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At the recently concluded Manila Transitio 1945, it’s almost as if artist Derek Tumala gave a subdued lesson on being present.

He projected a video art project on the ancient walls of Baluarte de San Diego in Intramuros, getting attendees to really look at the walls and be made aware of the history they carry. He said he wanted to show “what these ruins were like before. The video looks like light, so it’s like giving light to these ruins.”

According to the 31-year-old artist, he’d rather share his experiences with his audience than have them think and try to understand whatever messages might be inscribed in his works. “When you look at art, there is always a message but I think what I want to do is share the experience that I have, what I’m thinking at the moment. I want people to feel the moment.”

We spoke to Tumala about his work, TodayxFuture in Cubao, and shopping in Binondo.

Photos: Rennell Salumbre

Hi Derek! Can you tell us more about your work?
They call what I do “new media art.” Before, I was doing a lot of video but now I’m transitioning to light. Light Art.

How do you do it?
I use different materials now. I source materials that react to light—like what I did at the last art fair. Have you seen it?

Yeah, the Ayala Center Walkway felt like we were in a club.
I love going to clubs. I think that’s the most immediate inspiration about it—the experience of light and sound.

Any particular club that always inspire you?
Future in Cubao, Time on Makati Avenue, XX and Black Market on Pasong Tamo before. Those are my friends’ as well so we always go there.

Do you have any particular message when you make these installations?
I want it more experiential. I want people to feel the moment. It’s more like a performance; it’s not just an object but also how the materials behave and how people perceive it.

When you look at art, there is always a message but I think, what I want to do is share the experience that I have. What I’m thinking at the moment. It’s also a meditation on how we work with things.

So here at Transitio…?
I’m going to map some areas, the ruins. Parang ano lang siya, it’s actually a video but it looks like light. It’s like giving light to what these ruins are like before, the history of it. I was here in Transitio two, three years ago and I also mapped into some objects. People get curious about it. How can you actually trace it? But see, it’s also how you see objects. How it reacts to light.

How difficult/easy is it to prepare for these light installations?
There are weeks of preparation, preparing the content and what we’re going to show. But it’s site-specific so it’s kind of guerilla.

But for the recent Art Fair, that’s actually continuous work. Wala siyang time frame. It’s all very fluid. I don’t really have a timeline. I go look for materials, work on them kahit walang exhibit or show.

Wow, the discipline!
I work every day, even if it means going to Binondo to look for some hardware, look for lights, look for some industrial thing.

Derek, are you telling us you don’t get lazy?
Hindi, ha ha ha! I love to look for things and resources. You can’t really find those on the Internet. For instance what I used sa Art Fair, it’s called necrotic film. It’s industrial material and I looked for that here for alike a month. No one uses it here so it’s like stuck in some random warehouse in Makati. It was available but I had to pre-order it.

And how about creativity blocks?
I think, what’s wrong with my process is it takes too long. Like kunwari, I’m working on a show, minsan it takes a year for me to figure out what I want to try and convey.

But when I’m focused, that’s when creative blocks happen to me; when I analyze too much. But the work nga is experiential, so it has to feel natural. That’s how I want it. Pag mukha siyang, you know when I’m trying to make an object or something, duon siya [inspiration] nawawala.

So spontaneity is important in your work.
Yes, kasi it’s the moments na hinahanap ko rather than the stories.

There’s almost like an underlying lesson in stillness and being present in your work. Is this the message that you’re trying to convey?
I have this space na more of ethereal, more minimal, how to make it simple. Keep it simple. Just to focus on one thing, or one feeling and show it. So it’s like minimizing your visual presence but still delivering the experience or the message.

How are your works best experienced?
Well it’s light so it requires a lot of concentration. It’s like performance. Controlled environment yung pinaka-requirement. Kasi it’s lights so it’s always about how you control the environment.

That’s actually the frustrating part, you trying to control everything when you can’t. So something like this—I have to wait for it to get dark, they added more lights so mamaya ko pa talaga makikita how the projection will be. I have to look for a spot where I can project it that can add another layer.

So is it best for people to come in drunk or stoned?
Haha, not really. Sober naman puwede. I’m sober when I work. I should be sober when I do the work.

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