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Events: Benilde’s Production Design program presents XSCENA, a scenography exhibition

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — From July 12 to July 17, 2021, the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde’s Production Design program is set to run XSCENA, a scenography exhibition that seeks to capture the interwoven experience of physical confinement vis a vis the infinite space that technology allows.

According to director Tuxqs Rutaquio and co-director Katrina Santiago, the exhibition works with the concepts of comfort and intimacy of home spaces, and the defamiliarization of these spaces given how it has been transformed into a place of restriction and limitation. It problematizes the crisis that these times have created for us who are kept in place, but are also out-of-place—if not deliberately misplaced—displaced as we are from our sense of community and nation, even as we are seeing the nation unfold in scenes on our screens, and now more than ever, know of national crises as lived experience.

XSCENA is an exhibition of possibilities, where the conventions of staged performance are deliberately undone and consciously manipulated to speak to, of, within, and against the predisposition towards the multi-platform, screen-based, online experience. Here, the following artists are featured: Bunny Cadag, Jaylo Conanan, Lawyn Cruz, the Langgam Performance Troupe, and Sari Saysay.


In XSCENA, performances are built and executed in collaboration with the stage as imagined and as it already exists—physically, as found or as chosen point on a given mapping, and figuratively, as this mediated online location.

Iteration: recon/figures invited theater practitioners to tap into the double-edged lockdown experience of both intimacy and entrapment, quiet and crisis, survival and exhaustion, given how the concept of place has been unstable at best. We shelter-in-place as if there is a war, we find comfort as we do entrapment, and we live in the mediated spaces of our screen experiences both as performers and audience. This complex sensing of the present is what allows for a reconfiguration of bodies as mere figures on a screen, as transformed by trauma, trapped and creating space, physically and online.

Finally, Iteration: recon/figures sees these performances as powerful acts of reconnaissance—preliminary observations, artistic annotations, creative scrutiny of the national landscape, that are also proposals for survival. With the myriad of metrics social media marketers have access to, it’s tempting to drown your audience in numbers. While figures aren’t bad per se, you do have to make sure that these are relevant to the role of those receiving the report. Strive to tell the story behind the numbers by including learnings or insights.

The event encourages producers to expand on the idea of the online performance as it has generally been done, and to see it not as an extension of the live performance, but as a new way of imagining performance and scenography given not just technology and its specific character (as opposed to just its applications and uses), but even more so given the present realities beyond technology.

Envisioned as a beginning rather than an end point, the maiden installment of XSCENA hopes to capture this time of anxiety and trauma as it is rooted in the socio-political crisis that was surfaced by the pandemic. We are layering this very personal sense of place (and displacement / entrapment), as well as the very individual / solitary experience with a keen sense of this being election year. The latter as context can function as shadow and foreboding, as it can be about hope and possibility, but it is within this sensing that we problematize our removal from community and nation, if we are to speak of it as movement (be it crowd, mob, or bandwagon).

Benilde’s Production Design program encourages projects that do not just think of technology as a way to broadcast one’s work, but expands upon its function as medium, as site, and even, as character.

  • As medium, they are interested in the possibilities of creating for specific platforms or applications, with a keen awareness of the particular audiences that these nurture. This will also dictate upon the form of the project, where one that seeks to use TikTok, for example, would need to think in terms of “installments,” and the “staging” would then require some form of scheduling across the festival week.
  • As site, they are interested in the possibilities of playing with these apps as a kind of invisible space that allows for very specific ways in which performances might be imagined and built. For example, how a live Zoom performance might interact with a video also being streamed live, or how the platform allows for interaction with the audience in very specific and fixed ways.
  • As character, they are interested in how a platform’s unique algorithm might be used as an integral part of the performance. Facebook and YouTube for example, are notorious for the ways in which its algorithm shifts quickly depending on a few likes and shares, and the amount of time one spends, on given content. This then builds a persona of an individual as a user, and it starts to give them exactly what they want to see and consume. That echo chamber is a character in itself.

XSCENA will run from July 12 to 16, 2021, from 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM. Additionally, a talk back session on July 17, 2021, from 3:00 PM to 4:30 PM, where Dr. Sunita Mukhi and Katrina Stuart Santiago will facilitate.

The event will run online across the program’s Facebook, Instagram, Zoom, and Tiktok accounts.

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