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Reinvented mediums: A look into how the arts have been adapting to the new normal

Reinvented mediums: A look into how the arts have been adapting to the new normal


Like all industries, the arts have also suffered terribly through this pandemic. With most of their events relying on a physical audience, we’ve been seeing cancellations and postponements and struggling artists right from the outbreak of this virus. 

Even so, we didn’t experience a scarcity of artworks, did we? In fact, a whole lot more art has been made accessible from the very first month of quarantine alone. Through it all, artists continued gifting us with works that help fill our days of being stuck at home and even gave us things to look forward to despite everything.  

It’s easy to say there’s simply no stopping artists’ creative nature after seeing how much they’ve persisted. But we should acknowledge the need to support arts workers in this crucial time for them to be able to sustain their craft. Below are the ways artists of different fields have been adjusting and reinventing their craft for their audience and for noteworthy causes—giving you all the reasons why we should support them even more at this time. 


Visual arts

Online exhibits and catalogues

Though nothing really compares to seeing an artwork up close, more and more galleries and artists have been making up for the cancellations of art shows by uploading their exhibits and catalogues online. 

Take Jackie Hontiveros-Lozano, for example: The painter and art educator has made her second solo exhibit available for viewing through her website. “Awakening,” which is an exhibit two years in the making, allows people to view her paintings up close and watch the artist herself explain the inspiration and processes behind her exhibit through a video. Pretty neat, right?

Aside from launching an online only show, Silverlens Galleries have also begun uploading catalogues of their current art shows. One of these is interdisciplinary artist Pow Martinez’ “Sustainable Anxiety,” which sheds light on how we’ve become spectators to our own downfalls as we slowly inch to our apocalypse. 

Artworks from this show are available for viewing online, and are also physically installed in the gallery. To view the paintings in person, an appointment should be made beforehand.

Modeka Creative Space also launched an Experiences section, which serves as the online counterpart of all of Modeka’s physical shows moving forward. Currently on view is “Finding Proximity,” a group show curated by Gwen Bautista that tackles how art fulfills iterations of attachment and connection through different materials and spaces.

This exhibit features paintings and collages from Jem Magbanua, Pablo Bermudez, Chico Cristobal and Denise Heredia among others.


Social media galleries and initiatives

Though not all galleries have this feature, you can expect more optimized images and videos of artworks on social media. These are usually coupled with lengthy captions written by art gallery staffers, offering interpretations of featured works.

Silverlens has been doing this through their #Revisit series on Instagram. The gallery has been sharing images, walk-through videos and notes from their past exhibitions.

To help families affected by COVID-19, some artists have put their works up for sale. Abstract and surrealist artist Louie Cordero (also known as Lolo Buko) took on the challenge of creating one artwork per day for thirty days, with all proceeds going towards COVID-19 relief efforts.

[READ: 7 artists and galleries auctioning their art for COVID-19 relief efforts]

Through the “Art for Life” fundraising program, Vinyl on Vinyl Gallery also featured artworks for sale on Instagram. Artists like Wyndelle Ramone, Pey Reymond, Ciane Xavier and Bjorn Calleja have auctioned off their pieces with all the proceeds going towards purchasing medical equipment for frontliners.


Themes of the times

The pandemic has also brought about new prompts to artists. Through Silverlens’ #athomewith series, artists have been sharing what they’re currently working on and how they have been reflecting about the times to uplift and inspire creativity from their  respective spaces.

Eric Zamuco, who we featured on Southern Living earlier this year, shared how he has been using the camera as a tool to document and archive his reflections on the routines of the household.

Online exhibitions about the pandemic are almost inevitable at this point. Paper Panic Project on Instagram has been serving as a creative outlet for local artists amid all this. With tissue paper as its main medium, the ongoing exhibition invites artists to contribute and say something about our current situation in almost any way. 

[READ: This Instagram account is an ongoing creative archive of the pandemic]


Online art auctions

With the help of live streaming and cashless payment methods, art auctions have also migrated online. Leon Gallery held The Spectacular Mid-Year Auction 2020 last month, which featured a three-panel collaboration between artists Mauro Malang Santos, Ang Kiukok and Hugo Yonzon, Jr.

[READ: This Malang, Kiukok and Yonzon masterpiece is being auctioned for P20M]

Gavel and Block, a subsidiary of Salcedo Auctions, raised P3 million last May through their first online auction in support of Rise Against Hunger Philippines. Designers Michael Cinco, Michael Leyva, Lesley Mobo and Filip+Inna have also pledged some of their pieces as part of this auction.

Despite all of this, there’s something that needs to be said about struggling independent artists whose main source of income is threatened at this time. So, if you want more art in your life, try commissioning an artist who could use some funding.



Digital prints 

With photographers having to cancel projects, online platform Shelter Fund has been put up to support the community by helping them sell prints of various photographers’ outtakes.

“Through your purchase of our prints, you help keep us safe in our homes, able to continue and contribute, and more importantly, all of us have committed to contributing part of our individual sales to a communal fund, making sure everyone is benefitted by your purchase,” Shelter Fund’s description reads.

Shelter Fund has since stopped selling photography and art prints, but their website feature the contact details of local photographers and artists that you can purchase prints from directly.


Facetime and Zoom photoshoots

It’s quite concerning to think about how photographers could continue doing subject shoots and producing output in the long run. Recently, photographers and models have adapted by conducting shoots via FaceTime and I was honestly blown away.

My cousin, who’s a photographer, told me that FaceTime actually doesn’t compromise photo quality and so that wasn’t much of a problem. The process is also somewhat the same in which he had to conceptualize the angle, the background and the frame but this time he only had to click a button in his computer.

Last April, designer Simon Porte Jacquemus actually released his Spring 2020 campaign featuring supermodel Bella Hadid. The images were shot entirely via FaceTime by photographer Pierre-Ange Carlotti and was creative-directed by Jacquemus himself. The outtakes were nothing short of creative with the informal backdrop subtly matching the theme of the collection and Hadid’s barefaced expressions tying the whole thing together.

Photographers have also begun conducting shoots via Zoom. Recently, Shaira Luna has been sharing the results of her Zoom shoots with models and celebrities on her Instagram account.

In an article for Vogue, Christian Allaire predicts that this do-it-yourself approach might just be what fashion brands will soon have to adopt. This is because he observes that “not only does it carry on business in a practical way, it also calls for a little dose of creativity and outside-the-box thinking.” 

Moving forward, this might just reduce the need for all the studio equipment once the pandemic dies down. How about finding a cute spot in your house and then booking a FaceTime shoot with a photographer you know?



Free-access online films 

Last March, TBA Studios uploaded nine full-length feature films on their YouTube channel including Jerrold Tarog’s psychological thriller “Bliss,” Mihk Vergara’s coming-of-age film “Patintero: Ang Alamat ni Meng Patalo,” Ida Del Mundo’s drama “K’Na The Dreamweaver” and Emerson Reyes’ comedy-drama “Dormitoryo,” among others. 

The film production company followed it up by making their blockbuster film “I’m Drunk, I Love You,” “Neomanila,” and award-winning crime mystery drama film “Smaller and Smaller Circles” available for streaming.

[READ: 6 local films you may have missed in cinemas are now streaming online]

Last month, more local films were made available on Netflix. Indie films like “Pamilya Ordinaryo,” “Lola Igna,” and “Ang Pangarap Kong Holdap,” which received awards in Cinemalaya and Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino, are now part of the streaming service’s roster.

[READ: Indie film fans, catch your favorites on Netflix this June—start with award-winning ‘Pamilya Ordinaryo’]

There have also been ways to support and enjoy films for the benefit of freelance workers in the local film industry. In March, a group of independent filmmakers formed “Lockdown Cinema Club,” which has curated over a hundred Southeast Asian independent films, shorts and features.

Before they stopped accepting donations, the collective raised over P2 million for the benefit of over a thousand film workers. As of writing, Lockdown Cinema Club continues to upload new films to their archive.


Experimental film formats

Some filmmakers have also been experimenting with new formats and themes using social media features like live streaming and video chat. 

One example is the hour-long Instagram Live session between John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo, where the famed love team reflected on the ongoing crisis, mental health issues and revisited scenes from their past films together. 

Director Antonette Jadaone later revealed that the livestream was an art piece for “The Unconfined Cinema,” which was launched as part of Art Fair Philippines 2020. The livestream was produced by Erwin Romullo, Philbert Dy and Dan Villegas, and founded on the idea of “freeing our stories to be told outside of the traditional spaces and conceptual boundaries set by the last century of the medium.”

Another experimental film initiative is iWant’s “Love Lockdown,” which stars Jake Cuenca, Kylie Versoza, Angelica Panganiban and JM De Guzman. It tells the story of  “seven lives connected by love, shattered by betrayal, threatened by obsession” all living in the time of quarantine like the rest of us using video chat rooms and other channels.

“Love Lockdown” offers a glimpse of the new normal in cinema, as the scenes were all reportedly shot from each of the actors’ homes with virtual coordination with their team of directors.


Online film festivals

With the pandemic prompting film festival organizers to postpone events worldwide, 20 major film festivals worked together for a 10-day global streaming event. 

The event, titled “We Are One: A Global Film Festival” is a fundraising initiative that will benefit the World Health Organization COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. The event streamed movies, documentaries and panel discussions from Cannes Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival and Sydney Film Festival. 

[READ: 20 major film festivals will be holding a 10-day free digital festival on YouTube]

Even local film festivals are shifting to online formats. On July 15, it was announced that the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival will be pushing through online, focusing on short films.

In a virtual press conference, festival director Chris Millado announced that the film fest will hold its Cinemalaya Online Short Film Festival and Competition from Aug. 7 to 16. All the entries will be released on Vimeo, and viewers will be able to purchase and stream over 100 short films and 20 full-length features for as low as P75.

[READ: The cinema is now online: The first deets on Cinemalaya 2020’s virtual theater setup]


Performing arts

As theater halls remain vacant because of social distancing measures, many theater companies have taken the show from the stage to the screens by making performances accessible online—all the while retaining its special quality through specific streaming times.

Scheduled show reruns

Last May, “Ang Huling El Bimbo” was streamed on ABS-CBN’s YouTube channel and Facebook page for 48 hours. The reruns raised over P12 million under the network’s  “Pantawid ng Pag-ibig” program for the benefit of families most affected by the quarantine.

Dulaang UP also released videos of productions like “Ang Nawalang Kapatid,” “Fathers and Sons” and “The Kundiman Party” on their official YouTube channel.

[READ: Here’s where you can find your favorite plays and musicals online]

Tanghalang Pilipino, the resident theater company of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), established PansamanTanghalan. This initiative made some of their award-winning plays available for streaming and monovlogs starring the theater company’s artistic director Nanding Josef and Nora Aunor.

For a month, the theater company streamed some of their memorable performances like “Sandosenang Sapatos,” “Lam-Ang,” “Mabining Mandirigma,” “Pangarap sa Isang Gabi ng Gitnang Tag-Araw”, “Coroliano” and “Der Kaufmann” 

[READ: The show must go on…line: CCP and Tanghalang Pilipino plays are now on YouTube]


Full online festival migration

CCP’s annual theater festival, Virgin Labfest (VLF) has also announced that they will be migrating their whole lineup online. “#Kapit, a Virtual Labfest: Lockdown Edition” featured nine new works, three revisited plays and six new staged readings.

This was also accompanied by four roundtables featuring directors, designers, stage managers and production managers, as well as a program called “VLF Cross-Media: From Page to Stage to Movies.” The writing fellowship program and playwrights fair also took place online.

[READ: CCP’s annual theater festival Virgin Labfest goes fully digital this year]


Open House

An online fundraising project for the benefit of displaced performing arts workers in light of COVID-19 has also been put up in the name of Open House. The initiative is a  collaboration of Artists Welfare Project, Philstage, SPIT MNL, Third World Improv, the Theater Actor’s Guild and Ticket2Me which organizes a series of free classes, shows, roundtables and  workshops from people working in the industry. 

Having already reached their target of P1 million to be allocated to 300 workers, Open House had their closing night marking the end of the series of shows last May 15 but you can still donate here.



Even though the pandemic has seriously hit the music industry, quarantine has nonetheless brought us quite a number of online concerts, initiatives, jamming sessions and exciting new collaborations between artists. 

Virtual Concerts

Last March, Ben&Ben had a virtual concert from the comforts of each member’s respective homes titled “Puhon!,” which raised over P2.5 million for COVID-19 testing kits, PPEs, food for medical frontliners and as relief goods for daily wage workers.

National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab also established “Bayanihan Musikahan,” a series of online concerts that hopes to raise money for food packs and health supplies to be distributed to urban poor communities in Metro Manila. Artists like Karylle, Martin Nievera, Gary Valenicano and Lea Salonga have held online concerts through this initiative.


Private Zoom Concerts

Although bands and solo artists can make a living out of music streaming and merch sales, their crew members can’t exactly say the same. In light of this, independent artist management and event organizing company Red Ninja turned their regular gig series into a fundraising event.

The “What’s Meron?” gig series is now held in private Zoom rooms, which allows fans to directly interact with artists. Tickets to the concerts are priced at P50 per artist, with proceeds going to organizations such as Roadie Superstar (displaced production members), Fund the Forests For the Frontliners, #MusiciansForTheBarrios, and OneSmilePH.


Online Music Fests

Last month, 88rising held Asia Rising Forever: An online music festival that featured Asian mainstays and newcomers to the music scene. The broadcast took place for three hours, streamed through the company’s YouTube and Twitter pages.

Another online festival that featured an all-Asian musical lineup was #OurIdentity: Project Blue Marble, which was a fundraiser for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and COVID-19 relief efforts.


Header photo by Shua Baber for the United Nations COVID-19 Response on Unsplash

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