The paper inquires into public art produced by artists and government authorities. It interprets collaboration as a site of negotiating various interests; holding possibilities for both disruption and complicity; antagonism and amelioration. The research considers two art projects in the Philippine context: first; the Paoay sand dunes sculpture park made between 2012 and 2015 in the Northern Ilocos region; and second; the ongoing Pasig River Art for Urban Change; beginning with Bakawan in 2015 in the Philippine capital Metro Manila. As both involve the artist Leeroy New (b. 1986) working with different government agencies; the paper tracks inconspicuous shifts not only in ways of working; but also in how the works and the sites themselves are conceived. The two physical sites; the sand dunes and the river; are both natural formations whose sensuous presence has been evoked in other cultural texts and forms of speech. The research examines how governmental imagination and artistic agency work to negotiate readings of place. How does the artist thicken such readings; and complicate the essentialist view of place that banks on heritage? This analysis draws from discourses on public art and collaboration; and it places New’s work in dialogue with historical precedents in Philippine experimental art and site-specific practices; as well as cultural texts such as Ishmael Bernal’s Himala.
De Leon, P. L. (2021). Agents of place: Negotiations between artist and government in Philippine public art. Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art in Asia, 5(1&2), 405–437. https://doi.org/10.1353/sen.2021.0017