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Resurrection

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AN artwork by Tesa Celdran at the Mercatino Popup Series — FACEBOOK/TESA CELDRAN

IT HAS been just over a year since the death of performance and visual artist, tour guide, and cultural activist Carlos Celdran. The efforts of his widow, Tesa Celdran, will at least let a part of him live on: his art.

The Living Room, a former art space established by the couple in 1999, will be resurrected by Ms. Celdran in an online platform by the beginning of 2021. Currently, Ms. Celdran is promoting the website and selling some artworks at the Mercatino Popup Series, held at the La Collina restaurant in Poblacion, Makati every weekend until Dec. 6.

The website will contain his artwork, then hers, and the work of several artists with whom they collaborated over the years. “Carlos was such a prolific artist,” she told BusinessWorld. “When he passed, I wanted to put up a little bit of an office so I can start working on his legacy. He has so much work; his body of work is so vast.

“That’s why I think an archive is important. You really have to tell the backstory, then the current story, and then where you’re going to go,” she said, speaking not just about their direction; but also of the other artists who have had collaborations with the couple.

Discussions about Mr. Celdran’s work being contained in the Museong Pambata (where Ms. Celdran serves as part of the Exhibitions Committee) had been frozen by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

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It won’t be possible to set up the Living Room as it had been before, as Ms. Celdran has closed the apartment that had served as the actual living room (“It was like a salon”) and has moved to another building. The Living Room was originally set up at Carmen Apartments along Roxas Blvd., Manila before moving to the North Syquia Apartments nearby. As Mr. Celdran wrote  three years ago, The Living Room “was one of the first alternative art spaces in Manila along with the likes of Twisted Sun, Surrounded by Water, and Big Sky Mind.”

The experience of viewing a work online as opposed to real life is a challenge to Ms. Celdran. “That’s my biggest quandary as of the moment. For those who have been to the Living Room, you will see what you’ve seen before. There is more of a going back to what you felt, saw… what you experienced,” she said.

Describing the feel of what the Living Room would be like, she said, “It’s really like a small living room gallery, but virtual. Everything you see there really reflects reality; that’s my big thing.” It would be like “looking back to what you’ve done before and see that familiarity, yet anticipating what’s going to be now or what’s in terms of expression.”

Aside from the artworks they had created together, Ms. Celdran is also putting up some of the late Mr. Celdran’s diaries. She described them as being filled with collages and drawings, and, of course, his own writing. “His diaries are also wonderful works,” she said.

It’s strange to lose someone who was both a public figure and someone who was just yours. “I have to tell his story. His art legacy has to be shown,” she said.

She adds that since there will be other names present in the website, “It won’t be just about him. It will be part of our work together.”

“If you think about it now, now he’s part of my work.” — Joseph L. Garcia

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