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About this Study Guide The guide is designed for discussions and activities for classes in Humanities, Art Studies, Fine Arts, Cultural Studies and Creative Writing. The Education Guide includes guide questions, pre-, during, and post-visit activities and suggested readings. It is encouraged that course tutors/teachers have a pre-visit to the exhibition before the class’s actual visit. This education guide may be reproduced.
Visitor Information For pre-visits, coordinate with the Museum to schedule a group visit. Please inform the Museum at least 48 hours in advance. Group visits may be guided by a museum staff, by the teacher (the galleries may be used as classroom upon advance notification), or unguided (students may view the exhibition at their own pace). For information about the museum hours and entrance fees, check the official website of the museum at http://vargasmuseum.upd.edu.ph.
Vargas Collection Section 3F South Wing Gallery
Pre-visit: 1. Let the students share their thoughts on collecting. What
About this Section
The aesthetic ideal of the picturesque evokes moments when reality dissolves into image: instances when the boundary between life and representation is blurred. The picturesque emerged in aesthetic theory as a realm caught up between the beautiful and the sublime, and developed into an artistic tradition preoccupied with the search for sceneries amenable to a picture, on one hand, and a penchant for vivid, rustic, wild, natural, and irregular imagery, on the other. This exhibition aims to explore the intersections of memory and the picturesque, of the quest for an ideal, and the changing landscape of taste in a collection gathered by a public official invested in imagining a nation after a devastating war. The picturesque is depicted across a range of media that opens up reflections between the aesthetic and the historical. Archival materials extend the influence of the picturesque into photography, mementos, and mass print. Here, we see the picturesque in snapshots documenting the leisurely travels of the Vargas family, scenic images in magazines, and in advertisement circulated in printed form.
objects do they collect? Why do they collect these items? Do they think their collection represents something personal? Or do they think it is something beyond the personal? If so, what is it? 2. Introduce the students to the concept of the picturesque by differentiating the key terms beautiful, picturesque and sublime. Ask them what comes to mind when they hear the word picturesque. What do they associate with this term? What is a picture? What happens to the word when the suffix “esque” is added? Actual Visit Guide Questions: 1. Look at Mr. Vargas’s varied collection of paintings,
The experience of capturing the wild formed an important strand in the picturesque tradition: nature is tamed, contained within a frame, and viewed as if from a safe distance. Such images were sought after by explorers and the adventurous, sold and displayed as trophies of conquest, and established as the ideal. This concept found its way into the dominant Fernando Amorsolo school of painting in the first half of the twentieth century in which the picturesque was translated into romantic, pastoral and idyllic renderings of the Philippine countryside. In yet another popular subject of the picturesque, ruins of old structures create visually charming ties between landscape and architecture. Rubbles are transformed from images of decay and deterioration to quaint emblems of heritage. But as the excessive production and collecting declined, the idealized taste in the picturesque transformed into kitsch, images heaved out of consumption.
photographs, ashtrays, ceramics and memorabilia. Do you find Mr. Vargas’s collection interesting? How did Mr. Vargas posit the concept of picturesque during the period of 1950s through the objects that he collected? Do you think it was influenced by his travels abroad? 2. Browse the photo reproductions inside the drawers. Describe the images How do of women differ used from for the advertisements. they
photographs and paintings of women from ethnic communities? Based on these various pictures of women, what can you construe as an ideal beauty?
Does it change depending on the medium of production and purpose of distribution? 3. What event took place in the 1940s that greatly changed the course of history? How do the paintings depict the past as a remembrance? Do the ruins and decay in the paintings evoke nostalgia (a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition)? How do the picturesque illustrate the “temporal passage of time”? Cite specific paintings that exemplify this concept. 4. Look at the souvenir items (ash trays, ceramics, canes, chess set). How do these objects capture the notion of the picturesque? Do you think these objects have turned into kitsch (art, objects, or design considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality, but appreciated in an ironic way)? How does mass production and consumption affect the representation of the picturesque? 5. Find works that depict the same subjects but are in different forms. Compare and/or contrast them based on how they demonstrate the idea of the picturesque: a. c. landscape paintings and postcards paintings of ethnic women and photographs in magazines and souvenir (chess set) b. seascape paintings and photographs in magazines d. women in paintings (e.g. Amorsolo) and women in advertisements Suggested Post-visit Activities (Group and Individual work): 1. Divide the class into several groups. Assign each group to propose a campaign for the Department of Tourism’s It’s More Fun in the Philippines based on the idea of the “picturesque”. The groups can use available photographs by the department of Tourism or shoot their own photos for the campaign. 2. Ask the students to create a photo blog and curate their travel photographs online. Write stories or poems related to the places they visit as descriptions for the photos.
Contemporary Art Section 3F North Wing Gallery and Hallway About this Section
Contemporary works in this exhibition aim to explore the intersections of memory and the picturesque. To create the picturesque is to revisit an experience and search from a reservoir of memories. The artists take us to the liminal spaces of remembering and forgetting. Traces of the past are made palpable in the ruins of a home mired in volcano ash, or in a pile of leaves that trail a doctor’s search for alternative healing. Basketball rings are captured in photographs as silent fixtures amid foliage, structures, or cityscapes. They are framed in a square format, in the fashion of Instagram as if to heighten the medium’s instantaneity and the platform’s potential to facilitate personal sharing in the virtual world. A space in the gallery is reconfigured into a room of tattered wallpapers and empty frames to present an elusive attempt to hold on to the vestiges of time and encounter. Boundaries distinguish between earth and the sky or between figure and ground. The sharp focus on the lit jalousie prompts the eye to obscure the possibly horrid incident beyond. A hazy memory blurs the horizon and landscape dissipates as fragments. A whirlwind looms, and images of disaster are recalled in convex mirrors. They reference distant pasts, but the present asserts itself in the beholder’s reflection as future possibilities beckon with signs of renewal. Picturesque is anchored in the context of the Vargas Museum as a compendium of personal and collective memories that has shaped history and historical consciousness. Through a conversation with contemporary works, memory is reconsidered as active, provisional, and subjective. In the museum, memory is concretized and accumulated through time as history, as ideal, or as critical nostalgia. Just as picture frames confine the limits of vision; so do museums as a selective framing device. While confinement and arrangement are selective principles, the act of framing engenders possibilities for present search and imagination.
Actual Visit Guide Questions: 1. Which contemporary work in the 3F Galleries conform the closest to your notions of the Picturesque? Describe the work/s and explain your answer. The works in this section give us a glimpse of how artists have used various strategies of focusing, framing, or blurring to emphasize or obscure parts of a composition. Select one artwork that uses any one of the organizing principles stated earlier. What meanings does it suggest? What is being underscored and what is being hidden from view? What does the act of framing imply? How can we compare this device to the ways museums function? Explain thoroughly. Take time to view the South Wing Gallery. Who is Mr. Vargas? How do we feel his presence and legacy through his collections? View Pam Yan-Santos’s Herbalaryo and Jake Verzosa’s Basketball Landscapes. How were they able to correlate ideas of travel, search/discovery, and the Picturesque in their works? Describe the mediums and techniques they used in order to tell stories. How do artists in this section interpret damage, incident, or disaster? Why are they considered Picturesque? What does this say about the Picturesque as an aesthetic ideal and its influence across artistic styles?
Suggested Post Visit Activities (Group and Individual work): 1. Form a group with four to five members. Discuss your ideas on the Picturesque while having in mind current realities such as urban growth and decay, rapid technological change, natural and man-made disasters, poverty and social inequity; among others. How does the group interpret the contemporary Picturesque? Create a photomontage or collage that responds to the guide question. Explain your work in class. Also share with the class the group’s process of consolidating insights of individual members and creating the work itself. 2. Explore the Last Let-Go by Lyra Garcellano, an installation that addresses the unwieldy aspects of memory. She says this work suggests “a forgotten past and an unremembered present”. See the video and observe the images. Of this, the artist says that it is a “slow, unsteady goodbye to an unfinished future”. Find inspiration from your personal experience, from films you have seen, novels you have read, or TV shows you have watched. Think about a significant instance of letting-go and the memories tied along it. As the vicarious learner or the actual beholder who has experienced letting-go, compose a poetry or prose relating to such memory. Supplement your work with an explanation if necessary. 3. If you were to retell a travel story as Pam Yan-Santos and Jake Verzosa have done, how would you do it? What mediums and techniques would you opt for? Propose an artwork by making a draft or model. Label parts of the work and supply with many details so that the class can have a clear idea of what you plan to do. Present it in class. Share what you intend to communicate through your piece.
Further Reading: Batey, M. “The Picturesque: An Overview”. Garden History 22: 121-132. Kemp, W. and Jhoyce Rheuban. “Images of Decay: Photography in the Picturesque Tradition”. October 54: 102-133. Mitchell, WJT. Landscape and Power. Ed. WJT Michell. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994. Nora, Pierre. 1989. “Between memory and history: les lieux de me ́ moire.” Representations 26: 7–25. *PDF may be accessed through this link: http://www.history.ucsb.edu/faculty/marcuse/classes/201/articles/89NoraLieuxIntroRepresentations.pdf Towsend, D. “The Picturesque”. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 55: 365-376
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