Presented by The Lovegangsters—a performance platform for investigating performer-audience relations—curators Donna Miranda & Angelo V. Suarez acknowledge the value, impact, & eminence of Filipino artist Roberto Chabet’s work not only across generations but across artistic fields thru the I ♥ Chabet enterprise-project. The almost imperial scope of his praxis that spans both forms & decades progressively indexes how porous boundaries are between disciplines as seemingly disparate as painting & pedagogy—a porousness that testifies to these boundaries’ performability & performativity.
The tribute as a genre in artistic praxis is equally performable, & the self-conscious deployment of the tropes of tribute can also function as a critique of tribute. It raises such questions as “Are filial connexions w/in professional contexts productive?”, “What constitutes filial connexions w/in artistic communities?”, “Can social relations between mentor & mentee outside of & w/in formal institutions be considered viable alternatives to other systems of pedagogy in art?”, “To what extent can the topography of influence be historiographically mapped out?”, “Do such influences have any bearing not only in the production of art but also in its consumption?”, etc.—questions aimed at dismantling, understanding, & ultimately reasserting the mystique that surrounds Chabet’s name, w/c now bears the force of what Lacan has termed ‘the name of the father.’
While I ♥ Chabet is not tied up w/ King Kong Art Projects’ Chabet: 50 Years string of exhibitions, I ♥ Chabet deliberately rides on this caravan of celebration as an unofficial satellite performance carried out by fans & for fans of Roberto Chabet, the fan being a subject-position that doesn’t necessarily participate in official discourse but holds agency precisely thru his/her proximity from the object of admiration or, if taken further, affection. But never love: the typographic icon of the ♥ maintains a critical distance from the object of affection [hence “I (heart) Chabet” & not “I love Chabet”], a distance necessary for the ontology of the fan to hold, for the fan to become visible. W/o this distance, the fan cannot express his/her affection, & it is this affection that constitutes fanhood.
In light of the above, The Lovegangsters’ enterprise-project I ♥ Chabet is meant to be at once a tribute to Chabet & a critique of the reception—& anxiety—of his influence by way of that most ubiquitous of merchandising materials: the statement t-shirt. The shirt, w/c makes a simple declaration—“I ♥ Chabet”—across the chest, reproduces the mostly unexamined pride & affection conjured by invoking the influential artist’s name, be it in conversation, a magazine interview, on the gallery wall or window that carries an exhibition’s title, or on Facebook.
But other than pride, what this shirt also reproduces is the terror of fanhood. When one encounters the statement on another’s chest & reads it, one is not spared the plasticity & variability of the first-person pronoun: S/he who utters “I” takes the subject-position of the speaker, such that whoever reads “I ♥ Chabet” in turn professes—whether advertently or not—his/her affection for Chabet. The shirt, in a sense, can thus also function as a kind of command—a command to admire Chabet, to pay homage to the name of the father—that interpellates both fans & non-fans alike. Is it possible for members of the same artistic community to have different fathers, or are those who look up to other fathers terrorized into admiring the same name?
The shirts come in Extra Small, Small, Medium, & Large. They also come in 2 editions. The 1st is purely an appropriation of the classic black, white, & red design of the I ♥ NY rebus by Milton Glaser & Bobby Zarem—mere assisted readymades. This already existent design is already more or less interesting; we do not wish to add any more. The 2nd utilizes the conceptualist trope of medium-specificity by way of foregrounding negative space, of foregrounding the material underneath. The texts become readable precisely due to their lack—that is, the cloth underneath the blue, yellow, & red prints (colors that Chabet’s oeuvre has exhausted over the years) spells out the statement.
Proceeds from the sale of shirts go into the production of more shirts, allowing I ♥ Chabet to endure for as long as Chabet’s (non-)fans endure.
[W/ special thanks to the generosity of Jay Amante, Carlos Celdran, Reneegrace Villarosa-Divina, Marta Lovina, Sandra Palomar, & Valentine Willie.]