Culture / Art Republik

Labour of Love: An Interview with 98BCollaboratory in Manila

An interview with 98BCOLLABoratory in Manila

May 17, 2018 | By Art Republik

Various 98B COLLABoratory projects. All images courtesy 98B COLLABoratory.

98B COLLABoratory, based in Manila, Philippines, is a creative space where artists and individuals from varied disciplines interact and work on projects together. ART REPUBLIK speaks with its founders to find out more about the dynamics of the group and the challenges that lie ahead in sustaining and developing the initiative.

How did 98B COLLABoratory come about? Who came up with the idea, and/or what precipitated the creation of this artist-run initiative and space?

98B was initiated by artist Mark Salvatus and his wife, curator Mayumi Hirano in their small apartment in Cubao, Quezon City in 2012. 98B came from their address, where they hosted small gatherings with artist friends for casual discussions over food and drinks. We added the word “collaboratory” to show that as a space and initiative, we try to create new ways of producing works and at the same time work together with other people from different disciplines. It’s a laboratory to build new relationships in the process.

Various 98B COLLABoratory projects. All images courtesy 98B COLLABoratory.

98B COLLABoratory has five major programmes: Project and Research Residency, Events, Exhibitions, Talks and Exchange Programme. Which aspect has come through more or been most well received?

We don’t have a proper exhibition space, so every time we come up with a show, we have to envision possible spaces in the building, the street or even our storage space. From this limitation, we are developing how to show art in different ways to enable new encounters with our audiences.

The Project and Research residency programme is a self-directed residency, where 98B assists the artist with his/her project. We think that the residency is a mutual exchange, and we try to learn from each other, as a host and as a peer.  

The most well-received programme is an event called Future Market.  It started as a small gathering of friends who wanted to sell merchandise, original creations, second-hand items and so on and it evolved from something monetary to something with social value, where we exchange ideas and experiences and build a community that attracts people from different walks of life.

Various 98B COLLABoratory projects. All images courtesy 98B COLLABoratory.

This issue of ART REPUBLIK is themed ‘The A Team’. How does 98B COLLABoratory work as a team? Who takes up which role, and what are the team dynamics like?  

Right now, 98B is composed of six people who run almost everything and three interns who are art university students. We have very flexible roles where we take turns to do what is needed, including space management and event organisation. On our name cards, these are our official titles: Mark Salvatus, Artistic Director; Mayumi Hirano, Exhibitions Director; Marika Constantino, Executive Director; Gabriel Villegas, Operations Director; Katherine Nunez, Future Market Head; Miggy Inumerable, Web and Information Head. And our interns are Gabriel Gatchalian, Liam De Leon and Juno Vizcarra.

We hold most of our daily discussions online and we meet weekly in our space in Escolta to hang out while working on 98B-related projects or personal ones.

From your experience with 98B COLLABoratory and your observation of the Filipino/regional art scene, what are the advantages and also potential pitfalls of working in teams compared to working as individuals, and why?

We have a very loose structure and members come and go. We consider it as a jeepney that one can hop in and out of any time. If someone wants to stop and get off the jeepney because other personal priorities come up, he/she can stop and then we continue our journey. If someone is tired, someone else will take over the driver seat, and we have to trust that driver. We think that working in a group is very challenging, as we have to appreciate the reality that each person has different views and goals. 

There will always be miscommunication within a team, but even that is still a sign that we are talking to each other. We have to consider that both communication and miscommunication are part of how we can grow together to realise a certain goal, whether it is organising a festival or writing a proposal.

Various 98B COLLABoratory projects. All images courtesy 98B COLLABoratory.

What have been 98B COLLABoratory’s greatest achievements thus far?

We think that 98B has expanded the notion of art and creativity in many ways, by experimenting with and realising different ways of producing and presenting our projects.

What can we look forward to from 98B COLLABoratory in 2018? What projects do you have in the works as a group and as individuals?

98B is organising its second ‘ESCAPE’ bi-annual exhibition which features 14 projects that bear witness to various aspects of society. Its title, ‘Saksi’, is the Filipino word for that. It will include Filipino and international artists, curators and cultural workers whose projects will be mounted in Escolta from late February to early March.

In March, we will host a group of artists and curators from Darwin, Manila and Jogjakarta called ‘Asia in Darwin 2017/2018’. And in April, we will participate in a group show at the Museum of Modern Contemporary Art in Seoul together with other artists and collectives in Asia. We will create a lounge similar to what we have in our space in Manila.

From February to May, we will also have a pop-up shop in collaboration with HUB: MakeLab, another 98B project at the new Ateneo Art Gallery in Areté, Quezon City.

Individually, Marika Constantino will be part of the ‘Instant City Tokyo 2020’ (initiated by the Goethe Institut) as well as co-curating a project for the VIVA Excon in Roxas City. Mayumi Hirano is currently working as a production manager for the 2018 Gwangju Biennale, and Mark Salvatus will be part of a group show in March at Osage Foundation Hong Kong.

Various 98B COLLABoratory projects. All images courtesy 98B COLLABoratory.

What more do you want to do with 98B COLLABoratory that remains a dream for now? And what (e.g. funding, more awareness) would allow for it to become a reality?

Funding for us is always a challenge since we do not rely too much on grants. For us, being able to sustain our projects is our dream. We hope to be able to archive and publish a book on all our projects from the last 6 years.

What advice do you have for young people in creative fields, whether in music, art, dance fashion etc.? What’s the secret formula and/or what is the one characteristic that has contributed to your success?

We think that we are not a good example of success, as we have failed in terms of organising, and in terms of maintaining relationships among members but we have learnt a lot from these experiences. Along the way, what’s important is the ongoing questioning about what we can do and how we can do it. It’s always a rough ride but we have to continue moving so we can meet new and different people en route.

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This article was written for Art Republik 18.

This is part of ‘Better Together’, a series of conversations about how people have banded together in innovative ways to create, exhibit, teach, discuss and archive art in Southeast Asia, brought to you by ART REPUBLIK both online and in print.

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