by Andie Chavez and Karl Nieto
The urban art scene is a recent development here in the Philippines. There have been very few outlets for art display aside from public walls where graffiti tags were illegally created. Because of the initiative of some people who are very passionate about urban art, an outlet was created and the urban art scene flourished around it. This outlet first sprung up in the form of the first urban art gallery, Vinyl on Vinyl. Because of this, we’ve decided to make our way to Vinyl on Vinyl and observe the people who move within this scene and find out what kinds of people they are.
Vinyl on Vinyl opened at The Collective (B-Side) on February 2010 and Carlo Reyes, an art director and graphic artist, (along with some partners) set it up. It is an art gallery filled with urban, lowbrow, and new brow art. Paintings line the pure white walls, vinyl and resin toys of incredible value are placed on display, and trinkets of varied sizes with very detailed art are placed here and there.
Vinyl on Vinyl, according to Carlo, was made so that he and his artist friends could have a place that would allow them to place their art on display, help them with getting their names out there and have a place to hang out at.
The exhibits in Vinyl On Vinyl last about two to three weeks and there are exhibits virtually all year round. The shows can involve solo artists or group artists and they may comprise of foreign or local ones. Some of these exhibits have live art or bands, thirty-second sketches. The thirty-second sketches are when people approach the artist ask the artist for a quick sketch; while it is called a thirty-second sketch, the artist does not necessarily take just thirty seconds to do a quick piece. In fact Carlo, after hearing about our affinity for creating and enjoying art, asked us for some thirty-second sketches as well. It was clear that the search for talent as well as the appreciation of others’ taste was a constant process. Afterwards, the show turns into some sort of after party where the attendants and the artists simply hang out together with music, food, and booze. In a sense, Vinyl On Vinyl is like an art gallery where people can hang out and party with artists.
Looking around the place, you see that there are different groups of people huddled together with different mannerisms and ways of communication. The people who entered and exited Vinyl on vinyl were a vast collection of different people. There is no specific profile for those who hang around Vinyl on Vinyl; there were people who were heavily tattooed, people who dressed like Harvard students with their button downs with v-neck sweaters over them, teenagers with short dresses and short shorts, teenagers wearing maxi skirts and wraparounds, older women dating younger men and vise versa, families with children ogling the weirdly dressed people, basically anyone.
The age groups of people who visit Vinyl on Vinyl encompass a large range and it is apparent that they come from different classes. One of the people who frequent the place is Gabbie Tiongson, a Filipino urban artist who has also had several shows at Vinyl on Vinyl and comes from an affluent family. In contrast, Carlo showed us works from people who were basically just from the street. Because of this diversity and strong contrasts, Vinyl on Vinyl, at first glance seems unexplainable. Why does this place, an art gallery, to be exact, seem to have an effect that brings people who have seemingly different backgrounds and beliefs together?
The answer to that is because the urban art scene has become a scene that features and involves a diverse set of people and a huge of display of talents. The people who are part of the art scene have molded it to what it is now; a wide smorgasbord of different mediums coming together and being showcased all over the country. Many of the art scenesters say that that is the reason why places like Cubao X, B-side, and Ronac Art Center exist, so that the people who are interested in urban art can come together and celebrate and commemorate their common interests. These people live according to their art and almost nothing else; their art is their lives and they do not produce creations for money; they create simply to express what they want to express and how they make statements as artists.
Because of these ideals, people known as “flippers” are resented and avoided. Artists sell their work to flippers, who in turn hoard the work, in order to sell it for profit. This is considered a great offense especially because some artists are rather particular about who they share their art with.
As time passed, it was easily perceived that the people who seemed to know each other in Vinyl on Vinyl act very true to themselves; there seems to be no holding back on their part. They act very natural and it was seen that the people were comfortable around each other. Also, the artists and collectors were rarely ever pretentious about their work. They were very easy going about the entirety of their art; they adopted a “just do it” attitude that perpetuated a “no need for a deep reason for acting” way of living. After staying for a while, the other people, due to the atmosphere of openness and the attitudes of the people there, seemed to feel more at ease and seemed to find a place where they thought they belonged.
This feeling that one gets after staying for a while in Vinyl on Vinyl can actually be traced back to how those who conceptualized Vinyl On Vinyl wanted it to be, they wanted the place to be a chill place and they just wanted a venue to express themselves; it was never really meant to be a place where people could show off or act arrogant towards others. It was a place wherein people could just be themselves and it was clear that the creators never lost that vision in the process of marketing and turning Vinyl On Vinyl into a business. It stayed true to what its purpose was in the beginning, and because of that, people from all kinds of places and backgrounds were able to come here and feel like they belonged.
It was true what Carlo had said, Vinyl on Vinyl was not only a place to display art, to party and to hang out; Vinyl on Vinyl was also a community, a place where an amalgamation of all these things could happen. What’s most amazing about Vinyl On Vinyl though is that despite the fact that urban art is sometimes only associated to the so-called indie or hipster groups of people, it can be seen that the creators of Vinyl On Vinyl have managed to turn this stereotype and presented urban art in a way that can be enjoyed and is being enjoyed by everyone.