About the Project
Kamustahan is an attempt to translate and extend our artistic interventions and collaborations from the Curating Development project into digital spaces. It serves as a platform for artists whose engagements with Filipino migrant communities were interrupted by the pandemic to check on their current condition (kamustahin), using arts and curation to mediate these conversations.
We started with a simple kamustahan. To ask kamusta? (or formally, kumusta) is to say hello, to send regards, to ask how somebody is doing, and to express one’s concern as a way to reconnect and reestablish social relationships. We shared how the pandemic affected our work as artists, academics, domestic workers, organizers, activists, and migrants' shelter volunteers, and talked about the potential of digital platforms and arts in responding to our new needs and situations. We looked at the intersections of our experiences, visions, and capacities to design art projects that will address the limitations of video calls and digital platforms on which diaspora development and migration policy-making now depend.
Through the platforms provided by Kamustahan, we envision a web architecture that can sustain flows of affect disrupted by the movement restrictions imposed due to the pandemic. In Hongkong, movement restrictions meant that friends could not gather in public spaces to eat, dance, share stories and make art together. In a shelter in Taiwan, migrants live in limbo and choose not to visit their families in the Philippines because of the risks of being denied re-entry to their country of employment. In London, precarious migrant workers became more hesitant to form support networks. With lost opportunities to meet their kababayans in public spaces, churches and community centers, their access to care that come from other migrant workers necessary for their survival in this pandemic have become limited. This isolation and heightened vulnerability brought them feelings of anxiety towards the future.
Using online curation, we set up conversational spaces where we bring together Filipino labor migrants, artists, family members, and activists across the diaspora. Art-making is seen here not just as a way to consolidate and present migrants’ testimonies to the public, but as a process that encourages “creative encounters” wherein difficult conversations surrounding migrants’ experiences during the pandemic can transpire.
Positing digital exchange as art, or the basis for an artistic response, allows us to open up the space of the UK-Philippines Filipino diaspora and make art to make visible and feel-able the cross-currents of obligation, hope, frustration, resilience and care that connect policy and practice.