, a nation without liberty— everything you have will be borrowed, even your very defects! . . . What are you going to do with Castilian, the few of you who will speak it? Kill off your own originality, subordinate your thoughts to other brains, and instead of freeing yourselves, make yourselves slaves indeed! Nine-tenths of those of you who pretend to be enlightened are renegades to your country! He among you who talks that language neglects his own in such a way that he neither writes it nor understands it, and how many have I not seen who pretended not to know a single word of it! (quoted in Constantino 1966, 55)

In 1924, the American scholar Najeeb Saleeby deplored the attempt to impose English, in the manner of Alexander the Great and Napoleon, on multitudinous groups speaking different tongues. It was already a failure twenty-five years after the U.S. established schools in the pacified regions. But in preserving imperial hegemony, the policy was not a failure at all. It has proved extremely effective: English as linguistic capital has functioned to sustain the iniquitous class hierarchy and maintain the subordination of the nation-state to the power that monopolizes such capital in the form of control over the mass media, information, and other symbolic instruments and resources in a globalized economy. I think the purpose was to make English-speakers not out of all Filipinos, but just out of those classes—the elite and intelligentsia—that have proved crucial in reinforcing and reproducing consent to U.S. imperial rule.

The historical record is summed up by Constantino: “Spanish colo- nialism Westernized the Filipino principally through religion. Ameri- can colonialism superimposed its own brand of Westernization initially through the imposition of English and the American school system which opened the way for other Westernizing agencies” (1978, 218). Superior economic and technological power, of course, enabled the American colonizers to proceed without serious resistance. Inscribed within the state educational apparatus, American English as a pedagogical, disciplinary instrument contributed significantly to the political, economic and cultural domination of the Filipino people. American English performed its function in enforcing, maintaining, and reproducing the values and interests of the imperial power and the dominant native class. Its usage was not neutral nor merely prag- matic; it was a deliberately chosen ideological weapon in subjugating

whole populations (including the Muslims and indigenous commu- nities), in producing and reproducing colonial—and later neocolo- nial—relations of production.

As I have said, no language (like English) as a system of signs is by itself exploitative or oppressive. It is the political usages and their his- torical effects that need evaluation. Consequently, the use of the coloni- zer’s language cannot be separated from its control of the educational system, the panoply of commercial relations and bureaucratic machin- ery which instill consumerist values, white supremacy, and acquisitive individualism within the procedural modus operandi of a so-called “free enterprise” system. Over half a century of tutelage de-Filipinized youth and “taught them to regard American culture as superior to any other, and American society as the model par excellence for Philippine society” (Constantino 1974, 39). Individual and public consciousness had been so Americanized that a Filipino national identity was aborted, suppressed, unable to emerge fully except in outbursts of revolt and insurrection—a durable tradition of revolutionary resistance that we should be proud of.

What of Filipino and the other vernaculars? When the Philippines was granted Commonwealth status in 1935, an attempt was made to develop a national language based on Tagalog. This exemplifies the kind of language planning where a colonial state engages in the forma- tive task of constructing a formalistic notion of nationality using one of the local languages as a means of authentiticating the legitimacy of the Americanized elite (Fishman 1972). Pilipino evolved despite the objec- tions of other regional ethnolinguistic groups, a hostility born from the “divide-and-rule” strategy imposed by U.S. colonial tutelage that undermined the hegemonic ambitions of the minority elite. Note that, of course, the ruling bloc of local landlords, compradors and bureaucrats was completely subservient to U.S. dictates even up to and beyond formal independence in 1946. Up to now, it is no secret that the Philippine military is completely dependent on U.S. largesse for its weaponry and logistics, including the training of its officers in counterinsurgency warfare (as witness the prolongation and systema- tization of joint training exercises against the Abu Sayyaf and other insurgents in violation of the 1986 Philippine Constitution which prohi- bits the active participation of foreign troops in local law enforcement). Over 80% of Filipinos can speak or understand Filipino in everyday transactions throughout the islands. While some progress has been made today in institutionalizing the use of Filipino as an intellectual medium in university courses, English remains the preferred language of business and government, the language of prestige and aspiration.

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Decolonization of the Filipino mind has not been completed, hence Filipino remains subordinate, marginalized, or erased as a language of power and self-affirmation of the people’s sovereign identity.

Like other colonized parts of the world, the Philippines was a mul- tilingual society during the heyday of Spanish imperialism. While formal colonialism no longer obtains, a linguistic imperialism con- tinues, with English employed as the international language of science, technology, business and finance, world communications and international academic studies—despite some nativization of American English in the Philippines. This will continue unless the poli- tical economy and power relations in the whole society are changed.

II

The rise of the U.S. Empire in Asia beginning with the defeat of Spanish power translated into a reassertion of Anglo-Saxon “manifest destiny.” This is a continuation of a long saga of territorial expansion from the Eastern seaboard of the continent. When Filipinos entered U.S. metropolitan territory, first in Hawaii as recruited plantation workers in the first three decades of the last century, the U.S. was already a racial polity founded on the confinement of the indigenous Indians, the slavery and segregation of blacks, the conquest of Spanish-speaking natives, and the proscription of Asian labor. The U.S. was and is a multi- lingual polity, with English as the hegemonic language.

A language community is not by itself sufficient to produce an ethnic or national identity. English cannot by itself define the American national identity as such, even though it is within this linguistic com- munity that individuals are interpellated as subjects, subjects as bearers of discourse—persons defined as subject-positions sutured within discourses of law, genealogy, history, political choices, pro- fessional qualifications, psychology, and so on. This construction of identity by language is open to incalculable contingencies; what makes it able to demarcate the frontiers of a particular people is a prin- ciple of closure or exclusion. And this fictive ethnicity is accomplished in the historical constitution of the U.S. nation-state based on the dis- courses of the free market and white supremacy.

Etienne Balibar has shown how the French nation initially gave pri- vileged place to language or linguistic uniformity as coincident with political unity; the French state democratized its citizens by coercively suppressing cultural particularisms, the local patois. “For its part,” Balibar observes, “the American ‘revolutionary nation’ built its original

ideals on a double repression: that of the extermination of the Amerin- dian ‘natives’ and that of the difference between free ‘White’ men and ‘Black’ slaves. The linguistic community inherited from the Anglo-Saxon ‘country’ did not pose a problem—at least apparently— until Hispanic immigration conferred upon it the significance of class symbol and racial feature” (Balibar & Wallerstein 1991, 104). In other words, the phantasm of the American race defined as English speakers materialized when the Spanish-speaking indigenes of the Southwest were defeated in the war of 1848. Thus, the national ideology of the ‘melting-pot’ of a new race emerged “as a hierarchical combination of the different ethnic contributions,” based on the inferiority of Asian labor immigrants and “the social inequalities inherited from slavery and reinforced by the economic exploitation of the Blacks” (Balibar & Wallerstein 1991, 104). It is within this historical process of ethnicization of the American identity under an assimilative or plural- ist ideology that we can then locate the supremacy of American English over the other languages of various ethnic groups within the polity. It is also in this historical context of the formation of the American multicul- tural pluralist imaginary that problems of citizenship, equality of rights, multilingualism, neocolonialism, nationalism or international- ism, should be placed and analyzed.

In the United States today, we have various languages spoken and practised everywhere—Spanish being the most widespread, Black English vernacular (BEV), creole in Louisiana and New York City, Russian in Brooklyn, and so on—testifying to a multilingual society. But as studies have demonstrated, the failure of the school authorities in the U.S. to recognize BEV as a separate language has continuously retarded the educational progress of black children (Spears 1999). BEV, like the varieties of Spanish, functions as a symbolic marker sig- nifying membership in a particular ethnic group.

Why is one’s use of a particular language important? Language usage or behavior is closely connected with one’s perception of self and one’s identity. The British sociolinguist Robert Le Page has pro- posed a theory of language use in terms of acts of identity. According to Le Page, “the individual creates his or her own language behavior so that it resembles that of the group or groups with which he wishes to be identified, to the extent that: he can identify the groups; observe and analyze such groups; is motivated to adapt his behavior; and is still able to adapt his behavior. By so doing the individual is thus able to locate himself in the ‘multi-dimensional’ space defined by such groups in terms of factors such as sex, age, social class, occupation and other parameters for social group membership, including ethnicity”

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(Cashmore 1984, 173). In Britain, the use of a modified Jamaican creole by second-generation Britishers of Caribbean descent is an example of acts of identity-formation, an assertion of an ethnic identity associated with such cultural interests as rastafarianism, reggae music, and so on. By consciously adopting this creole or patois, the youth are expressing their solidarity, ethnic pride, and symbolic resistance to what they perceive as a repressive and racist society.

One may ask: Has the Filipino community in the U.S. considered language as one of the most important social practices through which they come to experience themselves as subjects with some critical agency, that is, not merely as objects trained to consume and be con- sumed? Have Filipino scholars examined language as a site for cultural and ideological struggle, a mechanism which produces and reproduces antagonistic relations between ethnic immigrant communities and the dominant EuroAmerican society? In my forty years in the U.S., I have not encountered among our ranks—except for a few academics influ- enced by the late Virgilio Enriquez—any special awareness of the importance of Filipino and the other vernaculars.

In the dismal archive of ethnic studies of Filipino Americans, we encounter a species of identity politics that is unable to escape the hege- monic strategies of containment and sublimation. Ironically, this poli- tics is really designed for encouraging painless assimilation. For example, Antonio Pido’s The Pilipino in America (1986) is a repository of scholastic cliches and rehash of received opinions, at best an eclectic survey that tries to coalesce the contradictory tendencies in the research field as well as those in the community during the Marcos dictatorship. Recently, the collection Filipino Americans: Transformation and Identity(1997) edited by Maria P.P. Root, tried to advance beyond the Establish- ment banalities, but to no avail, although gays and lesbians have suc- ceeded in occupying their niches amid cries for “healing the cultural amnesia and sense of shame.” I have no problem celebrating Filipino firsts, but I think historical memory of this ingratiating kind cannot decolonize our psyches since we use such memory to compete with other people of color in grabbing a piece of the American pie. Pido’s contribution to this anthology compounded the muddle of pseudo- egalitarianism afforded by “melting” into the multiracial “pot” that still informs Establishment versions of multiculturalism. This is particularly lamentable in the neoconservative climate of the ’90s when one encountered everywhere the wish-fulfilling belief that Filipinos have transcended their ethnicity in assuming some kind of mutant or freakish existence. The ideological basis of assimilation by keeping one’s ethnic identity may be gleaned from this version of

constructing a hybrid figure: “Such solidarity did not happen to the Pilipino Americans because they are Pilipinos who are in America, as their parents and grandparents were, but rather because they are Americans who are Pilipinos” (Pido 1997, 37). An ambivalent opportu- nist indeed if not an enigmatic trickster figure. None of the essays, if I recall, deal with the discrimination of Filipinos on account of their speaking Pilipino/Filipino at the workplace, or elsewhere.

In a study on Filipino Americans, Pauline Agbayani-Siewert and Linda Revilla comment on the Filipino group’s lack of a “strong ethnic identity.” They give a lot of space to the issue of whether Filipino should be spelled with an F or P. In spite of disagreements among post- 1965 and pre-1965 immigrants, they note that Filipinos are distin- guished by their adherence to “traditional Filipino values” relating to family togetherness and respect for elders. So what else is new? What is interesting about their survey is that they touch on the issue of language, remarking that “language is a questionable indicator of Filipino immigrants’ acculturation,” without adding that of course their country of origin has been thoroughly Americanized in language, if not in customs and habits. They cite a study which indicated that 71% of Filipinos speak a language other than English at home, although 91% of them claimed being able to speak English well or very well. Their conclusion: “This suggests that most Filipinos who have been natura- lized citizens [Filipinos have a 45% naturalization rate, the highest among Asian groups] and who can speak English well still prefer to speak their native language at home” (Siewert & Revilla 1995, 152). What does this signify? In general, third generation children no longer speak the languages of their grandparents.

One interpretation is that of Yen Le Espiritu, author of the ethno- graphic collection, Filipino American Lives. While conceding that Filipinos, despite some mobility and cultural adaptation, are still not fully accepted as “Americans,” Le Espiritu claims that this is not bad because Filipinos are really “transmigrants,” that is, they resist racial categorization and at the same time sustain “multistranded relations between the Philippines and the United States” (1995, 27). This hypoth- esis is flawed. Espiritu wants Filipinos to have their cake and eat it too. While some may succeed in manipulating their identities so that they both accommodate and resist their subordination within the global capitalist system—a tightrope performance not really warranted by the biographies she presents—they do not constitute the stereotype. Especially in the case of those who came in the last two decades, Filipinos have not really become the full-blown hybrids conjured by postmodernist-postcolonial academics. The majority of the testimonies

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gathered by Espiritu provide incontrovertible proof that despite sly forms of resistance, institutional racism has continued to inflict damage on the lives and collective psyche of the Filipino community, whether some of them are perceived as transmigrants or not.

In fact the transmigrant paradigm cannot explain adequately the linguistic behavior of Filipinos. Siewert and Revilla report that Filipinos have begun to challenge the “English only” policies at the workplace. They cite one case in the Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where seven Filipino workers filed a grievance after being penalized for failing to use only English for business purposes (on the assumption that “only English” use facilitates the efficient perfor- mance of mandated routine tasks). The policy was eventually rescinded, but we are not informed what the views of the experts are. Since they are obsessed with acculturation or cultural assimilation, they probably feel that the case was not really significant since Filipinos are bilingual anyway, and they can be flexible or versatile in adapting to the exigencies of their minority situation. Never mind that they have to suppress their need to speak in Filipino.

To recapitulate: The development of U.S. capitalism concomitant with the growth and consolidation of American English has proceeded from the onset of imperial expansion in the U.S. victory over Spain, to the conquest of world hegemony during the Cold War (1947–1989). The Civil Rights movement succeeded (through the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and later the Bilingual Education Act of 1968) to mandate the use of non-English voting ballots and the funding of bilingual edu- cation programs serving primarily Hispanics to expedite their tran- sition to competent English users. Due to various revisions, bilingual education programs (which started in 1963 in Miami, Florida, to help the children of Cuban exiles) only serve a small proportion of the total population. And yet some were alarmed by the increase of Hispa- nics in many states. One of them, Senator S.I. Hayakawa, a naturalized Canadian immigrant of Japanese descent, founded the organization U.S. English in 1983 after sponsoring a bill in 1981 to make English the official language of the U.S. (Fischer et al. 1997). In a penetrating critique of the ideological scaffolding of the “English-Only” movement, Andrew Hartman traces its genealogy to the “historical racism” and white supremacy that continue to legitimize the hierarchical class division in U.S. society. With perspicuous documentation, Hartman not only emphasizes the racist ideology of colonialism underlying the subjugation of Native Americans, Puerto Ricans, Chicanos, and other nationalities, but also underscores how the English-Only campaign “reinforces the divisive effects of capitalist stratification,” undermining

labor solidarity and scapegoating immigrants; in effect, “the English- only movement embodies the colonial model of language as oppres- sion” (Hartman 2003, 199; see also Emerman 1991).

On the whole, I agree with Hartman that this phenomenon of lin- guistic nationalism may be construed as a symptom of the sharpening contradictions in U.S. hegemonic maintenance. In addition I would suggest that the program to subtly institutionalize English as the official language of “free-market” capitalism may be construed as one plank of the IMF/World Bank/WTO neoliberal agenda for continued transna- tional domination which has been effectively challenged by antigloba- lization forces (Mazrui 2003; San Juan 2003). In actuality, what has been happening in the last decades involves an implicit “reorganization of cultural hegemony” by the ruling elite faced with a sharpening politi- cal, social and economic crisis of the system since the end of the Vietnam War. We may interpret this English-Only movement as an index to the resurgent nativist hostility to the recent influx of immi- grants from Latin America and Asia—aliens that supposedly disunite America and threaten the supremacy of the “American Way of Life” (Nunberg 2000). The English First anti-immigrant phenomenon can easily be demystified and translated as the symptom of a moral panic, a fanatical zeal to preserve the status quo, “a fear of cultural change and a deep-seated worry that European Americans will be dis- placed from their dominant position in American life” (Douglas Massey quoted in Zelinsky 2001, 192). This symptomatic reading finds its rationale in Antonio Gramsci’s insight:

Each time that in one way or another, the question of language comes to the fore, that signifies that a series of other problems is about to emerge, the for- mation and enlarging of the ruling class, the necessity to establish more “inti- mate and sure relations between the ruling groups and the popular masses, that is, the reorganization of cultural hegemony (1971, 16).

III

In 1985 then Education Secretary William Bennett judged bilingual education a failure because it only promoted ethnic pride despite the fact that programs like the Transitional Bilingual Education program and the Family English literacy programs no longer seek to fund classes conducted in the original ethnic languages. Four million language-minority students are now herded to monolingual “immer- sion” English classrooms which, according to one expert, often fail to teach anything but English. And this avoidance of using English as

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the only medium of instruction is supposed to explain why they don’t have equal educational opportunities and become complete failures.

One opponent of the bills to make English the official language, Rep. Stephen Solarz, expressed a sentiment shared by many liberals who endorse pluralism or multiculturalism under the shibboleth of a common civic culture. Language is a matter of indifference, these liberals argue, so long as the cement of the civic culture holds the market-system, individual rights, and private property together. Solarz argued that the proposals “represent a concession to nativist instincts and are incompatible with the cultural diversity and ethnic pluralism that constitute fundamental strengths of our nation . . . We are…a tapestry of many races, creeds, religions, and ethnic back- grounds—each independent, but all interwoven with one another . . .The glue that bonds these diverse communities together is not com- monality of language, but a commitment to the democratic ideals on which our country was founded” (1997, 251). Aside from these banal- ities, Solarz also opined that those proposals could pose significant threats to the civil and constitutional rights of citizens with little or no English proficiency.”

In this he was right because English triumphalism signifies a mode of racialization: the institutional subordination of other communities and other languages to white supremacy and its cultural hegemony. This was in part the thrust of the challenge made in the class-action suit of 1970, Lau v. Nichols, in which 1,790 Chinese children enrolled in the public schools in San Francisco argued against the SF Unified School District that they were not being provided with an equal edu- cation because all instruction and materials were in English, which the children did not understand. Futhermore, the plaintiffs contended that English-only education for non-English-speaking children was unconstitutional because it violated the 14th Amendment, which guar- antees to all citizens the equal protection of the laws. Moreover, such education was illegal under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which rules that “no person in the United States shall be . . . subjected to dis- crimination under any program receiving Federal financial assistance” (the District was receiving funds from the federal government). The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of the Chinese students, but only on the basis of the Civil Rights Act; the Constitutional issue was avoided and the Court left the remedy to local school boards (Fischer et al. 1997, 242–5).

It is this 1974 Lau decision that can serve as the basis for litigation against public educational institutions that refuse to provide language services to students of limited English-speaking ability. It is a legal

precedent on which institutions receiving federal money can be held accountable. But it is not one which engages the question of injustice, discrimination, and inequality in a racial polity such as the United States. It is not one which addresses, more specifically, the subordina- tion of nationalities (like Filipinos) and their diverse languages as a consequence of the past colonial subjugation and present neocolonial status of their countries of origin. This is not a matter of personal opinion, feeling or subjective speculation, but a matter for historical inquiry and empirical verification.

Following the mandate of federal laws, Tagalog or Filipino is now being used in census forms, ballots, postal notices, and even in public announcements of flights to the Philippines in some airports. Is this a sign that the racial polity has changed and abolished institutional impediments to the recognition of the identity and dignity of the Filipino as a cultural-political subject? Are we now living in a classless and race-blind society? Scarcely. Such events as Filipino History Month or Independence parades in fact confirm the hierarchical placing of the various ethnic communities within the pluralist schema that repro- duces monolingualism and Anglocentrism in everday life. Even the concession to fund classes in Filipino, or, to cite a recent trend, Arabic—suddenly classes in Arabic multiplied after 9/11—may be a deceptive means of convincing a few that linguistic, racial and sex dis- crimination are amenable to such piecemeal reforms.

Apart from the neoconservative backlash of the ’80s and ’90s, the advent of post-9/11 hegemony of the “only remaining superpower” entrenched in a National Security State, the imperilled “Homeland,” almost guarantees a regime of unmitigated surveillance and policing of public spaces where ethnic differences are sometimes displayed. Filipinos speaking Tagalog make themselves vulnerable to arrest— recall the case of 62 overstaying Filipinos deported in June 2003, handcuffed and manacled like ordinary criminals throughout the long flight back to Clark Field, Philippines; and subsequently, the case of eight Filipino airport mechanics in Texas, victims of racial pro- filing and suspected of having links with Arab terrorists.

Filipino sounds completely unlike Arabic or Russian. What has made Filipino or Tagalog visible in our multicultural landscape is of course the huge flow of recent immigrants who are not as proficient in English as the earlier “waves” after 1965. Movies, music and other mass-media cultural products using Filipino are more widely dis- seminated today than before. In addition, the resurgent nationalist movement in the Philippines, despite the lingering horrors of the Marcos dictatorship (1972–86), has brought to center-stage the nightly

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televised images of rallies where the messages of protest and rebellion against U.S. imperialism are often conveyed in Filipino. The nationalist resurgence in the Philippines, as well as in the diaspora of 7–9 million Filipinos around the world, has rebounded miraculously from the sixties and has continued to revitalize Filipino as the language of critical protest and nationalist self-determination. I don’t have to mention the anxiety and tensions provoked when children cannot understand their parents who, as Siewert and Revilla indicate, prefer to use Filipino or other vernaculars at home.

IV

We are surrounded now by a preponderance of newly-arrived Filipinos who use Filipino to make sense of their new experiences, a necessary stage in their arduous life here, before they are able to gain mastery of standard English and feel more capable of directing their lives. But learning English language skills alone does not automatically translate to access to limited opportunities, not to mention genuine empowerment, as witness the plight of black Americans, or the 60 million functionally illiterate citizens in this affluent, technically superior society. Meanwhile, these Filipinos feel dispossessed and mar- ginalized, completely alienated, either resentful or more servile, depending on the complex circumstances of daily life. If and when they enter school (formal or informal), their language experience (in Filipino or other indigenous languages) is delegitimized by a pedago- gical system which operates on the assumption that knowledge acqui- sition is a matter of learning the standard English, thus abstracting English from its ideological charge and socioeconomic implications.

I don’t recall anytime when Filipinos have demanded access to bilin- gual education in the same way that Latinos and Chinese Americans have. And I know that the request for classes in Filipino/Tagalog is nothing compared to the substantial programs in bilingual education among Hispanics. Still, it might be useful to quote the educational scholar Donaldo Macedo’s comments on the current philosophy:

The view that teaching English constitutes education sustains a notion of ideol- ogy that systematically negates rather than makes meaningful the cultural experiences of the subordinate linguistic groups who are, by and large, the objects of its policies. For the education of linguistic minority students to become meaningful it has to be situated within a theory of cultural production and viewed as an integral part of the way in which people produce, transform and reproduce meaning. Bilingual education, in this sense, must be seen as a medium that constitutes and affirms the historical and existential moments of lived culture . . . [S]tudents learn to read faster and with better

comprehension when taught in their native tongue. The immediate recognition of familiar words and experiences enhances the development of a positive self- concept in children who are somewhat insecure about the status of their language and culture. For this reason, and to be consistent with the plan to con- struct a democratic society free from vestiges of oppression, a minority literacy program must be rooted in the cultural capital of subordinate groups and have as its point of departure their own language (2000, 309).

Macedo rightly emphasizes the daily lived experiences of linguistic minorities rooted in collective and individual self-determination. He considers their language as “a major force in the construction of human subjectivities,” since language “may either confirm or deny the life histories and experiences of the people who use it.” We need to underscore the role of language as cultural or symbolic capital, a theme on which Pierre Bourdieu (1991) has elaborated.

Literacy must be based on the reality of subaltern life if it is to be effective in any strategy of real empowerment, in the decolonization of schooling for a start. Only by taking into account the language of everyday lived experience—and connecting this with the community’s struggles to survive and maintain its integrity and autonomy—can we fully grasp what role the use of Filipino plays in the nationality’s pursuit of a truly dignified and creative life as full-fledged citizens. This is, to my mind, a pursuit that cannot be achieved except as part of the collective democratic struggles of other people of color and the vast majority of working citizens oppressed by a class-divided, racial- ized and gendered order.

And this system—globalized or neoimperialist capitalism—is the same one suppressing the possibilities for equality, justice and auton- omy in the Philippines. There is as yet no truly sovereign Filipino nation. I believe it is still in the process of slow, painful becoming. If so, how do we size up or assay persons who claim to be Filipinos, or whose geopolitical identities are somehow linked to the nation-state called the Philippines? Benedict Anderson theorized that modern nations are “imagined communities” made possible by print-capital- ism and the “fatal diversity of human language” (1994, 95). If that is true, then the Philippines was imagined through American English mediated in schools, mass media, sports, and other cultural practices. Both the institutions of print capitalism and the schools were controlled and administered by the United States for half a century; even after formal independence, most of us dream and fantasize in English mixed with Tagalog (Taglish), or one of the vernaculars.

We see then that language and the process of thinking form a dia- lectical unity. While Filipino has become the effective lingua franca, the

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community in the Philippines is still imagined in a babel of languages, with Cebuanos, for example, refusing to recite the pledge of allegiance unless it is in Cebuano. Less a political gesture than a symptom, this situation reflects the inchoate or abortive project of constructing a Filipino national identity, the clearest proof of which is the failure to develop one language through which the intellectual, political and economic development of the masses can be articulated.

We have no alternative. We need to continue the task of reshaping our cultural identity as Filipinos whether in the U.S. or in the Philippines, in this perilous age of anti-terrorism. I want to quote Paolo Freire, the great Brazilian educator, whose work Pedagogy of the Oppressed has been a profound influence everywhere. Freire reminds us:

At a particular moment in the struggle for self-affirmation, when subordinated to and exploited by the ruling class, no social group or class or even an entire nation or people can undertake the struggle for liberation without the use of a language. At no time can there be a struggle for liberation and self-affirmation without the formation of an identity, and identity of the individual, the group, the social class, or whatever . . . Without a sense of identity, there can be no real struggle. I will only fight you if I am very sure of myself . . . This is why colo- nized peoples need to preserve their native language . . . They help defend one’s sense of identity and they are absolutely necessary in the process of strug- gling for liberation (1985, 186).

Whether here or in the Philippines, we are still, whether we like it or not, entangled, caught, implicated, in this ongoing process of struggling for liberation. A liberatory and radical approach to language, as part of cultural production and pedagogical praxis, is in order. How can we tell our stories in our own words? How do we retrieve the lost voices of our people, valorize their lived experiences, and in the process trans- form the way Filipinos as a group are treated in the metropolis?

To re-appropriate the submerged or erased revolutionary legacy of our people, we need a language that is an integral and authentic part of that culture—a language that is not just “an instrument of communi- cation, but also a structure of thinking for the national being” (Freire 1985, 184), that is, a tool for self-reflection and critical analysis, a crea- tive and transforming agent committed to solidarity, social responsibil- ity, and justice for the masses. That language needed to reconstruct our history and reappropriate our culture cannot be English but must be an evolving Filipino, which draws its resources from all the other vernacu- lars. If we allow English to continue in the Philippines as a hegemonic cultural force, this will simply perpetuate the colonial legacy of class- racialized inequalities—need I remind you that we are still a genuine neocolony—and allow imperial ideology to determine the parameters

of our historical and scientific development, not only for the Philip- pines but also for those who choose to leave and settle in other lands within the inescapable globalized market system. The challenge that faces us today, and for as long as we speak English, is to request or demand that the teaching and learning of Filipino be given space at every level of the educational system.

Allow me to conclude with quotes from Lenin on the question of the equality of languages:

Whoever does not recognize and champion the equality of nations and languages, and does not fight against all national oppression or inequality, is not a Marxist; he is not even a democrat . . . For different nations to live together in peace and freedom or to separate and form different states (if that is more convenient for them), a full democracy, upheld by the working class, is essen- tial. No privileges for any nation or any one language! . . . such are the prin- ciples of working-class democracy (1983, 100, 116).

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