Freunden von Freunden does a series of photo interviews with artists of all types from across the world: Reykjavik, Auckland, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Tokyo. This most recent one comes from Manila, speaking with Clara Balaguer, a half Filipina, half Spanish artist involved in what she calls “social responsibility,” similar to social innovation.
You could argue there’s nothing particularly profound here. A series of photos taken from someone’s day. Shots of plants filling up a dusty alcove. A street cat peering up at you for food. Clara walking through Binobo at dusk. Jitneys hurrying past. Too often I forget that these scenes of calm are what make up a day. It’s not an “always on,” glamorous, hurried, confident existence. Life happens in moments, and each moment will be what it will. The honest, murky, blurry now-ness of the shots reminds of that.
What called to me from this interview in particular is her presence, in the sense that she appears – in her writing and otherwise – to be fully herself, nothing more, nothing less. She is honest about herself.
Clara left Barcelona to return home when her mother was dying of cancer. She returns to a dusty, cluttered home waiting for her effort and patient energy to waft through it. She decides to set up shop and simply start writing, then start art projects, then start an Office of Culture and Design in the city. Now she uses a combination of private partnerships and public grants to fund art projects across the Philippines – but when she first started out, making a jump from advertising to something so fundamentally different, she described it as this:
The feeling of doing something completely foreign, for which there are no instructions, is so huge in the pit of your stomach that I cannot find a word large enough to describe it. But after the first leap, when you see you’re swimming instead of plummeting to the ground with no parachute, you relax and start trying to figure out where you actually want to go. That’s harder.
What keeps me kind of on track is that big feeling in the pit of my stomach. That’s how I know I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. When people question with what’s right and under whose authority you have dared to make changes, it’s important to know in your gut that you are doing what truly makes sense to you and keep sailing north.
I think too often we silence that voice. That’s not to say don’t think of practicalities. But keep a balance, perhaps, of what you need to live and what you need to be honest to yourself. Transition and balance aren’t the best of bedmates – so here’s to hoping her story helps encourage as things work out.