The Blurring of Artist, Objects and Audience into a Harmonious Confluence

Interview with Jess Holly Bates

Louis is a ex-advertising mogul rediscovering his passion for the arts and his deep love of his heritage and cultural identity. His uniquely Filipino aesthetic is a tool for advocating pride among people of colour and respectful cross-cultural engagement. On the 11 November, his PAWA performance/dinner Eat My Rice will take place from 6pm at 19 Tory St, Wellington. Here he speaks about feeling transnational, hopeful work by people of colour and the smells that get him up in the morning.

What will get you out of bed in the morning?

The smell of a hearty breakfast or a strong cup of coffee. A task I truly believe in. Friends. (Early morning booty call? lol)

Do you define yourself as a performance artist? What makes ‘performance art’ to you?

I see myself as a contemporary artist and that to me goes beyond delineation by medium or discipline. I will use whatever skill or media I feel is needed to achieve resolution with my work. That can involve anything from dumpster diving to power tools to kitchen utensils to $3 shop finds and precious stones to my penchant for speaking my mind frankly.
That’s probably what helps me define performance art. To me, it’s not determined by material, space or person. It’s when the experience of art blurs the line between objects, the artist and even the audience in a harmonious confluence. It is not all about what I produce or perform when the audience themselves can be part of the work.


Where do you call home, and why is that place meaningful for you?

At this point in my life, I consider myself to be a growing transnational. I call the Philippines as the home of my heritage and cultural identity. I call Aotearoa as the home of my practice as a contemporary artist. I call the world as the potential home of my audience and therefore a home to my work.


Why was it important to you to be a part of PAWA?

To me, PAWA is an opportunity to establish myself as a practicing artist, a platform to express my politics and advocacies and a chance to contribute to the New Zealand art community.


Who is an artist or group of artists that you especially admire right now?

I am an unabashed fanboy of Shigeyuki Kihara. Her works speak to me as a person of colour intent on expressing a critique of current racial issues. The strength of her conviction to her politics and her opinions are always an encouraging example of how I see myself and my practice developing.


Outside of PAWA – what are you working on right now?

Academically, I am hoping to continue higher education in Fine Arts, hopefully achieving a post-graduate degree.
I am also in the process of developing “The Enduring Brown Spirit”, a body of sculptural work that take inspiration from elements of Philippine tradition and precolonial mythology as a way to demonstrate the resilience of the colonially oppressed.
Then there are little bits and bobs here and there, a sculpture for a charity auction, a cookbook and maybe some little bits of jewellery.


How do you feel about your upcoming performance piece? Why is it important to you?

Confident. It’s a project I’ve been working on for a year and a half now and one that has reached a certain level of resolution that I am satisfied with.
Proud. The performance is my opportunity to bring my Philippine heritage to the limelight, to give other people a way to appreciate who we are as a people through our culture.
Hopeful. Through this performance, other people can stop and listen to what a simple brown man has to say to help make this world a better place.


Do you feel as though New Zealand respects the arts? why?


I come from a country where the great majority would sacrifice art and culture to prioritise food and survival. So comparatively, I would say that New Zealand is a place where more people appreciate and respect art in all its manifestations. Whether the level of respect is enough is another question. Maybe when a practising artist can truly pursue his or her vocation without having to beg for funding, haggle for preposterously underpriced commissions or prostitute their name and commercialise their work can I really say that the respect is absolute.


In Conversation with Jess Holly Bates

Eat My Rice is a performance/dinner taking place from 6pm-8pm on Sat 11 Nov

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