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Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994
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Archive for the ‘Art’

World domination is going to be a cinch.

February 22, 2018 By: jessicazafra Category: Art, Projects, World Domination Update No Comments →


The first time I visited Yokohama six months ago to prepare for TPAM (The Performing Arts Meeting in Yokohama), the team had dinner at a traditional okonomiyaki place. We concluded the meal with monja, a pancake eaten directly from the grill with spatulas, and washed down with umeshu (plum wine). So it became a tradition. The day of our technical rehearsal, we had an okonomiyaki lunch: I passed on the “fertilizer made of oily vegetable dregs”.

I wasn’t worried about delivering the lecture because I’ve written several versions of the plan for world domination and can recite it in my sleep. Turns out I should have worried, because I sucked at the run-through and got angrier and angrier at myself. Our dramaturg Max found this amusing. “You should do the show while you are hungry, it has a different energy.”

The beautiful Jason Moss lent us the He-Manash sculpture from the Manananggurlash series. Tina Cuyugan got the “Laboy” Santo Niño from a store beside Quiapo Church. The Santo Niño is supposed to be a wanderer, but he’s dressed exactly like a tita on the way to the parlor to have her hair colored. Pepe Diokno told me all about Bayani’s Kitchen, the Filipino restaurant where we staged the second part of the performance. The venue was so perfect we didn’t have to think about production design.

Here is the team demonstrating the Pinoy technique of pointing at stuff without hands, a.k.a. nguso. Front row, from left: stage manager Kuro, who looks like Atom Araullo; me; and Gian, who hosted the party and is a party. Second row: Raya, our director, who gracefully navigated negotiations with the technical crew; and Barbara, who is doing research on contemporary Japanese theatre and was roped in as interpreter. At the back, not cooperating, is our producer Yoshiro, who grew thinner and thinner as opening night approached.

Yoshiro also directed a show at TPAM Fringe, so on February 14, Raya, Gian and I went to see “Presage-The Great Painting Detective, part III”. Yes, me and baklas—that’s how I always spend Valentine’s Day. Anyway the venue was full and we were standing at the back, where I couldn’t read the subtitles or figure out what was happening. I get antsy in crowds and performance art boggles me. At one point I leaned over and whispered to Raya, “What the fuck is going on?” and then my phone alarm went off in the deathly silent room, and I didn’t even set the blasted alarm. Shame! Shame!

To be continued

Japan is so exquisite it makes me feel like a barbarian

January 13, 2018 By: jessicazafra Category: Art, Places, Projects 4 Comments →


For schedules and details, visit the TPAM 2018 site.

I was in Japan for three days to meet with our team for the World Domination Project, and to inspect the venues for our shows on February 16 and 17. For weeks I had been wracking my brains, unable to complete the script to my satisfaction, but when I landed in Japan everything clicked into place.

The official title for the presentation, courtesy of our director Raya Martin, is Exporting Positive Disposition Since 1417: A Theory of World Domination. Max-Philip Aschenbrenner is our dramaturg, Yoshiro Hatori our producer, and Giancarlo Abrahan and I are writing and performing. (Along with Pepe Diokno that’s three 30-something filmmakers I am working with, and they’re fantastic. So now when people disparage millennials, I feel compelled to defend them.)
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You could be doing nothing and the story will still find you, Act III: The conclusion

November 30, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Art, Places, Traveling No Comments →


A robbery by Caravaggio

The next morning, Jessica goes off to the Louvre. Anouk sets about finding replacement locks, etc. They’re expensive and theoretically should be covered by insurance, but the fine print disagrees.

Then Anouk gets a phone call, garbled, from someone who says, “I am sanitary services.” He sounds scary and raspy. He says he found her bag with her keys, passports, cards, even her cheque made out to Cash, in a public toilet. He says to meet him on the second floor of a parking building.

When Anouk gets to the ground floor of that parking building, it occurs to her that it is dangerous to meet with strangers who claim to have your stolen things. So she approaches a beefy man, explains her predicament, and asks him to accompany her.

The man says she is foolish to meet with strangers who claim to have your stolen things, but he agrees to go with her.

The second floor of the parking building is empty. They walk and walk, and at the very end of the floor there is a truck and two guys in sanitary services uniforms. They have Anouk’s bag. Everything is in it but her cash and her phone. They apologize for having opened the bag to find some identification. Anouk thanks them profusely.

So Anouk cancels some of her notices of stolen documents. However, the embassy says that once the police have reported her passports lost, the passports are cancelled. She could try asking the police to report them found, but the police probably won’t do it.

So Anouk returns to the prefecture, where a more cheerful cop tells her that this is only the second time such a thing has happened. She tells him about how something similar had happened to her friend in Manila. (That time, a bag snatched in Glorietta was dumped in a bin full of bags in Landmark.) They laugh.

In the next cubicle, a morose cop is reading out a report. A woman says her husband is trying to drive her crazy by clomping around the house at night so she can’t sleep. The morose cop overhears Anouk’s story and says, “Good thing you got your bag back.” It was the cop who took her statement the previous day!

Why did Jessica go to the Louvre? The Mona Lisa has nothing on this.

When an artist you admire is revealed to be a creep or worse

November 13, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Art, Current Events, Sex 2 Comments →

2017: the year all remaining illusions took a hit.

I wonder when Filipinos will have their #MeToo moment. Here, where we are told that the right response to sexual harassment is “Thank you” (As in, “Pasalamat ka na na-harass ka, hindi ka naman maganda”). Or “Pay up.” Wonder if (sociological) climate change will bring about a cold day in hell.

Public art as a poke in the eye

October 16, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Art, Places, Traveling No Comments →

Our guide the hairless Serb suggested we go to the Zizkov TV tower because “they were taking down the babies”. I had no idea what he was talking about, but this is how he always spoke (Let’s just say he’s seen things you people wouldn’t believe). The babies turned out to be David Cerny sculptures climbing up the tower, and they were being taken down for renovation.

Later that week we saw Cerny’s sculpture of two men peeing into a basin shaped like the Czech Republic. Apparently the pee stream writes quotes from famous Czechs. If you text a certain number, they will render your message in pee.

Cerny also had an installation featuring giant torsos bent from the waist down. You climbed a ladder and stuck your head where the sun don’t shine to view a video of politicians eating slop to the tune of “We Are The Champions”.

The relatively uncontroversial piece above is of a cat burglar at the modern art museum in Olomouc, across from the cathedral where Mozart had played the pipe organ. Every so often the burglar yells out something rude.

A few of many reasons to go to Art Fair Philippines 2017

February 16, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Art No Comments →


Thanks to Solana Perez for the photos.

Art Fair Philippines opened today, 16 February, and is on until Sunday, 19 February at the 5th, 6th, 7th floors and roof deck of The Link Carpark (across from Landmark) in Ayala Center, Makati. It’s open from 10am to 9pm. Entrance fee: Php250, Php50 for students with valid IDs, and Free to Makati students with valid IDs.

Damnit I’m in Korea for work so I’m going to miss it this year. Do me a favor: Take photos of your favorite artworks (No flash, please) and send them to saffron.safin@gmail.com so I can post them here.