Life and Practice
Mac Andre Arboleda is the Founding President of the UP Internet Freedom Network and co-founder of the Artists for Digital Rights Network. Together with his publishing collective Magpies Press, he co-founded Zine Orgy, a biannual expo in Los Baños for independent publishers and artists that ran between 2015 to 2019. He also co-founded Munzinelupa, an annual arts festival held in Muntinlupa City from 2018 to 2020. In 2021, he was awarded Best Film for “Kapok Tamod Engkanto” at the A Projected Vision Film Festival (hosted by the UP Broadcasting Association) and the Gawad Bagong Biswal by the NCCA National Committee on Visual Arts for his video “A Playground, A Warzone.” He’s completed residencies supported by the Akademie Schloss Solitude, Asia-Europe Foundation, ASEAN Foundation, Japan Foundation Bangkok, and Load Na Dito. Mac is an alumnus of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, The Otherwise School, and is currently a fellow at the Asia Pacific Internet Governance Academy and the Salzburg Global Seminar and World Urban Parks Emerging Urban Leaders Program. He’s currently based in San Pedro City, Philippines.
“The Function of Fiction is the Abstraction and Simulation of Social Experience” was a result of my participation in a so-called “LGBTQIA+ residency” and being placed under another category, under Documentary. There was this undeniable pressure to give in to these categorizations: LGBTQIA+, Documentary, in the production of my final output. Even before this residency, I have been critical about these categorizations and definitions (particularly “LGBTQIA+”), but this time I felt more compelled to confront it together with the Documentary genre. Not only was it a challenge of expressing something that makes more sense to me personally, but also a task of trying to think of possibilities outside of these convenient labels.
As a person who identifies as asexual, but is also dissatisfied with how we determine/decide/express our gender and sexuality, I always had this feeling that I wanted to refuse being part of the “LGBTQIA+”, or the exactions of having to determine your SOGIE, or be represented by any colored flag or person or fictional character.
But I also couldn’t deny that “asexual” was the closest term I could identify with, and this word is what helps other people understand my position. During post-production, I have been reading works by Jonathan Beller, particularly the Cinematic Mode of Production (2006), and I’ve come to realize a bit more clearly how the image (and therefore cinema or the moving image) has largely contributed to how we identify, understand, and express gender and sexuality. The documentary no less contributes to this construction of identities, and therefore also prejudices, stereotypes, and whatever meaning we could make from visual expressions.
And so this was also the approach to my work, where I spent an entire day on Pride Month with a female friend, Sheena, who also identified as asexual, and we spoke about our experiences, asked each other questions, while documenting each other using different cameras. Part of the work was deciding to abandon the idea of showing a “crystal-clear” look at asexuality” and the clean documentary form, in order to make something new and express (or appear as) only what we wanted to say. We did not seek empathy or understanding; we didn’t want to be asked, we wanted to be something else, we wanted to escape that “box”: my room in a pandemic, the “asexual” label, society that forces us to conform to whatever identification and means of exploitation.
Image-making, regardless if it’s a “real life” documentary or fantasy film, is a matter of weaving meaning or fictions: all of these are truths that one can interpret in different contexts. Both the film and my (a)sexuality are abstractions and simulations of social experiences—my asexuality is determined by my social position in relation to others. At the end of the day, it matters just as much as people want it to matter. For me, it doesn’t. Maybe we could think of other strategies for liberation outside of “representation.” Oftentimes, I try to look away and focus on things that feel much more urgent.
© 2021. GlobalGRACE Philippines