Romancing Bliss

Any form of coming home, any task that engages with what’s left behind, can only be a narrative of nostalgia. Which is not so much about what’s in the past, as it is an acknowledgement of what’s been erased by the present. For the University of the Philippines Bliss, a housing project now fallen into neglect and forgetting, this present can only be unstable and untenable, where reminiscence is intricately tied to the space’s impending dissolution, which is also about its history as community built on an imagining of the true, good, and beautiful and everything that represents. Layered with communal living changed by the premium put on the private and personal, UP Bliss as such has become space for multifarious silences, ones that make for one symbolic vestige of a past community.

Bliss Market: Exchange in Time | Space of Transience springs from and against this status quo, choosing to intervene upon it towards bringing the community not back to the way it was, but to a remembering of how it can (still) be. Inspired by the original Bliss Mart, a grocery in the middle of UP Bliss where the community converged and engaged in various forms of exchange, Bliss Market is also necessarily a tribute to this symbol now only existing as ruins.

Using art as vehicle for reimagining communal activity and living for current times, Bliss Market brings a varied set of artists into UP Bliss to engage with the community, listen to stories about its past, mingle with its quiet, converse with its noise. Art intervention in this sense is not just about site-specificity premised on choosing where to put works, but about coming into creativity given a particular context and history of community. Artist talks and workshops, performances and film showings will engage with UP Bliss by letting it speak about, react to, create from what happens beyond the community’s fences, in the process forcing its members to step out of the private and individual, towards listening to each other and finding familiarity – if not commonality – in these conversations.

As such, Bliss Market’s success and failure is not only immeasurable, it is also irrelevant. Here, in a space that lives off transience, exchange through art can also only be as fleeting. Yet it is also here that an art project such as this can but thrive, where the point is to move from the silences that surround what is lost and what will be lost as a matter of history, towards allowing for a reintroduction, a revival, of UP Bliss. Here, the community will finally speak again, loud and clear, as it regains vibrancy through creativity, as it shares its truths in the mere act of engagement.

Here is nostalgia turned into art, art intervention premised on engagement, engagement grounded in history and context. The one thing that holds water in a time and space of transience, is exchange. Welcome to Bliss Market.

— Katrina Stuart Santiago, May 2012