“BLACK maintains its edge because of its standard connotations of the sinister. Black conjures fear of the blind darkness of night and the eternal darkness of death; and in small, carefully flavored doses, such deliberate conjuring is always attractive,” Anne Hollander writes in Seeing Through Clothes in a segment devoted to the history and defense of black clothing.
An exhibit by CITEM (Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions) has been pulled back from oblivion and given new life. While black usually represents death, ITIM: Material Manipulations in Black signifies rebirth during this pandemic. It serves as one of the anchor exhibits of the reimagined Manila Fame. Manila Fame, prior to the pandemic, was the country’s biggest lifestyle fair, made to exhibit the country’s best products borne of design. Due to the pandemic, it has moved online to Fame+ (fameplus.com). In a statement, CITEM Executive Director Pauline Suaco Juan said, “Our lofty ambition, after all, is to build a home, a database if you will, for our Home, Fashion and Lifestyle Community, so that the whole world may find them — and connect with them — online.” The website will display a product catalogue, while also displaying a calendar of events that consist of workshops and seminars.
ITIM, which had been on view at Aphro Living in Karrivin Plaza until Saturday, lives online through the Fame+ website. It had been in limbo due to the pandemic, as it was supposed to have been shown to an international audience last summer. “ITIM: Material Manipulations in Black was supposed to be our presentation in Milan Design Week; the container bearing our products was already at sea, when Italy locked down. Instead, we’ve produced a hybrid presentation,” she said, pertaining to the online and real-life exhibit.
During a webinar held on Oct. 22, ITIM curator and creative director Rita Nazareno (also the creative director behind handwoven bag and home accessories brand Zacarias 1925) explained that the exhibit in Italy had been conceptualized “as an exhibit that will show another side of the design, creative, and manufacturing process of the Filipino, and really be seen.” After all, a preview of the exhibit urged one to look more closely: “Awashed in black, the objects ask that you take pause, that you come closer. If you move too quickly — as the world does — you’ll miss its intricacies, and consequently, the stories embedded in the materials,” a narrator read.
The exhibit features products coated in black by firms such as CSM Philippines, Weave Manila, Industria, Vito Selma, JB Woodcraft, Schema, E. Murio, Nature’s Legacy, Zacarias 1925, and Vic Balanon. It is a mix of the mundane and surreal: doghouses in solihiya (rattan weave) by E. Murio are displayed along with chairs made to look like pancit, a Filipino noodle dish, by Industria. A monolith panel by Zacarias 1925 offers either the sinister or the silent. All are made beautifully, of course, using materials available in the country, and are lent a new dimension of mystery by having been made in black.
During a webinar held on Oct. 22, Ms. Nazareno spoke about bringing things out of the shadows: literally, such as in pieces brought out of warehouses and given new life for the exhibit. “We also designed new pieces that were out of this mindset of things that were discarded,” said Ms. Nazareno, this time pointing out an installation by bone china manufacturer CSM Philippines, featuring bone china sculptures made to appear like crumpled paper — and of course they were black.
“I had always been interested in things that were kept in the shadows,” she said.
ITIM can be viewed on fameplus.com/itim/. — Joseph L. Garcia