Archiving Roberto Chabet

Exhibition view of Ringo Bunoan's solo exhibition 'Archiving Roberto Chabet'. The image captures a few works presented on the occasion, including Cut Boat (Work After Chabet #5), For Lee Aguinaldo (Work After Chabet #3), and Untitled (Work After Chabet #4).

Exhibition notes written by Bunoan:
'In 'Archiving Roberto Chabet', Ringo Bunoan focuses on the work of pioneering Filipino conceptual artist Roberto Chabet, beginning with his early drawings and collages in the 1960s to his current installations and objects. For nearly a year, she has been sourcing clippings, researching dates and titles, scanning photographs, conducting interviews, and cataloguing every single item that bears his name, for a special research project by the Asia Art Archive (AAA), with the support of the Lopez Memorial Museum.

For this exhibition however, the aim is not to present a thorough survey of Chabet’s work, nor even a sampling. Instead, Bunoan has decided to work within the cracks in the narrative, re-constructing and presenting some of Chabet’s works, which have never been realized or those that have escaped documentation. In doing so, she not only creates different vantage points for looking into Chabet’s work but also opens up varying levels in the way we remember.

Installed in the basement of the Vargas Museum, the exhibition is essentially an archive within an archive. The inventory includes an installation made out of old wooden planks propped on empty paint cans, similar to those makeshift bridges when there is a flood; tin-framed mirrors lined up on a shelf, to reference the manifold of reflections; and rolled-up chipboards soaking in water in G.I. buckets, a response to a comment by painter Lee Aguinaldo. Bunoan also re-constructed Sudden School, a set of undocumented drawings made by Chabet based on the drawings of his nephew. Chabet’s own wooden dug out boats are also included; this time two boats are shown, both cut into 5 sections and without the neon arrows in the original installation.

The works are shown behind a closed glass door, a tactic used by Chabet in an exhibition at the Small Gallery of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in the 70s. The door sets limits for the viewer and prescribes a particular perspective; but more importantly, it is a portal to Chabet’s notion of a 'no place', an 'elsewhere'.

On top of a table in an adjoining room, Bunoan has placed a bound list of all the documentation that she has collected so far. Installed together with the drone of the scanner, which she recorded while digitizing material, it highlights the archival process. The seemingly ordered catalogue of these 'artifacts' belies the idiosyncratic practice of the archivist/artist who like Baudelaire’s rag-picker 'sorts things out and makes a wise choice; collects, like a miser guarding a treasure, the refuse which will assume the shape of useful or gratifying objects.'

'Archiving Roberto Chabet' invites reflection on how we can represent the fractured and ephemeral nature of conceptual art from the point of view of now, nearly 50 years since it began. It is a fitting homage to Chabet, who, despite his tremendous influence, has maintained a strategic distance from the operations of the art world. With this ordering of scavenged objects and data, Bunoan underscores Chabet’s immense contribution to Philippine art while performing a critical statement on the systems and politics that govern our culture, memory and history.'

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Archiving Roberto Chabet