Why do you take and create images?
I make images primarily because I have an impulse to render a peculiar narrative under my own terms. Also, there’s that certain tendency in me to want to provide visuals for things that are often intangible or untranslatable or often hard to represent which probably leads to a certain air of ambiguity with my body of work as most of them are often unfinished or ongoing dialogues between myself and the spectator
How do you define your photographic/artistic body of work? What subjects do you often explore in your work?
At the beginning it started with my cinéphilie. I developed a certain fascination with the visual language of certain filmmakers who I deeply admire. And it so happened that these filmmakers were auteurs (writer-directors) like Eric Rohmer, Alain Resnais, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Hong Sang-soo, Wong Kar Wai, to name a few. It started with that desire to render my images to resemble as if they were film stills. It was a very aesthetic and superficial motivation at the beginning until my work eventually crossed over to performance and became more aware of the peculiar cultural and historical contexts it is operating in.
As a whole, I see my work as autobiographical. Everything corresponds to peculiar memories and specific time frames in my life and the respective preoccupations that come alongside these periods. A huge part of my work also deals with the “self-portrait” and my questions about it like for instance, “how much does a self-portrait actually say about us or how much of it masks our true selves?”
What motivates your work?
Memory. I would like to say that despite memory being such a fallible and contentious word, I am still heavily motivated to create images to serve as a record. Furthermore, there is also this particular tendency of memory to serve as a site of resistance and question how much of its record/representation serves as truth or done in the service of extending your own subjectivity as an author/creator.
What relationship does your work have with reality?
In an honest way of putting it, I’d still say the relationship my work has with reality is corresponding to my own reality. And this reality often lies in the realm of my preoccupations and obsessions as an artist and my response to things going on around me.
For you, what is the purpose of art?
I do not believe in art serving purely “aesthetic” motivations. I think that is the worst kind of art.
I would like art to open up dialogue and inspire change and often transcend the actualities and physicalities an artist is operating on. Perhaps, it’s the notion of an artist who can transgress nationalities yet his identity remaining clearly intact but having this amazing sense of flexibility to work with the contexts he is working on and discover new possibilities from here. Gone are the days, we do art simply for art’s sake. Art for me needs to serve a bigger purpose and not be confined to the spaces where it is produced or is intended for.
How do you want the public to respond to your work? Do you have a particular audience in mind?
It would be almost impossible to have a particular audience in mind because once you put your work out there, you don’t have any autonomy who gains access to it. Ideally though, I would like to gain crucial insights from spectators like how they see the work and it’s not always a validation of an artist’s ego of how much of your original intention translate to the viewer. There’s also an interesting elsewhere with the audience leading you to new discoveries on how they perceive your work. I like audiences who are very receptive while also very critical of my work. And I think this is an amazing and sustainable platform for a dialogue.
What is your training? Were you trained as a photographer?
I originally pursued studies in art history and art criticism and was technically in the process of being an art critic/curator. Then came a time when I ended up working as a researcher at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea where part of the job was seeing countless exhibitions and biennales left and right, it triggered in me a strong desire to creating instead of curating. After that researcher post, I bravely jumped into the decision of being an artist (with photography central to my artistic practice) but that didn’t come easily and it had its own set of drawbacks.
I do not have a formal training in photography. I’d be more versed in the history of photography and maybe I was audacious enough to pursue photography because I was swayed over by one of the artists I deeply admire, Sophie Calle. She loves calling herself a “bad photographer.” And much to her credit, she was given the Hasselbad award, a top merit in the world of contemporary photography. These days the premises of something bad presents a great extent of criticality and I am one always keen on that.
I think at large, I do photography mostly motivated by my instinct and my own aesthetic preoccupations. Also, it is to create that dialogue with the spectator. I think my work is more concerned with what it says over what the images are but then again this actuality can also work against me.
How do you define your actual professional situation? What are your expectations?
My current situation as an artist is constantly in development although these days I am becoming more particular about the exhibitions and platforms I become involved with. I would like to do more exhibitions that have a greater impact and criticality instead of just merely having shows. I think it happens to most young artists especially when they realize that being young and emerging will eventually have its expiration date so you become more aware of the work you have to do for longevity and perhaps to be taken more seriously as an artist.
It’s hard to live off art. Does this affect you and your work?
Artists these days don’t really have it easy in whichever side of the globe. I think what’s crucial to note is that if your art matters that much to you, you’ll keep creating no matter what constraints may arise. A persistence and consistency in vision for me makes artists more endearing and their resilience despite limits set to them.
Have you worked with gallerists, curators, institutions and other art professionals? Can you discuss more about this particular relationship?
I think in this age of interconnectedness, it’s quite a dreadful reality that a lot think that everyone can be artists or in a social media context, everyone can be tastemakers or influencers. I am a bit old fashioned and still believe in the guidance of institutions or a more professional operative informing and guiding your practice. In my case, I’ve been fortunate enough to be guided by institutions despite me working independently. And over the past few years, I’ve seen institutions acclimate to the digital topographies of our times and provide crucial new avenues for dialogue and I try my best to keep up.
A project I did with the Venice Biennale was a good way for an institution to help young talents develop their ideas. They call the project Biennale College where they chose maestros to train young creators. And I was fortunate enough to have been selected as of the young artists to be trained by Rimini Protokoll’s Stefan Kaegi. This workshop was a part of the Theatre Biennale and my performance work coincided with it. It enabled me to gain a more critical approach to my artistic practice while also expanding the performative quotient of my work while I explore new fields like theatre. I have also worked closely with institutions like the Museum of Modern of Contemporary Art, Korea and the Museum of Photography, Seoul, which have enabled me to connect with a crucial network of professionals that help me constantly refine my work and possible new projects that can help develop new ideas and sustain a more productive dialogue globally or regionally.
In your opinion, what is the current state of contemporary photography in the Philippines?
As much as it is overwhelmingly active in terms of works being produced and the creators emerging left and right, I think what needs to be addressed is we need more photographers with a stronger sense of the contexts they are operating in. For instance, an in-depth awareness over the history of photography and art history are very important for artists/photographers. One can’t freely go about work that touches on performative self-portraits without knowing what the likes of Cindy Sherman or Claude Cahun have done in the domain of contemporary photography.
There is much potential as far as contemporary photography in the Philippines is concerned but we also need to be aware of socio-political contexts and histories we are working on. Also, in line with this, the awareness that comes from this can also help further criticality in such domain and enable us to produce more substantial work.
How do you want contemporary photography to develop in the Philippines?
Like I’ve mentioned in the previous question, I think criticality is a crucial aspect of contemporary photography if it is to be developed further in a Philippine context. Also the intersections of photography to other fields like art, literature, ecology, sociology and many others should be explored even further. I think in this age of interconnectedness, we have an overwhelming resource of ideas and contexts to work with.
I still feel that contemporary photography is still at large underdeveloped in the Philippines because of such constraints holding it back but I am hopeful still that it would mature and refine itself in the course of the next five years. I also wish to blur the line further with documentary photography as being overly valorized as against conceptual/fine art photography. I think the distinction in terms of a Philippine context must be blurred further and these two can create an exciting creative and critical synergy in contemporary photography and challenge both creators and spectators alike.
Name: Gian Cruz
Lives and works in Manila, Philippines
Website: https://www.visualaids.org/artists/detail/gian-cruz (temporary site as technical problems with giancruzstudio.com is being worked on)
2009-Present : Master in Art Theory and Criticism, University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City
2004-2007 : Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Arts, De La Salle University-Manila, Philippines
Awards and Recognition:
- Biennale College – Teatro 2016: creative workshop with Stefan Kaegi (Rimini Protokoll), Venice, Italy; a project of the La Biennale di Venezia to train young artists through its Dance, Music, Theatre and Cinema sectors which also offers young artists an opportunity to develop their creations side by side with masters (coincides with the 44). Festivale Internazionale del Teatro
- Pride Photo Award, 2nd Place (Open Category), Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Personal Light | The PhotoPhore International Contemporary Photo Award, Finalist
Ateneo Art Awards: Purita Kalaw Ledesma Prize for Art Criticism, Shortlisted
9th Angkor Photo Workshops, Siem Reap, Cambodia (one of the selected 30 young and talented Asian photographers, mentored by Magnum photographer Antoine d’Agata)
2015 Autobiography, Altro Mondo @ The Picasso, Makati City, Philippines
- Unstable Traces of Humanity, ManifestO 2017: Rencontres Photographiques de Toulouse – XV edition, Toulouse, France
- Topophilia, Nørager Farmhouse, Nees, Demark
- Casus Vector, Artzond Festival 2017, Saint-Petersburg, Russia
- Pride Photo Awards, The SF LGBT Center, San Francisco, California, USA
- In/Out, Trong/Ngoài, Nha San Collective, Hanoi, Vietnam
- Reclaim Photography Festival 2017: Reclaiming Our Cultural Landscapes, Dudley Canal and Canal Trust, Birmingham, United Kingdom
- International Exhibition for Video Art, LemoArt Gallery, Berlin, Germany
- Format Open House – Habitat, Format International
- Photography Festival 2017, Pearson’s, Derby, United Kingdom
- Photography for Tolerance and Diversity, Erasmus Huis, Jakarta, Indonesia
- Portrait, CICA Museum, Gimpo, Korea
- 121 and 1 International Short Silent Film Festival, Gate 3 Gallery, Haifa, Israel
- Snap to Grid, LACDA Los Angeles Centre for Digital Art, Los Angeles, California, USA
- Highs & Lows No. 20, 4bid Gallery, Overtoom 301, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
- Brave New World – Beyond the Wall, Institut für Alles Mögliche, Abteilung für Alles Andere, Berlin, Germany
- Indian Photo Festival, State Art Gallery Madhapur, Hyderabad, India
- Pride Photo Award Edition 2016, Oude Kerk, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
- Manila Pollination: London Biennale, United First Building, Escolta, Manila, Philippines
- Transart Triennale Berlin: The Imperceptible Self, Uferstudios, Berlin, Germany
- Concept: The International Exhibition on Conceptual Art, CICA Museum, Gimpo, Korea
- Open Studio, Open Wall (Art Fair Philippines 2016 Offsite Event), Thousandfold HQ, Taguig, Philippines
- Hipster & Otaku, CICA Museum, Gimpo, Korea
Snap to Grid, LACDA Los Angeles Centre for Digital Art, Los Angeles ,California, USA
Snap to Grid, LACDA Los Angeles Centre for Digital Art, Los Angeles, California, USA
- BorderBody | Mixing Cities and Identities, MECA Mediterráneo Centro Artístico, Almeria, Spain
- Unwrap No. 4: Streaming Performances to and from Oslo, ACTS – Laboratory for Performance Practices, Caféteatret, Oslo, Norway
- BorderBody | Mixing Cities and Identities, Gallery MD_S (MD_S – miejsce dla sztuki), Wrocław, Poland
- Border Body | Mixing Cities and Identities, Gdynia
- InfoBox (Obserwatorium Zmian) – Observatory of Changes, Gdynia, Poland
- Border Cities & New Identities, The Water Plant “Uzina de Apa,” Centre of Architecture, Urban Culture and Landscape, Suceava, Romania