Artist Exercises

(Re)Mapping My Own Backyard

Archival References
Exercise Part 01
Exercise Part 02
Personal Reflection
About the Author
About Temporary Unrelearning Academy
Special Thanks

Artist Exercises: Connecting Artist-Educators Across Geographies brings together artists and artist-educators from Asia and the Asian diaspora, and is premised on the creative manner in which artists mediate our experiences. The cohort for this series, formed through an Open Call, has made connections between AAA’s digital archival collections and their own situated contexts and educational environments. The connections range from speculative and personal to directly using archival materials as part of their workshop or programme. While these exercises were attempted with the artist-educator’s longstanding groups of learners in their own contexts, they can be applied in wider contexts and locations.

Czar Kristoff is an artist, designer, publisher, and educator based in San Pedro, Laguna. He runs Temporary UnReLearning (URL) Academy, a school with no permanent address, and is interested in queering art and cultural production in the Philippines. For this exercise, he references diaries in the archive of artist and educator Jyoti Bhatt, who travelled across India documenting living traditions of art forms for three decades. To build an interventionist archive, he guides users to work with present-day technologically mediated tools to map and document their neighbourhoods through a personal lens.


I am no stranger to working at internet cafes. Aside from the printing services internet cafes offer, extending my studio space to internet cafes is an economical way of connecting with people and accessing information through the internet. This bypasses the difficulty in finding and acquiring specific sources, publications, and books. Although home and mobile internet connections are available in my home country, the Philippines, it remains on the lower end of the internet affordability sub-index, ranking 72nd globally. People therefore still flock to internet cafes, especially students living off limited allowance.  

I spent my time in internet cafes surrounded mostly by students doing their school work, checking social media, online gaming, streaming videos, and doing whatever it is you do on the internet. Until the pandemic, internet cafes have been the venue for students to digitally connect with the world and physically congregate and socialise. The past two years have drastically changed students’ socialisation routines during school and after-school hours. Households are forced to shell out expenses needed for home internet connections, as it became a requirement for distance learning. The once limited hours spent by students on the internet have become uninterrupted, and their exposure to information, both beneficial and unfavourable, constant. How then does one find focus and navigate through unfiltered clouds of information? 

Maps have been guides for navigation since its conception. It has come a long way from two dimensional illustrations to interactive panoramic images of actual streets stitched together with semblance to three dimensionality, functioning as virtual reality—I am referring to Google Street View, a technology feature in Google Maps and Google Earth. In whatever form, however, maps exist as an organised diagram of information one may use to specify paths. 

Mapping is not limited to places. We can map out time, memories, emotions. My interest in mapping stems from my photography practice; archiving and collecting are an essential part in what I do. Through archiving and collecting, queries about identity in relation to spaces I have occupied, am currently occupying, and will eventually occupy, let themselves be known. These queries then guide me in my exploration, research, and interventions about particular subjects and themes in my work—like points on a map to consider in making paths for navigation. 

Archival References

I see in my mapping practice a parallel to Jyoti Bhatt’s diaries, which he started in 1969. Journaling is but another form of map making; it is a plotting of thoughts, ideas, experiences, and emotions, with or without purpose, to guide you in future actions. Jyoti Bhatt writes down his thoughts, ideas, observations, bibliographical references, and sketches. His diaries became his own form of note-taking during his travels, and documentation of Living Traditions in India, from which his modernist work in painting, printing, and documentative photographs of Indian culture often start off. Documenting life in India has eventually led Bhatt to documenting traditional craft and design work, especially after he was asked to take photographs of Gujarati folk art. His delving into village and tribal design largely influenced the motifs in his printmaking works, within which he infuses language elements; much like in his diaries, where sketches and words coexist.

I personally feel an affinity towards Jyoti Bhatt’s diaries, especially with my work in Temporary UnReLearning Academy, which started from a desire to rediscover and reclaim pieces of identity, memory, and history, blurred and/or erased by colonisation and gentrification. 


(Re)Mapping My Own Backyard encourages participants to intervene with public spaces, technology, and their own and collective memory through cartographic processes such as drawing, annotation, field recordings, and photography, with the hope of re-imagining (public) spaces so that they may reinforce their ability to navigate said spaces; to reassess how communities, and along with it, human networks, are designed; to archive the self not only in the clouds
 but also in flesh. This workshop is divided into two parts: virtual and physical, and by the end, participants are expected to connect to a public wifi network to upload their workshop output in Google Maps. 


mapping, collective mapping, network, technology, navigation, cartography, public spaces, public
wifi, cloud

Exercise Part 01

Requirement: Smartphone, earphone, internet connection, note app

Location: Zoom 

Duration: 30–40 minutes 

    1. Everyone in the room must acknowledge the presence of and greet each other.  

    2. Facilitator should ask the participants to open Click the three lines at the upper left of the page to make a new document. Click Start Over and select your preferred format. Once they are ready, Participants must return to the Zoom room. It is encouraged that they use earphones for the entire duration of this exercise.  
    1. The Facilitator should select a sound recording of the public space that the Participants are going to explore. The Participants must be familiar with this public space. There are plenty of Walking Tour videos online that can be used. The Facilitator is free to select which audio best suits this workshop. In our case, we used a Walking Tour of San Pedro Plaza courtesy of Krypto Trekker YouTube Channel ( 

    2. The Facilitator shares their audio to the Participants. The duration of this “listening exercise” can last from five-to-seven minutes.  

    3. After listening, the Facilitator should ask the Participants to draw what they just heard using Participants are free to interpret the sound in any way they want. They can draw lines, add texts, make shapes, etc.  

    4. Participants should save the document after they are finished. The duration for this “drawing exercise” can last for five-to-seven minutes. 

    5. The Participants then share their screen and talk about their drawing. Each Participant will be given three-to-five minutes to explain their drawing. Participants must keep the file for future use.  

OPTION: This exercise may also be performed face-to-face. But make sure the venue is different from the selected public space, and that the venue would allow for listening to the sounds for the listening exercise. As for the drawing exercise, please substitute autodraw with marker and paper. And instead of sharing screens, participants may place their drawings on a wall, table, and/or ground. Arrange them to form a circle or all around the venue. 

NOTE: Before ending the meeting, ask the Participants to download Google Maps.  

Exercise Part 02

Requirement: Smartphone, Google Maps, internet connection, marker, paper

Location: Selected public space 

Duration: 1–2 hours  


    1. The Facilitator distributes markers and paper.  

    2. Participants must select their ideal spot at the public space, and draw either that spot or the public space as a whole. This drawing exercise can last from ten-to-fifteen minutes. Once finished, Participants and Facilitator can regroup at the centre of the public space. 

    3. Participants must place their drawings on the ground. They may arrange them as a line, circle, or grid. Each participant shares with the group what they drew. They will be given ten-to-fifteen minutes each to articulate their works. 

    4. Participants should photograph their own drawings after. Instructions will be discussed on the next set of exercises. 

    5. Participants document the public space once again but now using photography through their smartphones. They are allowed to take at least five images. This exercise can last from ten-to-fifteen minutes. 

NOTE: The Facilitator may shorten or extend the time depending on the number of the participants.

Image: Each participants are sharing their memory of the plaza with each other. 
Image: Participants decided to stay together and draw one particular spot. 
Image: Participants Ron, Analhey, Mark, Jean, Cyril and Jom with their drawings.
Image: Participants Ron, Analhey, Mark, Jean, Cyril and Jom with their drawings.
    • When the task has been done, Participants and the Facilitator must go to the nearest public wifi and connect. Make sure the connection is secure. This exercise requires Participants to have a Google account.
    • Participants must open Google Maps and go to the “Contribute” section. Participants must click “Add Photo” to upload the photographs of the public space and their drawings. Participants must agree that their photos and drawings (including their username) will be seen by the public. If this will be an issue, Participants are allowed to use a dummy account. The Facilitator is free to adjust the time according to the needs of the Participants.  

    • For the caption of the image/s, Participants may write a short description. It can be their memory of the place, a description of the place, or simply leave it blank. The duration of this exercise is fifteen-to-twenty five minutes.  

    • When everyone is finished, they return to the chosen public space or café if necessary. Facilitator can then open their laptop to view what the Participants have uploaded on Google Maps. 
Image: Connecting to Piso Wifi, a coin-operated hotspot wifi. With five peso, one can connect for one hour. The participants were having a difficulty connecting as the interface is something new to them.  
Image: Participants Ron, Analhey, Mark, Jean, Cyril and Jom with their drawings. 
Image: Documenting the plaza using their phones. 
Image: Interface of Piso-Wifi. 
Image: Participants uploading their drawings and photographs on Google Maps. 



Focus group. This can be done while eating snacks and/or over drinks. Participants and Facilitator form a circle and explore these questions:  

What is a map to you?  

How often do you use maps? 

What is it like to play an active role in making maps?  

What is a public space?  

How did you re-imagine this public space?  

If you will be designing this space, how will it look 

What is it like to be able to archive (and publicise) how you see this particular public space?  

How do you think technology affects how you navigate this neighbourhood, this space, and/or the world? 

What is it like to use a limited internet connection/public internet connection once again? (Only if applicable) 

What is it like to return to basic forms of documenting such as drawing and writing notes in this day and age where things can be done easily on your phone?  

How do you view technology or accessibility now, compared to before joining this workshop? 

How do you see your neighbourhood now?  

How do you see yourself now?  

NOTE: Facilitators are allowed to reconstruct the questions based on their context and experience of the workshop. They may also add more questions if they see fit.  

Image: Focus group. We stayed at a nearby cafe as it is about to rain. Participants enjoyed a nice snack and drink while Facilitator show them their Maps contribution. Afterwards we explored about the list of questions together.
Image: Focus group. We stayed at a nearby cafe as it is about to rain. Participants enjoyed a nice snack and drink while Facilitator show them their Maps contribution. Afterwards we explored about the list of questions together.

Personal Reflection / Experience 

The workshop was postponed for two weeks to give myself time to reassess my position as a cultural worker. The result of the election played a big role in this decision. Providing a service to a community that has a special place in my heart but has an opposite political stance from me makes it difficult for me to rationalise why I should give my time, labour, and resources to them. But upon reflecting with my close friends and family, we realised that care is needed much more than before, especially to communities that lack social security. 

Fast forward to the workshop day, the participants had a difficult time connecting to the Zoom link, most probably because they often use a different programme. Since they know each other, some participants suggested that maybe they can come over to their space to do the workshop together. We started quite late but the participants enjoyed the drawing exercise in particular. I think most of them did not understand the instructions correctly. I am not sure if it is just a language barrier or the lack of comprehension ability. It was also scheduled on a Sunday, maybe they are not used to “studying” on that particular day. One of the things I observed is that participants did not turn on their cameras, probably because of the low bandwidth. Or another possibility is the lack of confidence to show their face.  

We took a break to prepare for the physical meeting. I went to the venue on time but they were not there. I decided to fetch them instead and upon entering the compound where they live, I noticed them walking toward the entrance gate and saw that they invited one of their friends. I think it was a very interesting moment. They probably encouraged her to join because they thought it would be beneficial for her, or the participants wanted to share the moment with their friend. When we arrived at the venue, my niece who was assisting me that day started taking photos as we went along with the drawing exercise and focus group. The workshop draft was not strictly followed, I realised I had to adjust it based on the response of the participants. For example, the participants are supposed to go around the space but they misunderstood the instructions and so for the next exercise, I had to play around with the instructions. 

When we moved to the next phase of the physical exercise that requires public wifi (we use the piso-net, a coin operated internet hotspot which is just a block away from the physical venue), the participants had a challenging time connecting because it is something new to them. They are usually used to connecting to their home internet. Along with the oldest participant who probably has an experience using the piso wifi, we helped the others connect. We used two different hotspots that are just close to each other, one is placed in front of a dental clinic, the other in front of a convenience store. We were able to upload their pictures on Google Maps and they found it fascinating. We went to a nearby coffee shop to sit down and have a snack. After that I turned on my laptop and showed them the images they uploaded, and they were amazed seeing their pictures online. We proceeded to the focus group to ask them questions I had prepared beforehand. Since I was too focused on listening, it was challenging for me to write down what they shared. I was not able to write their names as sometimes they echo each other’s thoughts. Since they know each other and are familiar with me, the discussion went smoothly. I also noticed that some of them are confident in speaking their thoughts but some are not. I think if we had more time, the conversation would be longer. But since most of them are minors, and I promised to their parents (who know me and thus trust me) that I would bring their children at a specific time, we had to stop the focus group.

Right before going home, we stopped by a rotisserie to buy something to bring home. I also gave them a small fee on top of the food we shared during the focus group. The participants were very happy with what they received and experienced that day. When they arrived at their homes, their parents expressed their gratitude to me as they said their children need to learn other things besides playing RPGs (role playing games) when not studying, which they mentioned already as I was proposing the workshop weeks prior. The exchange with the parents was quite inspiring. I am considering giving a series of workshops with these particular participants so that we can continue our dialogue.  

Overall, the workshop was quite enriching as I was able to reconnect with the community I was part of for the past fourteen years (I moved out early this year), and most importantly to pass on the resources that I have, and have others enjoy at least a portion of it. My education is an accumulation of every text, conversation, experience, and emotional connection I had with people and places. I want to re-enact and revisit these moments in a pedagogical form as a way to honour and monumentalise them.  

As for the experience building the workshop, I really enjoyed going through AAA Collections and seeking out connections to what I do as a cultural worker. I think the reason I was drawn to Jyoti Bhatt (even though it was recommended to me) is because I relate very much to his use of photography. This medium did change how I view my country, my culture, and my identity. I was able to rebuild myself through looking at a small viewfinder.  

About the Author

Czar Kristoff (b. 1989) is an artist, educator, designer, and publisher currently based in San Pedro, Laguna. He is interested in the (re)construction of space and memory through concepts of nesting and temporary architecture, for (pedagogical) occupation. He uses cottage industry publishing—blueprints, xerox, and other low-fidelity printing methods—as his current media of interest. He has exhibited at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Showroom MAMA Rotterdam, Jogja National Museum, c3 Artspace Melbourne, Bangkok Art & Culture Center, De Appel Amsterdam, Dansehallerne Copenhagen, and Vargas Museum Manila. Kristoff runs Temporary UnReLearning (URL) Academy, a school with no permanent address, interested in queering art and cultural production in the Philippines.  

About Temporary Unrelearning Academy

Temporary UnReLearning (URL) Academy
is a migratory school currently based in CALABARZON, interested in queering artistic and cultural formation/production in the Philippines through interventions of public spaces and vernacular technology and tools. URL was established in 2019.  

Special Thanks 

Alfred Marasigan, Isola Tong, Clara Balaguer,
Marionne Contreras, Zeus Bascon, Emen Batocabe, Abbey Romina, Jana Certeza, Jean Cos, Cyril Cos, Lea Cos, Analhey Santanez, Jomari Gonzales, Mark Gonzales, Rico Gonzales, RonRon Balame, Glorybel Balame, Cultivating A Garden


Publishing date: 27 October 2022 

The AAA Learning and Participation Programme is supported by the S. H. Ho Foundation Limited.

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