Suffering is no longer interesting, so I’ve begun the process of dying.
I started abstracting my feelings into art, which is why it’s ever the only thing I am interested in doing these days. It feels urgent–a survival mechanism–saving myself in order to save others, understanding all human beings as consequence. I stopped writing when my anger became violent, and its visibility is difficult to display.
Nothing new is happening but self-acceptance. I listen to myself talk about love like a child, I think about my mother who bore me as a barely-child, I live again in every abandoned world and truth. Look at how far this dependence on delusion has carried me: now I can walk to the Pacific any day and give myself to it. All grandeur is still as immense. I’m not detached enough to think that excess has become mundane, and still find myself rational enough where I create most problems in my life by delay, doing the wrong intentionally. The same logic is used to crucify myself for anyone who will bear witness.
I looked at myself so much that I made this body of nothing into something. Before this, others had to believe that there was something in that gesture: that when I looked, there was weight, a mass, a calculation. The intention was to suppose significance, to put one thing in relation to the other thing in the world. All dead, dormant things with taste and color and hue and their own voracity. All this life might be a history of longing. I’ve become the environment, and no one can help but see me.
Kristin Ross writes “For the only way you can belong to your era is without knowing it—which is to say, through belief.”…
February is short but my life is even shorter. The more I read the more I understand invention covers emptiness; my impetus to record is mostly a sign of regression. My only faith is in the tangibility of attending, everything else so compensatory.
I’m making things that are ambitious, and I am growing unkinder. Here is a site where the whole world can be willed, where you play god; here is another where the houses flood the screen, where people suffer and you watch them in the nook of space; here is one where my whole humanity is excised, with no one to run through. The most interesting of the past years is of field recording (and proximity) and performance (and intimacy), getting comfortable with wasting people’s lives and my own, attention to seeing, seeing becomes all surfaces. Of course in the work I put in, I want to make myself divine, or make an experience close to the divine, or represent the sublimation of the divine. Of course, there are already too many stories about 23-year-olds busy making to make themselves.
When people ask what’s on my mind, I talk about simple things: not knowing where I can legally be in a bit over a year, a persistent detachment from America and its all, the desire to author something so heavy that everyone else has to write in it.
There is nothing new in the morning. It is just as beautiful.
last year, began exploring an art practice (on the side of work) after the realization that my stay in the country is only temporary (or more precisely, having that fully settle in). i thought art would be one of the only things that could never be taken away from me. grateful to everyone who has given me a chance to show, publish, perform; for everyone ive met, and learned with. ive been making on the web for as long as i can remember, it is my default, urgent mode of expressing. and for the first time: it felt seen and important: that there is a space for the way i see, thus for me and the world i have come from & believe in..
every time i evaluate why i make, i think about urgency and finding myself: i think about how i just want to be prolific, to live my life in abundance / expression, trusting that meaning follows; that the work writes the stories, the work is not writing the story, etc
this year i got to make a lot of work on the philippines, love, labor, memory, preservation that im happy to have invested in. here’s a selection of them with some additional commentary:
( websites/games )
engine.lol, a tiny gamemakerthat is a game in itself..
released the biggest update since the first release of engine.lol.. my undergrad thesis (released april 2022) is now out on itch.io! my slow labor of love and constant movement towards tooling, constraint, and creativity..
i even started on a wip mobile-friendly txt-only version of engine.lol with an infinite canvas. 🙂 lots of bugfixes to come, as well as more asset packs, and another big update to come! (see future release notes: engine will develop feelings.) excited to start nurturing this on itch.io..
as with my classic alone on the holidays routine of ‘break down and write a traumatic, verbose interactive fiction piece*’, i ended the year with ‘a bedroom in las piñas’ – an ‘escapist room’ game made over a weekend (perhaps an escape room if you could escape from memories and ideologies with actions & verbs)
around this time of year i often think “what life choices led me here?” “would i have been happier with a simpler life in the philippines?” “would my self not have collapsed if i wasn’t torn from the only nation that has ever loved me, molded me, made me?” “what does it mean when every day, i die away from the land that raised me?” “why am i not home?” etcetcetc. this recollection (very much in vein to visita) is a cathartic reconciliation with some early memories in the guise of an escape room, after jake elliott’s wonderful generational piece a house in california (i played it once in middle school in the early 2010s and it has never left my mind) and olia lialina’s early work
*so many of my pieces this year were incredibly text-heavy and dense.. the blog drought went to writing within the code editor (not just code, but paragraphs and paragraphs of text enjambed into arrays). i probably hide behind the form of the site to mask my poor writing skills, but i hope it still means something to read/see
speaking of manic writing in the browser.. in january 2023, this piece came out to me from a violently gentle dream: i woke up every day crying after dreams about grocery stores, so desperately wanting to be touched, to regain sensitivity for the enormity of life around me. lifted halftone pictures, darting sequences, texts with infinite variants, windows and moments closing and opening endlessly.. i’ve read this piece live more than a handful of times now (which can take as long as up to 2 hours), and i still always find new ways to say it, arrange it, mold a landscape around me.
a bedroom in las pinas and we are only moving towards each other are both about ~15k words in length, except this piece is more manipulable, astray, in need of mending. i have repurposed and loved many lines in it, so hope you give it a read sometime. (make sure you’re ready to close everything.)
i rewrote and retitled this manifesto on my practice at a coffee shop in new haven earlier this year and first shared it at rosa mcelheny’s software for people class at yale; and later got to present it at panke.gallery in berlin. i want to keep it as a living and active ecosystem of ideas around a living, ecologied web that grows with me..
It is in a website’s being of a world that it turns into the grandest procession for all those present in it: a ritual gathering, encounter, and event that can occur for even a parade of one or none.
In a decrepit computer cafe, the last day of a MMORPG plays out before its server shuts down forever. Across three windows & scales of space, you’re left to ask: where does the game end? where does the self begin? As a server death comes, players navigate a game, chat, and a shop across browser windows—different dimensions of embodiment, scale, and time in dialogue with each other. Time runs out in your computer shop session, ads disrupt, calls leak, the spam of the real-world against the chaos of the room. The discontinuities of the game and real worlds bring us to search for boundaries that might not exist, where both the avatar and the self are constantly fragmented, where we do not know where our technology ends and where we begin.
as part of runway journal’s MMORPG issue, I made GAME CHAT SHOP: loops, lag, glitches, unveiled over three browser windows. i was thinking a lot about server deaths (of course), the loss of community and space that i felt in early internet cafes, and the people along the way.
there’s still a handful to do for the game, but i like it as both an active and atmospheric piece, and it was quite a technical exercise figuring out how to make these windows talk to each other ..
Have you ever violated, or engaged in a conspiracy to violate, any law relating to controlled substances?Have you ever committed or conspired to commit a human trafficking offense in the United States or outside the United States? Do you seek to engage in espionage, sabotage, export control violations, or any other illegal activity while in the United States? Have you ever ordered, incited, committed, assisted, or otherwise participated in genocide?
for the html review’s spring 2023 issue.. i anticipated and experienced a year crying over the bureaucracy, repetition, and dehumanization experienced through immigration and visa forms. the questions above aren’t part of the piece, but are part of the DS-160 nonimmigrant visa questionnaire!
the piece is also a contemplation on identity, its loss and abstraction through labeling checking filling writing categorizing defining etc. i like to think of it as a bit of a puzzle, and have often been adapting it for performances. working with barebones ascii and default form inputs (and bending them) has also been very exciting to me, continuing with a theme of exposing defaults and structures.
bisita, a recollection of the seven churches visitation
a remaster of a 2021 piece made around holy week, of course. in the only intensely Catholic nation in Asia — the devotion and routine that surrounded the Holy Week practice of the Seven Churches Visitation leaves lasting imprints on one’s experience of repetition, tradition, ritual, religion. here’s a post on the original work.
i abandoned the ardent atheist act in high school and started recognizing how i’d probably name what i have inside of me as devotion, one passionate, fiery, seeking martyrdom—i just don’t know what the institution for it is, anymore.
this is definitely one of my more conceptual pieces this year: something i tended at the very beginning of 2023, wrote to the bantayog ng mga bayani about, and executed in time for the martial law anniversary.
the loss of national memory and collective consciousness has been plaguing the country, leading to reelection of the bloody dictator’s son. i don’t pose this site as a true monument, but more of an artifact that speaks to the process of memory itself, its loss, decay—that consciousness and collectivity is of course, not a linear accumulation, but an involved, connective thread.
another ambitious, durational piece that takes those alchemical combination games (or like, doodle god/devil) into the much overlooked space of the browser address bar. a few hundred handcoded objects, dark stories/descriptions, a tale underneath of apocalypse and invention..
i don’t think this is *quite* cohesive yet – it might take at least a thousand pages to get there. but the fun in words/definitions/surprises/finding has been charming
one of the last i made for the year: a series of youtube collages for syntax, which i also had the pleasure of doing design + dev for! my favorite is this fish one. from 42 embeds to 100, they all made my computer crash and required the most powerful imacs in the gallery to display!!
i like thinking of lag, glitch, and delays as constant variables in any web-based work: it’s why most of my work is textual and minimalist in design, with a fraction testing the limits of the computer. i love the idea of work that is designed to be malleable: that if i were to repurpose this for viewing in different spaces, i’d have to rearrange the strokes of these ‘landscapes’ (which were already inherently very tediously/meticulously arranged, playing with filters, scale, rotation). i presented it with galleryspeak, talking about how the dimensions are variable (duh!), just barely retrofitting barebones youtube embeds to collapse the videos from their former containers (and depending on speed/machine, it’s not so obvious that they’re youtube embeds), using the count of embeds to emphasize the heft of the work. i love the fact that the landscape is lifelike: dying as the videos get taken down, erroring out..
A language of embrace is unraveled in touch, distance, and movement. Exploring the poetics of metadata, alt text, and ambient ways of reading, ‘Can two things ever really touch or can we only fall apart?’ is a net art piece designed for the screen, reader, and screen reader.
Continuous, at times erratic, and polite languages reveal vignettes contained over objects. Interaction mediated only through hovers and clicks, verbs & interactions bring users across objects, people, places — unfolding into an expanding world made possible only by witnessing. Here, we spit, love, chew, tick, consider, feel, express, regret, fear, maim, inhale, scrape, concentrate, cherish, sprawl, rest, surrender, ease, fondle, look, honor, liberate, split, connect, twinkle, trace, cry, cherish, long, want, hope, dream, bloom, wait, pause, hold, feel, feel, feel, feel, feel, hover, click, spit, emerge… as we become everything.
a piece i made for website as subject with yehwan song at panke.gallery, another word / verb overload to tell of dark stories and grim memories on objects, forcing alternate modes of reading. also deceptive word count. still figuring out presentation, but happy w it – its nonstop, continuous, endlessly explaining self
i fell in love with performance, mending my interest in field recording + ambience & atmospherics + 23-year-old synth bullshit with websites, desktops, and networks thanks to the reading i did of concrete form at the html review last spring.. it has been so amazing to do site-specific, unique ambient performances with work, adapt pieces, and play in berlin, san francisco, manila (!! <3), and online. i can’t wait to actually get good at this, and do it forever more.
most of my experiments have been in-person and improvisational, but here’s a handful that have been recorded that i’d love to share with you
one of my greatest gifts of this year was when kristoffer gave me the perfect, purposed prompt of ‘naming’ and managed miracles so i could travel to copenhagen for naive yearly, where i gave a painfully awkward yet sincere talk about the internet, territory, selfhood, conquest, placemaking. let it be known that if your phone makes the microphone crackle for the first ten minutes of the talk and you’re sleep-deprived and out of your mind and have handcoded a website over and over a last minute flight with barely no wifi because you realized you can’t fly through london because you are filipino——danish media WILL open their article with it, and you will never charm the media again
this january, ill be publishing a more holistic essay/site version of this realm of thinking.. pls stay tuned!
spoke on my practice around love, websites, and folk archival (and all of webmaking as a love language challenging the hostile web today) with elan kiderman ullendorff for their wonderful ‘escape the algorithm’ newsletter (fka deep sea diving) — and later got to visit their class at penn!
Sebastian Quack talks with Chia Amisola, creator of We Are Only Moving Towards Each Other, about reshaping the internet and creating caring spaces.
being remote for now play this in london, i was so generously given the space to talk a bit about my game as it was played in front of me for the first time.. very loopy (so nervous!!) thoughts on love, care, embodiment, and the internet as a space that can be shaped/reshaped
this post didn’t exclude a breadth of collaborations, trips, performances, lectures etc etc that i was so grateful to go on. i live next to the ocean in san francisco and moved in with the person i love. i cannot believe i am here..
On September 23, 1972, the dictator Ferdinand Marcos placed the Philippines under martial law.
An expansive digital monument stretches before you, laying out 11,103 candles. Once a day, you are invited to light one and wait a moment, each candle representing a name from the HRVCB’s (inexhaustive) Roll of Victims. When lit, a name (at times, a life lost)–is revealed & remember, the candle burning on to represent a life taken.
‘The Monument’ is an internet art piece that speaks to memorials, mourning, and memory as experienced by machines and technologies. Dithered candles flood the screen under a fog as you scroll nearly infinitely, accompanied by a log of remembered names, soundtracked by an ethereal composition with loose whispers and the sounds of matches struck in the background. Utilizing the inherent nature of the browser and internet to create a networked experience for gathering, memorializing, and also forgetting—it exists to mirror the struggle of collective memory as experienced in the past 51 years since the imposition of martial law, more than to be a lasting marker or true spatial memory. Here, the website poses a monument as an infrastructural question: how do we gather, maintain, and remember, together?
There are two ways to experience the monument, ‘one’ and ‘whole’ – that alter how ‘memories’ are shared: collectively or locally.
In the ‘whole’ version of the monument, memories are communally shared… When others light a candle, you’ll hear their match and remember a name, too. A collective memory reaches farther. ⤥ ang-bantayog.com/buo
As one alone, it would take approximately 30 years for each candle to be lit: the magnitude of loss paced with the decay of human & machine memory. As memory is saved within the browser localStorage, it is erased when the viewer’s (browser) history is cleared. ⤥ ang-bantayog.com/isa
Of memory and memorialization
Intentionally programmed & designed to keep ‘defaults’ in mind, the monument operates within the environmental constraints of its technologies. For instance, ‘localStorage’ is used to store the ‘names remembered’, a form of data storage without expiration that is usually only erased when the user’s (browser) history itself is cleared. The website itself is accessible by a temporary domain (e.g. an equivalent to acquiring ‘property’ on the web, in exchange for a human-readable address in the URL). The enormity of victims and loss also make it nearly impossible for most machines to scroll past a few hundred candles, with most browser windows often shutting down. These mechanics are intentionally used as metaphors (often intimately analogous to their real-world equivalents), the limitations of machines not too different from those of man. While the common assumption is that technologies to be faultless and everlasting, in truth, they are often manufactured to be just as scarce, our hardware maybe just as fragile as our bodies.
Of digital space and revisionism
Beyond the organic decay of memory, we live in an era of intensified revisionism and political repression: a digital environment that contributed to the election of the ousted dictator’s son, Bongbong Marcos, who now sits as the 17th president of the Philippines. The internet coexists as a place of liberation & of learning, and simultaneously one of immense loss & repression. As technologies are reflections of human will & of power, they have the potential to exacerbate real life inequities just as they do the power to redistribute agency and knowledge.
The technologies used to program the monument represent the decay of memory, the burden of externalized knowledge wrought by the new digital era, the active potential of technologies to rewrite history situated within a post-colonial internet with militant origins. Most often, these manifest as questions of environments: of visibility, optics, and both tangible and social infrastructures that dictate how we commune, and remember. In the website as an exercise of visibility, we are moved to consider who and what we pay attention to (the monument asks every visitor to wait for at least a minute before participating in a lighting), how often we return (such as the candle lighting being limited to once a day), and whose lives are afforded the privilege of remembering.
The monument is an imperfect site. By nature, it can never be a true ‘memorial’. Rather than a more lasting monument to memory, it will exist as another memory itself. It is perhaps more symbolic of the struggle of memory. It is transient, temporary, and tethered to the technologies it’s built upon—which falter more than man. What does it mean, to mourn and become in digital space? In between waking, remembering, and action, can we ‘never forget’ online? Perhaps the only way to combat the rate of decay is to collectively gather, and remember—as when the infrastructure that holds our memories fail, human hands might rebuild then.
Russell Ku of Rappler wrote an article about Ang Bantayog, but I also wanted to share the full question-and-answer I was sent over and wrote out here.
1. What was the process in making the “Ang Bantayog” website? How long did it take you to put this website together from conceptualization to publication?
I’ve long been making browser-based art, thinking about websites as a worlding exercise in investigating the environmental and infrastructural. As I’ve been physically distanced from the Philippines since coming to the US for college, I have been interested in treating websites as space, literally as sites, as a form of gathering & social practice.
‘Ang Bantayog’ was conceptualized and developed in April 2023 in response to my growing interest in digital preservation and memory, and the current administration & political landscape that arose for lack of that. I developed an early version with candles flooding the screen in a seemingly infinite vertical scroll over two days, inspired by the layout of other martial law activations I’ve seen, from stone markers to activated street memorials. I reached out to Bantayog ng mga Bayani’s May Rodriguez & Karl Ramirez in May via email to share the draft & concept behind the piece to get their thoughts, and then picked up the site again around September 19th to develop both forms of ‘memory’ to speak to the shared labor of memory and the power of the collective against the degradation that any one individual might phase. I launched it soon after, purchasing the domain on the 20th.
2. What were the challenges in making the website, especially given that you’re commemorating all 11,103 victims of human rights violations of Martial Law in the website?
The challenge was in understanding that this is not a true commemoration, that it would ever be an equivalent to a monument. A website positing itself as a memorial might be doomed; dwelling on the web itself means continuously losing access to one’s own past. I’m creating something that by nature is designed for its own disappearance, as a memorial to those who have disappeared.
My practice’s nature is about visibility and infrastructure, operating in full awareness that the sites I make, like those of early net art pioneers or community archivists (such as Mon Ramirez’ Arkibong Bayan), is always at this risk. I am most interested in commemoration as catalysts and interventions, and so this is an exercise of collective memory more than the impossible act of replicating memory itself. Preservation, of immaterial sites and of memory, is a [communal] act. Embracing the ephemeral, transient, and instability of the internet has made this piece a reflection of the past 51 decades of struggle to fight, remember, and convene—a continuation of the people’s struggle beyond just a passive recognition of an atrocity, as if long gone. It is a closer reflection to what people have struggled for before.
3. Why did you decide to focus on the 11,103 figure of state-recognized human right victims for the project, especially when Amnesty International notes there were 3,240 known extrajudicial killings, 34,000 documented tortures, 70,000 imprisonments, and 77 recorded disappearances?
The magnitude of terror and loss far exceeds the 11,103 names drawn from the HRVCB’s Roll of Victims. I scraped and drew from this list as it was important for me to highlight names on the website, akin to how names are etched on physical memorials, all while recognizing that it is inexhaustive. Even if these names represent just a fraction of an incalculable loss, I was struck by how few have record of life online, beyond their name on the roll on this one government website’s table. In a way, further circulation of their names in digital space–which is just as territorial and pervasive as real space–is one means of resisting their erasure. There’s an immense politic to who is remembered: who is visible, who receives the infrastructure for recognition–and who answers for this is in control of history, or the perception of it.
4. What were the feelings you had when developing this website? What went through your mind as you went on with the project?
I make to connect: myself to the question of memory, to the struggle at home, to my own contentious relationship with my technologies.
After the site’s launch, I keep a tab of the ‘whole’ version open at all times and hear the sound of a striking match every few minutes; I am glad to feel interdependent in the work of memory, and of recognition of our environments that work to repress it.
Many times I scroll to a lit candle and try to look into the name presented, finding no record of their life online but a listing on the HRVCB’s website—which is the most heartsinking part. I hope for other records can further take on to continue recognizing these names for their courage, sacrifice, and people they were: instead of just the harm done to them ascribed by a seemingly arbitrary point system.
5. You mentioned in your post that “[you are] thinking about the internet coexisting as a place of liberation & of learning, and also of immense loss & repression,” especially it’s also online disinformation that led to the election of the late dictator’s son to Malacañang, what do you think is the role of the internet in the present in helping people remember and never forget about Martial Law atrocities?
The internet was the source of my political awakening, as with many of my peers and mentors. It is also where I am fearful of seeing those around me, even my loved ones, succumb to extremism and hatred. As one of the most potent reflections of human behaviors & will, the internet accelerates how we learn, but might also exacerbate divides.
Infrastructurally and socially, the Filipino internet is not distributed or designed in a way that allows everyone to truly ‘learn’ or ‘remember’. Algorithmic feeds constrain access to a diversity of information & tend to extremism and the manipulation of bad actors; many Filipinos face inequities in accessing adequate hardware & connectivity, and corporate ‘free internet’ programs are distributed with nebulous intentions; local narratives & community histories (such as that of many martial law survivors) often go under/undocumented on the internet, or if they are, might be suppressed and lack the avenues for apt distribution. This is what I think about in terms of ‘loss and repression’.
I view the internet most as a tool and medium, thinking about it in its simplest roots for networking. It has potential as an archive, a place of discussion that transcends many (but not all) material limitations—but only when the internet becomes a more agentic place, one where its consumers are better equalized in distribution, authorship, in making it.
6. What do you think can Filipinos and other institutions can do to retain or instill collective memory of Martial Law?
Continuing to preserve physical & digital artifacts, to steward folk & local practices of networking, memory, and sharing, and to broaden often myopic viewpoints of who gets to be ‘remembered’, ‘preserved’ is crucial… Memory is a collective & lifelong practice. To remember beyond physical (or digital) monuments, to remember even when there might be no record but the voice, to provide individuals alike the tools and funding necessary to understand and deconstruct the past, and to recognize that no one institution has authority over narrative… ultimately, it is in how each of us remember.
The record is a tool for both oppression and liberation, and no database or flattened table of names is in itself a whole story: these are all merely structures to which we then form narratives that we tell each other to understand the past.
9. I know that you are active in your “Philippine Internet Archive” initiative to combat revisionism and disinformation online, how is your project going? What are the challenges in taking on such a big step to archive the history of the Philippine internet and what are your plans for the future? Why did you decide to take on such projects in the first place?
The ‘Philippine Internet Archive’ is a bit of a misnomer just like ‘Ang Bantayog’ is.More than a traditional archive or collection, I’m working on it as a history of Filipino networking that decenters the internet’s militant, colonialist roots and instead looks equally at those who make its access possible: Pisowifi vendors, infrastructural maintainers, tech laborers, call center workers, and alternative media publications. I’ve been conducting interviews over the past 6 months (often at 5AM my time!), but majority of our efforts are centered on Kakakompyuter Mo Yan!, a digital exhibition commissioning 20+ artists for new media works, software, and performances that explore technology’s intersections.
Living and ‘liberating’ myself online for as long as I could remember (I made my first website when I was 7 years old), I realized that I’ve been using websites as an exercise to preserve myself and all that I loved. To situate myself on the internet, to make myself seen, to embrace the labor of maintenance, hosting & service, alongside all the transgressions of presentation and performativity have been my central questions. I’d like to dedicate my whole life to my nation, and this question is even further unresolved when you consider the internet’s relation with territorialization and erasure (I gave a talk in Copenhagen last month on domain names, identity, & colonialism), e.g. in the dissolution of democracies or even in national memories of the former Yugoslavia.
10. Given the latest technological developments at the moment such as AI, how do you think technology can still help in helping people remember things that we’d not feel comfortable revisiting or to hold people to account, especially as I earlier mentioned that it has also led to the spread of disinformation?
Technology can help us be more agentic and discerning of our time and attention if wielded properly. Developments that blindlessly favor optimization & the performant (such as algorithmic feeds, user-optimized content, some AI use cases) offload the work of scrutiny, discovery, and discernment to oft corporate interests that do not work in our favor.
I’m more interested in traditionally antiquated technologies that do not seek to rewrite human behavior in the guise of augmenting it.
Some people see technology as extensions of their body or mind. I suppose it is a question of whether it is the human that shapes their technologies, or the technology that is shaping the human—the latter of which always includes the question of the human in power behind that shaping.