HIDDEN in the busy streets of the Makati business district is a new and revolutionary project promoting independent and alternative art from six different nations.

In the Locsin Building on Ayala Avenue, the walls of the Lumiere restaurant, with the serene ambience of a gallery, cradles 600 Images/60 Artists/6 Curators/6 Cities: Bangkok/Berlin/London/Los Angeles/Manila/Saigon, the largest collection of artistic works to be gathered through cyberspace.

Master-minded by curators Varsha Nair of Thailand, Karla Sachse of Germany, Sara Haq of England, Filipina Maryrose Cobarrubias Mendoza in Los Angeles, Sue Hajdu of Vietnam, and Judy Freya Sibayan of the Philippines, the ingenious collection was on display at the Lumiere from June 6 to July 7.

Communicating only through the web, each curator chose 10 photographers to shoot 10 photographs of city images in monochrome. Since the artists were not bound by a single motif, the result is a mesh of lifelike images, shot in either analog or digital format, featuring a wide array of themes from panoramic shots of familiar places to images of people in their everyday lives.

Sibayan met Nair in Bangkok in 1998 at a gallery. Sasche and Hadju, on are personal friends of Nair. Sibayan chanced upon Haq in an exhibition in London, and Mendoza at the Baguio Arts Guild website.

According to Sibayan, the project was the curators’ response to the boom of blockbuster exhibitions such as biennales (two-year exhibits) and traveling exhibitions which are usually shown in cities that are in urgent need of economic revival. She said that only leading institutions have the power to produce such events and expositions. And because of the massive costs and effort needed to produce such exhibits, where works are shown at different cities around the world, the curators have decided to challenge this trend with 600 Images, a first of its kind. Each collection would also be printed at the photographers’ respective countries.

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The collection fulfilled Sibayan’s wish to work with his friends without leaving Manila.

The curators showed alternative artists could collaborate at minimal costs through the transmission of images via the internet.

Although the pictures contain different themes, styles, and subjects, the collection was inspired by the single sentiment of artistic freedom. University of Southern California graduate John O’Brien provided a bird’s eye view of Los Angeles through satellite-like shots of its neighborhoods. Photographer Saki Satomi also had the same thing in mind as her images were seem to have been taken by an airport security camera in London.

Meanwhile the creative imagination of Berlin’s Thomas Ness formed letters out of white tables shot in different locations to spell out a word. Filipino video artist Poklong Anading’s images, on the other hand, showed a man taking a picture back at him at the same time, creating a glare through the flash that emphasized impressive synchronization.

Because of the vast number of images in the collection, the works of the other Filipino artists, like those of photojournalist Derek Soriano, were overshadowed by the more striking images of the other photographers like Mottoka Uda of Saigon, whose images were accompanied by letters telling a story.

Overall, the collection proved that even independent artists and curators have the capability to showcase their works in a massive exhibit but with minimal costs. It’s not farfetched to expect another such effort with more images and artists from around the world.

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