Reinterpreting Metro Manila’s Chaos

No Chaos No Party attempts to paint Metro Manila and its disorder as a place ripe for artistic diversity and limitless potential.

by Emil Hofileña

No Chaos No Party attempts to paint Metro Manila and its disorder as a place ripe for artistic diversity and limitless potential.

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At first glance, 21st-century Metro Manila hardly comes across as an ideal backdrop for the artist. It’s difficult to find real peace and quiet amidst the noise and claustrophobic spaces, while the businesses and institutions that run the mega-city aren’t always the most accommodating towards the arts. Metro Manila is a city of contradictions and incongruity among its many citizens’ dreams; with the city’s promises of prosperity come guarantees of hardship.

However, instead of cynically accepting these conditions as necessary evils, No Chaos No Party: 28 Artists in Metro Manila would rather look at this urban environment from a different perspective. By interviewing the featured artists and by displaying their works, the book reimagines Metro Manila as a city to be celebrated precisely because of the diversity and endless possibilities that can be found in disorder. No Chaos No Party is wisely self-aware in that it doesn’t attempt to define the current art scene. It instead takes a more personal ethnographic approach that welcomes difference and contradiction.

The book’s project director, Valeria Cavestany — herself an artist — perfectly represents the goals of No Chaos No Party. She is of Spanish and Filipino descent and proudly identifies as both. Her mixed heritage and influences add to the already eclectic culture of the Philippines. She strives not to separate herself from the world where she draws inspiration, but to connect disparate cultures through art. From this context, Metro Manila as a setting begins to make more sense. Only in a place where people of different backgrounds are made to interact can real intercultural bridges be built.

One of the featured artists in the book, Christina Quisimbing Ramilo, talks about how the bustle of Metro Manila heightens the senses and cultivates creativity and resourcefulness in an artist. The work she does with found objects (appropriate for a city full of spare parts) helps her create links back to memories — be it her own, or the collective Filipino memory. “Metro Manila is filled with so many secrets and gems,” she says, “a thousand stories in every genre.”

Another featured artist, MM Yu, also believes in preserving memories and drawing connections among objects, but does this through photography. “My photos constitute an attempt to archive Manila’s ever-changing topography,” she explains. Yu’s works go beyond mere description of what she observes, of course. For example, her photographs of informal settlers’ homes aim to present their makeshift dwellings as testaments to their continuing fight for survival.

Abstract artist Maya Muñoz speaks about how she needs solitude in order to work, and the city — despite its being compact — gives her just that. Meanwhile, Dex Fernandez (also known as street artist Garapata) views the city as an inspiring space with just as many positive elements that still prevail over the negativity. Muñoz and Fernandez help illustrate how Metro Manila can change and serve different functions for different people, but it remains a common space where both artists can practice their art freely.

Project director Cavestany, editor Eva McGovern-Basa, and designers Inksurge take No Chaos No Party a step further by allowing the book to act as a mirror to the randomness and unpredictability of Metro Manila itself. Grid lines and doodles appear on different pages (depending on the style of each artist), while images of their works splash across each spread, reflecting their distinct personalities. In this way, No Chaos No Party becomes an extension of the city as well. It’s a work of art about works of art that only could have been made in a place like Metro Manila.

No Chaos No Party: 28 Artists in Metro Manila is published by Solutions HK, and will be launched on December 7.